London calling with incredible coffee.

On a recent visit to The London Coffee Festival, our Director of Coffee Erika Vonie (above) got a coffee lover’s dream tour of the city. Here’s how to make that trip a reality.

Origin's Head of Coffee Freda Yuan during a cupping

Origin Coffee

To find Origin Coffee, check out their locations.

I knew about Origin before I ever went there, because they’re incredibly decorated within the coffee world. I was present when Origin’s Dan Fellows took the Coffee in Good Spirits title at the World Championships, and it was an absolute pleasure to witness. He’s no stranger to the competition stage, placing first in the 2016 UK Barista Championships as well. He’s not the only all-star on staff. Freda Yuan, recently named to the Sprudge Twenty, is a two-time UK Cup Tasters Champion and recently placed 3rd in the World Cup Tasters Championship in 2017. Joshua Tarlo also won the UK Barista Championships in 2018 and placed 2nd in 2015. Talk about a rock star roster!

I took home a Berliner Gesha from Panama that my friend Rose Nicholson, Origin’s Head of Education, gave me and it knocked my socks off. I brewed  it in a pink V60 I had also gotten from The London Coffee Festival and it was so incredible that I hoarded it away from my roommates so no one else could have any. Sometimes coffee is too good too share, and this was definitely one such instance.

Young British woman in glasses and sweater holding Girls Who Grind Coffee bags and Frida Kahlo mug.

Girls Who Grind Coffee

To find Girls Who Grind, check out their current wholesale locations.

Girl power is the name of the game at Girls Who Grind Coffee! I had heard of them and their work long before making it to London — an all lady roastery that buys exclusively from female producers? Talk about a roaster right up my alley! It’s hard to believe that this story could even possibly hit closer to home, but when I was chatting with Casey Lalonde, their Green Buyer and Head Roaster, we were shocked to find out that we grew up about 15 miles apart in upstate New York yet were meeting for the first time in London.

This is why I truly love specialty coffee, you never know who you’ll meet  along the way. This is echoed in Girls Who Grind Coffee’s commitment to the women who grow the coffee they roast. As an all-female roastery, they light a torch for others to follow and play a major role in the community with their commitment to women in the English specialty coffee scene.

James Wise pouring a latte into Nick Mabey's cup.

Assembly

I met Nick Mabey, the 2019 UK Roaster’s Champion, back in 2016 when we both competed at Coffee Masters NYC. Nick and I became fast friends, bonding over our supreme coffee nerdiness and explosive extroverted tendencies. It was no surprise to me that a year later, he coached his colleague James Wise to the 2017 London Coffee Master title. I had a chance to visit their roastery, Assembly, while in London — the space is simple, elegant, and amazing. While Assembly doesn’t have any brick and mortar cafés to their name, they partner with wholesale partners across the city.

Operating in the same space, is Volcano Coffee Works, and they actually do have cafés! I was able to meet one of their star baristas, Claire Wallace, when she took 3rd in Coffee Masters London.  

Indie rock cafe Dark Arts in London

Dark Arts Coffee

Arch 216, 27A Ponsford Street
London E9 6JU, UK

Head of Coffee Jamie Strachan hit me up a few years ago via the good ol’ internet with a shared love of dogs and coffee. Then when I found out he worked at a place called Dark Arts and their premiere café is called I Will Kill Again, well, I was hooked. Dark Arts definitely doesn’t shy away from the theme — they embrace it wholeheartedly! It’s really nice to see like-minded individuals come together with their love for coffee, metal, and wizardry. They’ve got a take on coffee all their own, in their own words: “We had visions of funneling the profits into a cult based on our love of the occult, bikes, and all things unholy.” Pretty much spinning the entire coffee world upside-down.

I stopped by before my flight out of London and am so glad I did. The space is tiny, but full of life and the food was insanely good! I never thought I’d recommend quesadillas in East London, but here we are (they were amazing!).

Give them a shot if you’re into things off the beaten path, and coffee names that don’t blush at some truly evil stuff — just the foil that specialty coffee needs.

Coffee cupping on wood table with blue trays

Square Mile Coffee Roasters

To find Square Mile Coffee Roasters, check out their current wholesale locations.

If you follow the international specialty coffee scene, James Hoffman’s name has probably popped up on your radar. For good reason, too. James is the 2007 World Barista Champion, an author of one of the best books about specialty coffee out there, The World Atlas of Coffee, a co-founder of Square Mile Roasters with Anette Moldvaer in 2008, and was recently named “Creator on the Rise” by Youtube for his excellent coffee Youtube channel.  

Square Mile has a well-earned reputation for exceptional coffee, and incredible service at Prufrock Coffee, which is a flagship cafe that serves Square Mile and other incredible European roasters on rotation. One of the reasons Square Mile is so lauded is all the organizations they’re involved with: SCA, Cup of Excellence, International Women’s Coffee Alliance, and the Roaster’s Guild. They have so many locations serving their coffee, it isn’t difficult to find a cafe serving Square Mile anywhere around London.

Cafe with plants, clear lights, and Edison bulbs

Hackney Coffee Co.

Hackney Coffee Co.
503 Hackney Rd, London E2 9ED, UK

Hackney Coffee Co. wasn’t on my radar when I first got to London, but it was around the corner from my Airbnb. I walked past it for a few days before taking the plunge and finally checking it out. The exterior is a matte black bay window, which doesn’t reveal the absolute beauty of the space within. First off, the cafe is enormous and as someone who is used to NYC retail spaces, I was already enamored. The back room is flooded with light from a skylight, with a verifiable jungle of plants hanging from rafters.
As an American coffee drinker, I naturally gravitate towards filter coffees, but when they told me they couldn’t swing that due to a broken grinder, I got an espresso and, subsequently, my socks blown off. Not only was the espresso fantastic and the space gorgeous, the baristas working the bar were incredibly talented and hospitable. A fantastic find while visiting London!

English coffee shop storefront

Climpson & Sons

To find Climpson & Sons, check out their locations.

Founded in East London in 2002, Climpson & Sons has created a loyal following. It’s easy to see why: they employ some rock stars in the London coffee scene! I was lucky enough to be introduced to a couple baristas from Climpson & Sons while in London, and I was just smitten with how talented and sweet they are!

I met Lisa-Laura Verhoest, their Barista Trainer, when she competed in Coffee Masters this April, but our paths also crossed in Brazil at the World Brewers Cup, because she’s the 2018 UK Brewers Cup champ! She was one of my favorite competitors at Coffee Masters, because she clearly was having a ton of fun onstage, which made her a pleasure to watch.

Also at Climpson is Matt Randell, who is the English Aeropress Champion of 2016 and 2017 and the 3rd ranking Barista Champion in 2019.
With all this talent, it’s easy to find a tasty cup at any Climpson location.

Posted by:Erika Vonie