London loves its independents, whether it’s menswear stores or, in this case, coffee shops. And while the UK capital might not be up there with the big dogs in Melbourne and Seattle, there’s a lot to shout about in this caffeinated wonderland.
Locked in the grip of a flat white craze, the espresso-focused offering has reached overwhelming levels of choice; from obscure artisan roasters to laboratory-style equipment to mind-boggling latte art.
If it weren’t such a risk to your internal organs, we’d recommend a crawl around these best London coffee shops, but perhaps it’s best to take them one day at a time, savouring each sip of that liquid sunshine.
The Best Coffee Shops In London
Prufrock’s expert barista team have enough accolades to warrant a trophy shelf in the spacious, low-key shop off Leather Lane. ‘Best independent coffee shop in Europe’ is their latest title, with plenty more likely to follow. The winning formula? According to an interview on the Daily Espresso, zero pretension, meticulous customer service and serious love for the bean. Whether you have a penchant for pourover, or want a wild card cup of joe picked out by connoisseurs, Prufrock’s the place.
What to order: Prufrock’s bespoke espresso, the San Jeronimo Miramar from Guatemala, sourced with the help of long-term partners.
23-25 Leather Lane, EC1N 7TE
Props to Kaffeine for staying fresh in the coffee game for so long. This pint-sized pitstop off Oxford Street is around a decade old, and trade has barely let up since day dot. One of the earliest patrons of Square Mile roasters, expect a stellar selection of espresso drinks with exciting guest brews showcased at weekends. You can’t go wrong with a slice of toasted banana bread and a slick of Lescure butter either.
What to order: Despite its Antipodean roots, Kaffeine does the best cortado outside of Spain, but the almond flat white is pretty life-changing too.
66 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7QJ
There’s a criminal lack of late-night coffee joints in London, but Grind & Co. has been tooting the horn for nocturnal caffeine consumption since 2011. The firm now has eight addresses dotted about, but the flagship on the Old Street roundabout is open 18 hours day, serving ace coffee, plus cocktails and food. The brand is well-loved by Londoners, evidenced by its successful £1.3 million crowdfunding campaign to expand to travel hubs and airports. Move over, Costa.
What to order: A long black (like a supercharged Americano) to get you through the day, then a killer espresso martini when the clock strikes six.
213 Old Street, EC1V 9NR
Jacob The Angel
Named after the man who opened England’s very first coffee shop in 1651, Jacob the Angel is a seat worth fighting for. Tucked away in Covent Garden’s Neal’s Yard, it boasts a superlative view over the area’s colourful courtyard. Plus, it’s right next to sister restaurant The Barbary, so expect mouthwatering platters to float by as you sip your java juice, by Square Mile Coffee Roasters.
What to order: A cappuccino (made with a double shot no less) and a tahini madeleine for dipping.
16A Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP
Black Swan Yard Coffee
Bermondsey’s best-kept secret, this hole-in-the-wall coffee spot serves up covetable guest roasters from across the world, like Belleville from Paris and Five Elephant from Berlin, with their staple offering being Margate’s Curve Roasters. Don’t miss the cardamom buns from almost-neighbours, The Snapery. A dark horse worth rerouting your commute for. Just make sure to keep this one to yourself.
What to order: A flat white with cashew milk, best enjoyed alone on the bench just outside. And one of those heavenly buns, of course.
37 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XF
Far from the hustle of Carnaby Street, Nordic Bakery feels like stepping into a navy-hued flotation tank, albeit one with incredible coffee and Alvar Aalto chairs. Lacking in the pretension department, this is the kind of place you’d want to hibernate, as long as you had the right company. The blends are made to suit Scandi palettes, so expect subtle acidic notes and a medium to light flavour from a super slow roasting process.
What to order: Filter coffee – it’s ground to order and seriously strong, plus a korvapuusti (a Finnish cinnamon bun) straight from the oven. Bliss.
14A Golden Square, Soho, W1F 9JG
With so many ace speciality coffee shops, it’s surprising that London restaurants are only just cutting themselves a slice of the pie. Lyle’s — located somewhat ironically in Shoreditch’s Tea Building — serves coffee all day from its bar, with barista James Low collaborating with chef James Lowe (we’re not making it up) to curate a globetrotting host of roasters. The restaurant is Michelin-starred, so you’re also in decent hands when hunger strikes.
What to order: Get the barista to talk you through the roasters of the day but go for filter coffee, made in a Clever Dripper and served in a glass carafe and porcelain cups.
56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
The Fields Beneath
Aside from being run by the nicest bunch of baristas north of the river, the draw of The Fields Beneath is that all the products it sells come with a story (the lettuce for salads, for example, is grown at the local primary school). Not long ago, they skimmed meat off the menu, before going fully vegan in March 2017. But there isn’t a whiff of dairy-bashing – if you didn’t know you wouldn’t know, essentially. The brews are consistently excellent and great bang for your buck, especially on Fridays when filter is £1.
What to order: The breakfast banh mi croissant with grilled marinated tofu, sriracha mayo, pickled ginger and carrot, washed down with an oh-so-smooth almond milk latte.
52a Prince Of Wales Road, NW5 3LN
The Old Spike Roastery
Roasting all their coffee in-house on a contraption they call ‘Torberg,’ The Old Spike Roastery is lighting up south east London’s caffeine-scape. Seasonal beans are on constant rotation so you’ll have to buy a bag if you fall in love with a particular blend. Another plus – the Peckham Rye spot brews with a big heart – it was set up to support local homeless people by providing them with jobs, training and housing.
What to order: Filter coffee with top quality milk from The Estate Dairy. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.
54 Peckham Rye, SE15 4JR
Don’t be fooled by the Instagram-friendly interiors and kaleidoscope health food ingredients: Aussie-inspired cafe Farm Girl is a genuine go-to, especially in the relatively barren java district of Notting Hill. If you can resist the multicoloured drinks menu (consisting of matcha lattes sprinkled with dried flowers and Liquid gold with turmeric), the coffee, from Chelsea’s The Roasting Party, is excellent. But go during the week because the all-day weekend brunch queues are no party whatsoever.
What to order: A black latte (literally – because of the activated charcoal), with a shot of espresso. Your inner goth will freak.
59A Portobello Road, W11 3DB