10 London Coffee Shops That Are Far Superior To Your Local Super-Chain

Coffee is a highly divisive subject. Particularly in this city. Depending on whether you're an advocate of the flat white, double espresso, or non-fat no-foam latte, you’ll probably have a completely different take on where grab the best cup.
But whatever your tipple, true coffee obsessives know that there is a world beyond the caffeine super-chains, and you’ll find a superior fix at one of London’s indie coffeehouses. Our 10 picks just scratch the surface —we could name a dozen excellent places between Covent Garden and Carnaby Street alone — but we can promise this: Every destination on our short list combines an awesome atmosphere with a truly superlative cup of Joe.
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Now, that’s enough talk — let's have some coffee.
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Kaffeine
Bringing a taste of authentic Antipodean coffee culture to Fitzrovia, this A-list coffee joint takes its brews very seriously — not that we’re complaining. Kaffeine uses Square Mile coffee beans and a Synesso Cyncra espresso machine, which for the uninitiated, is kind of a big-deal piece of kit in the world of coffee geekery. Oh, and all of its baristas have at least three years of professional espresso-making experience under their belts, so you know that your morning cup is in ultra-safe hands.
Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7QJ; 020 7580 6755
The Counter
Nestled in Hackney Wick among industrial buildings and artist studios, the Counter’s picturesque canal-side setting (almost) eclipses the excellent Square Mile coffee. Plus, its brunches are ridiculously good. Go there! Now!
The Counter, 7 Roach Road London E3 2PA
Nude Espresso
This is another fine Antipodean establishment, and one whose Brick Lane premises always seems to be rammed, even on a quiet mid-week afternoon. Around the corner is Nude’s micro roastery which is open during the summer. Its beans are cropping up in tons of new cafes in East London — and once you’ve tasted the signature intense espresso, it's not exactly hard to understand why.
Nude Espresso, 26 Hanbury Street, E1 6QR
Coleman Coffee Roasters
South East London has recently emerged as the go-to destination for the city’s best gastronomic treats, with countless indies selling their wares under the railway arches in Bermondsey on Saturday mornings, both at Maltby Street market and further East, at Spa Terminus. Coleman Coffee Roasters is one our favourites. The small-batch coffee roastery specialises in high quality Arabica coffees. It currently wholesales to a selection of cafes in central London, but on Saturday mornings it also serves up its epic brew to punters, as well as selling beans to take home.
Coleman Coffee Roasters, Unit 5, Dockley Estate, Dockley Road, SE1 3NY
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Photos courtesy of Kaffeine, Nude and The Counter
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Notes
The super-friendly baristas and laid-back atmosphere belie a coffee shop that applies serious science to the art of caffeine. Square Mile coffee beans are the preferred weapon of choice, and roasts are deliberately lighter than you’d find elsewhere to allow more delicate flavours to come through. There’s also a dedicated brew bar that offers a rotating menu of filter coffees. Every morning, the baristas test and adjust the grinder settings and coffee-to-water ratios in order to ensure that you’re getting a technically perfect cup. While we don’t pretend to understand the wizardry behind it all, we will say this: We are yet to drink a Notes coffee that is anything but excellent. They also hold fortnightly jazz nights.
Notes, 31 St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4ER; 020 7240 0424
Monmouth Coffee Company
When it comes to artisan coffee, Monmouth is one of the pioneers, and for many Londoners, it’s still the best. The sustainably sourced coffee beans come from single-farm estates and are accompanied with tasting notes akin to a lengthy biography. Queues (understandably) remain impressively snake-like all day long. We love the larger Monmouth outside Borough Market, with its cone-filter bar and communal table. Definitely a must-stop before, after, and midway through a visit to the market.
Monmouth Coffee Company, 2 Park Street, Borough, SE1 9AB
Tap Coffee
This coffee-haven now boasts three outposts across the capital, none of which have a name above the door — just the street number. Whether you want espresso-based drinks or brewed coffees made in a drip cone or Aeropress, Tap’s anonymous outposts will make it happen with considerable flair, and beans are sourced from roasters including Has Bean and Square Mile. We love the cosy original on Rathbone Place, which is absolutely perfect for taking refuge in when the temperature drops outside.
Tap Coffee, 26 Rathbone Place, W1T 1JD; 020 7580 2163
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Photos courtesy of Notes and Tap Coffee
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Workshop Coffee Clerkenwell
Serving up its own roasted coffee, Workshop pitched up on Clerkenwell Road back in 2011 with the aim of giving the neighbourhood a decent shot of proper caffeine. Perch at the bar for a connoisseur’s espresso and a view of the impressive roaster – and remember to save room for the delicious menu; the pulled pork tacos and the corn fritters are obscenely good. There’s also an outpost in Marylebone.
Workshop Coffee, 27 Clerkenwell Rd, EC1M 5RN; 020 7253 5754
Prufrock Coffee
Gwilym Davies is something of a rock star on the London coffee scene. The brains behind Prufrock Coffee, he won the World Barista Championship 2009 and along with his Prufrock co-director Jeremy Challender, is largely responsible for spearheading the recent movement toward independent roasteries, boutique coffee shops, and dedicated professional baristas in the capital. Focus on training at Prufrock is a big part of the culture, and it has set up the London Barista Resource and Training for those keen to perfect the art of a greater-than-great espresso. All this adds up to an incomparable cup.
Prufrock Coffee 23-25 Leather Lane, EC1N 7TE; 020 7242 0467
Milk Bar
Milk Bar might serve up the same coffee as its older Soho sibling, Flat White, but we think that the spinoff is just that little bit superior when it comes to creating a damn fine brew, and — dare we say it — a little bit cooler than the original.
Milk Bar, 3 Bateman Street, W1D 4AG; 020 7287 4796
Photos courtesy of Kaffeine, Workshop and Prufrock
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