on the quest for london gold

long black from a top view

London's most golden long black

I can hear you loud and clear. What is this? All these promises about the best London cafés, but nothing in writing for months. Yes, I am guilty as charged. I have no idea how it suddenly got to November, and this post has been hanging over me like the sky over northern Germany (and Scotland as I have also found out recently).

So when it comes to gold in London, who wins the medal?

I must admit, it took me a while to write this.

I’ve been going over and over how to best set out this blog post. Having done the coffeelympics a little while back now I have learned a lot about London’s coffee culture. Interestingly there’s less variety than you’d think in terms of beans and machines used when comparing the top of the top.

The most popular combinations going around seem to be Square Mile’s Red Brick, Monmouth paired up with either Synesso or La Marzocco machines. And then there are the Australian/Kiwi mini syndicates taking over the city: The Coffeesmith Collective, nude espresso and Taylor St Baristas, to mention just some of the most thriving ones.

So although each of these cafés contribute to a better coffee culture there are also still a few gems to be found that are not afraid to experiment and boldly showcase their own roasts, such as newly opened Exmouth Coffee Company near Whitechapel in East London. And then nothing will save your café unless you employ friendly and skillful baristas.

But enough of it already, here are the winners of the 2012 coffeelympics, determined by quality of long black (btw that’s not an Americano and if the café didn’t know that it was automatically disqualified), atmosphere and friendliness of staff, separated into London areas:

North London

  1. Ginger & White, Belsize Park
  2. Ginger & White, Hampstead

Central London

  1. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, near Farringdon
  2. Milkbar, Soho

East London

  1. Exmouth Coffee Company, near Whitechapel
  2. The Liberty of Norton Folgate, near Shoreditch and Liverpool Street

South London

  1. Curators Coffee Studio, near Monument
  2. Federation Coffee, Brixton marke

And the overall gold for the best café in London goes to:

  1. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

More details on the winners to follow soon.

I would also like to thank the following cafés who unbeknownst to themselves participated in the coffeelympics:
the wetfish cafe, the kitchentable, prufrock, taylor st baristas liverpool st, the association of coffee, foxcroft and ginger, rock trade east cafe, nude espresso shoreditch, allpress, brick lane cafe, flat white, bicafé, look mum no hands, st ali, notes, coffee & music, monmouth borough market, flat cap stall borough market, speakeasy

West London anyone?

What happened to the west? To be honest I didn’t have a good enough reason to venture out there, but if I do, I will update this section to include west London. In the meantime, please feel free to leave some comments recommending your favourite cafés in west London and I will try to come up with an excuse to visit them soon.

I think I’ll have a tea now.

a great shot of kaffeine

The great lunch selection at kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield, London

So here we are on our tour of London. Instead of the usual visiting of sights or shopping tours we decided to visit London the way we usually like to visit cities: one café at a time, trying to find the best coffee in town.

It’s my favourite way of travelling, you end up seeing all the sights but in a fun relaxed way, you get to enjoy great coffee and you usually discover many gorgeous back streets that you will not find in any travel guide. Small cafés are simply at the heart of the culture of any city, or show the lack thereof.

On top of our list was ‘Kaffeine‘ at 66 Great Titchfield. An Australian/New Zealand operated store with (of course) a Synesso coffee machine. So here we were, our second café for the day after having visited ‘flat white‘ and a nice shopping stroll through Soho, London we were ready for the next shot of goodness.

And good it was indeed! A nice bright and friendly place with adequate seating and a large selection of sandwiches and other lunch items that we didn’t try but looked delicious and based on the Londoner queues that started to arrive at lunch time I am guessing we should have had lunch there as well – our seats where sought after by the crowds that arrived for lunch.

Coffee perfection at Kaffeine

The coffee was first class with friendly service, nice latte art – I just finished it too quickly. Really great coffee, their nice interior was a reflection of their attention to detail and passion for great café culture.

You won’t be disappointed by Kaffeine. They understand coffee and café culture. A great place to meet a friend to have a chat over a great cup of coffee or for lunch. High attention is given to the quality of beans, service and food selection. A+++

flat white – an australian coffee becomes famous

There’s this funny thing about flat whites which Luke and I have recently noticed. It’s like the latest in coffee codes for ‘I know something about coffee’. In Europe some cafés even charge extra for a flat white. A bit like paying to go to the toilet. Real nuisance.

flat white, 17 berwick street, soho, london

And some cafés are also letting us know that flat whites come only in a particular size. Real funny that.

In reality flat whites are nothing but a café latte with a little bit less froth (approx. 2-3mm) and really nothing special, except if you are into very little froth. In Australia, where the flat white comes from (or New Zealand, who knows, doesn’t matter, we get along), it is nothing cool, not more expensive, not a special size and not a trendy code for knowing more about coffee. It’s an ongoing mystery to me why less froth is more expensive. But then, hey, Australia (& NZ, too, of course!) are far away and exotic, and Australian travellers are so desperate for good coffee and willing to pay for it. So, why not make some money out of it?? 🙂

a real cafe latte!

Anyway, this post is actually about a café called ‘flat white’. The term is so famous these days that a cool Soho café in 17 Berwick Street, London (their website account was suspended at time of writing, hence no link) deemed it worthy to name itself ‘flat white’. You cannot imagine how excited I was to find a place bold enough to associate itself with Australian coffee and so we visited it on our last trip to London in May. And yes, the coffee IS excellent. Smooth and tangy, after being deprived of good coffee for a year, I could have had 3 lattes at once. The place itself is quite small, some graffiti artwork on the walls and tight seating which lets you know that you are not supposed to stay there for too long. But drink your coffee, enjoy it and come back. I certainly will!


These guys know their stuff. Although the smooth taste of the coffee is not everyone’s cup of coffee, I really enjoyed it. Good friendly barristas and nice latte art. The place is a bit squeezy for my liking. Wouldn’t hang out there for hours, but then which café owner really wants you to, especially if you have to pay London rent?