London is easily a contender for the greatest city on earth. It was the first city to reach a million people since before the fall of Rome, has many of the most iconic landmarks and priceless artifacts on earth, and is the location of the beloved film from my childhood, The Great Mouse Detective.
And yet the single thing I was most excited about in the city was the coffee.
Yes. Even though Brits are traditionally a tea-drinking people, London has emerged as one of the leading urban centers in regards to roasting and brewing specialty coffee- so much so that after looking at the list of coffee shops I wanted to visit I quickly realized I didn't have the caffeine tolerance to check out even half the list during my short stay in Jolly Ole'.
First up was a shop that captured my imagination some time ago when I first learned of it's existence.The Espresso Room is aptly name; there's barely enough room for all the coffee equipment there and none for a table. They have a modest selection of soups and sandwiches but the lion's share of this glorified closet host a serious arsenal of coffee equipment brewing up Square Mile and Has Bean coffee. I had a shot of Square Mile's Autumn Espresso blend and a flat white, both expertly made by Daniel, an Aussie who was nice enough to explain the Australian etymology of "flat white" as well as explain a bit of the history of the coffee scene in London. I'm not the only customer who's been impressed recently- Time Out London voted The Espresso Room "Best New Coffee".
Next up was Kaffeine, another Antipodean owned cafe serving Square Mile. Exposed brick and a gorgeous Synesso provided a hip atmosphere and my latte was top-notch; however, what impressed me the most was how amicable and helpful the baristas were. In fact they even asked me questions about my coffee experience in America! I must say, if British third-wave is beating its colonial cousin in any category it's here: customer service/interaction. At some of best shops I've been to in America the approach seems to be "treat everyone like an idiot until they prove otherwise". In the UK, my coffee experience was that most baristas are courteous, respectful, and friendly. In fact the only disappointment of the day was that James Hoffman was suppose to be there to help them install their new 3 group head Synesso but instead he was in America. Ironic.
Next time in part two: Tapped and Packed and Flat White