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+++

bonanza coffee heroes – one coffee to try before you die

‘There’s this place in Prenzlauer Berg, that has one of these special coffee machines of which just a few exist in Europe.’ explains our friend excited when she hears that we like coffee.

I am straight away interested, since up until that day I had not seen a Synesso coffee machine anywhere in Germany. Only in Australia. So, when I hear this I am hoping this might be the place.

So, on a hot Sunday afternoon just before we are due to leave back for Hamburg we decide to try this place out. Strange name: bonanza coffee heroes, but then it’s also cute. I used to like to watch Bonanza when I was seven. I am intrigued.

When we get to Oderberger Str. 35, Berlin is at its best. Loads of people hanging out in the park, it’s hot and everyone is enjoying a beautiful summer day in June. We get to the place and we can hear a few English speaking tourists sitting outside. The coffee in their hands looks promising and you are welcomed by a large coffee heaven sign saying: ‘Don’t die before trying’.

smooth café latte

But then it’s just after six and we haven’t eaten yet and this place only does cake, so in an attempt to not die before trying, we need to eat something rather substantial, rather soon. Having quite a few options on the same street, we end up having some Indian from across the road (quite nice as well) and then run back to the coffee shop to make sure we make it before it’s closed for the day.

The inside is quite small and has a cool mix of industrial concrete cosyness that you expect from funky café. And voilá – I  feel like hugging the barista when I see the beautiful Synesso machine!

We order our coffees but we are amused to see again that flat whites are a special small size and cost more than a regular latté.

I stick to latté and Luke goes for a cappucino. The first sip is like heaven. It has its own rich chocolate like interesting flavour and texture with a lot of depth to it.

I am in love and since the office I work at has a decent ECM machine named Don Vito (check out his FB fan page) and our entire office is in a coffee fever, I decide to buy a whole kg of coffee beans.

That’s when the trouble starts – there are no 1 kg bag, only 2 kg and the barista starts to fill it up in 250g steps…. when it comes to paying the EC machine is not working and all of this takes half an hour to work out.  But the staff is very nice and the owner tries to convince me to walk a mile to a cash machine, so that he can get his 25€ for a kg of coffee beans before he closes for the night. But I am wearing heels, so I don’t think so. So, unfortunately no extra nice coffee beans for our office.

But then I am sure I will be back and now I have something new to look forward to my next time in Berlin.


Great roast of coffee, well trained baristas and the perfect machine. Lacks a bit of inside seating space and warmth but all in all this place is about great coffee and it shows.