I remember my first sip of coffee very clearly. I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old when I walked into the sweet smelling kitchen in my grandfather’s home. Being bold, I asked for a sip, and he handed me the steaming cup of “joe.” Because the smell was so intense, I knew it would be delicious. I mean, all the adults drank it, so why would it be anything other than heavenly? I brought it to my lips and took the tiniest of all tiny sips before making a face and pushing the mug as far away from me as I could.
Years later, I realized he made French Market coffee chicory straight from New Orleans. It might as well have been diesel fuel. My tongue was traumatized so much so that when my mom would get a cafe mocha from Starbucks, and she thought they had forgotten to include the shot of espresso, she would hand it to me to “test.” I could always taste the bitter coffee even when she couldn’t.
It wasn’t until Jeff entered my life that coffee came in with a vengeance. He introduced me to the French Press (I had been using it as a tea maker), and the coffee he made was like heaven. Suddenly, I became the early morning coffee maker, and I wouldn’t leave the house without my trusty thermos full of the dark elixir of life. I guess that’s what kids call “becoming an adult.”
When we moved to London, I panicked. Where would I get my coffee? I had fallen so head over heels for the flavored coffee beans found at Sprouts or Central Market like Almond Joy, Creme Brulee, and Texas Pecan. Something told me Texas Pecan would be hard to come by in London.
The first place I went was Harrods. How naive I was in the early days. I spent close to £12 for a 125g bag of ground coffee. Gone in less than a week, I knew that would be unsustainable. Whole Foods was my next stop only because I was comfortable with the familiar. But the beans on display were always dry and brittle giving us incredibly bitter and mealy coffee.
Finally, I found Wittard of Chelsea. They had a whole range of coffee beans that supplied our kitchens for months. Much cheaper and more accessible, this was the perfect solution…until the craving for flavored coffee came back. When we visited Texas to see friends and family, we came back with several bags of the good stuff, and even when my wonderful sister-in-law came to visit us a few months later, she brought 9 bags with her.
But for those living in London looking for flavored coffee, Selfridges carries pre-ground bags for £6 a go from the Edinburgh Tea and Coffee Company.
Enough about buying coffee in London. Where can you go for a cup of joe? These are my personal favorite spots in London, and I have to start with Munson’s Coffee in Ealing. Not only is the staff friendly and the space adorable, but it’s quiet and ideal for readers and workers alike. In the heart of South Ealing, this small corner shop has been serving happy suburban customers since 1998. I haven’t found any gluten-free goodies to have on display, but they do have a full menu of quiches, sandwiches, and snacks. Decorated as a library, this place is ideal for a bit of quiet time in hectic London.
Now that we live in Northfields, Munson’s is not as convenient as it once was, but thankfully, Jeff and I have found a little coffee cafe in our neighborhood that we have now made our haunt: Latte Matte. What interested us in the first place was their outside chalkboard sign. It says, “If your name starts with ____ and you’re wearing ____, come in for a free coffee.” Every time we walk by, we hope that it will have A or J as the letter choices, but so far we have been dashed. That, however, has not stopped us from enjoying the lovely little cafe.
The first thing that grabs your eye are the four inch high cheesecakes on display, which Jeff has thankfully taken the challenge of trying. But lucky for me, they have a delightful gluten-free Banana Cake, which pairs perfectly with a nice cup of Americano coffee. If you’re looking for a suburban hangout where you can enjoy a cuppa while watching kid’s movies in the back room or partaking from their community bookshelf, this tiny place is perfect.
In the Fitzrovia area of town, I took a couple of visiting friends to Kaffeine. My aunt gave me a Cafe Life London book when we moved, and I wanted to try some of the places listed. We were not disappointed in this hipster haven. There were not a lot of gluten-free options for nibbles, but the coffee was a lovely dark roast without the burnt taste. Complete with milk designs, it was an ideal spot to bring Texas friends. To read a bit more about it, click here.
So, I mentioned the French Press earlier. I love French Press coffee, but about a year into our stay in cheery ol’ London, I broke it. It shattered into a zillion pieces one morning in our doll house size kitchen. I was devastated, but it gave us a chance to try another method. We chose the Aero Press. It certainly took some getting used to with the choreography and timing, but now, after practice, it’s our ritual morning dance.
Just off of Oxford Street in Carnaby Street is one of the many locations of Workshop Coffee. Tucked in the corner, far from the busy high street, this little place has two choices on the menu for coffee: drip or Aero Press. Stark white and trendy-looking, this place roasts and sources their own beans. Naturally, I had to try the Aero Press coffee to see if my skills were up to scratch. What I realized was that I must not be making my coffee very strong at home because I walked away buzzing from the caffeine. Incredibly rich, the small coffee was perfect for an afternoon pick me up or fortification to fight the hoards on Oxford Street. It was only £2 for a small coffee, so for the price, I felt like I got a bargain.
The last place I’ll mention is Monmouth Coffee. When we first moved to London, we left from South Carolina. As we waited patiently for our flight, we found ourselves chatting with a young Brit named Gabbie. She was thrilled for us that we were becoming first-time Londoners and gave us a ton of tips and ideas of things to do in the city. One of the places she mentioned was Monmouth Coffee.
It took me several months to finally get the courage to stand in the incredibly long lines at the famous shop, but when I finally did, it was worth it. I first visited the location in Covent Garden, and there is very limited space for people wanting to drink-in. I wound up sitting next to a British woman reading a classic novel, and across from a very loud French couple gesticulating wildly about something passionate.
My coffee came quickly, and with brown sugar on the table for my use, I tucked in. Dark, rich, and strong, the coffee definitely doesn’t need a top up. There were chocolate truffles on display, but I passed them up after staring at all of the bags of coffee set up behind the baristas. They do sell coffee beans in bulk from their stock, but you really come for the trendy take away cup and momentary power boost. A few months later, I took my sister-in-law to the Borough Market location, and she also commented on the strength of the coffee. It was no less luxurious, but definitely rich.
If you’re coming to London, I hope I’ve helped you find some local and trendy spots to grab a nice cup of joe. But also, if you need to buy the beans, I hope my suggestions help you find what you’re looking for. Happy hunting and drinking. Cheers.