There was a time not so long ago when London coffee was something to bemoan. As Starbucks and Costa’s began to dominate the high street, the British foretold of a future of identikit corporate café chains pushing out any hope of an independent coffee culture. Soon the only hope of a real espresso would be to fly to Italy. But somehow it didn’t happen. The naysayers were proved wrong, or perhaps some of them got up and did something about it, and now the city is booming with specialist independent coffee shops, notably in Hackney.
Of course, it is part of this rediscovered appreciation for the small scale, handcrafted and high quality across every category from fashion to food. Monmouth Coffee paved the way, followed by Square Mile, and such was the demand for this superior brew that the best British restaurants began to boast of stocking their coffee. Soho’s Flat White soon had people queuing around the block, one of the first to import Antipodean coffee culture, and a dedicated core of coffee fanatics grew.
Now the term barista is part of our vocabulary, with the status of sommelier or chef – someone with unique expertise in caffeinating the country. Talk of water hardness, provenance, timing and a whole host of variables that most of us know nothing about are discussed in cuppings and festivals around the city. What is widely acknowledged however, is that this is now a city for coffee lovers like never before.