6 of the best independent coffee shops in London
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Coffee: It can ruin your morning when it’s bad and make your day when it’s good.
Having lived in London on and off for six years, I’ve had many bad and good coffee experiences. If you don’t know the city, it can be all too easy to just grab a quick cup from one of the popular high street brands where the coffee is, well, average at best. I do have two exceptions to that rule though: Pret a Manger 99p drip coffee isn’t bad if you want to warm your hands and your insides on a cold winter’s morning, and Caffè Nero’s espressos are a strong and tasty afternoon pick-me-up.
However, the best coffee in London is undoubtedly from independent spots — and you don’t even have to look that far to find them.
Each of the independent coffee shops in this article has been selected for their own uniqueness as well as their amazing brews. Some you’ve probably already walked past, but never thought to look in, and others you might have to make a special journey just to visit. I can assure you that you’ll never go to a chain coffee shop again once you’ve tried these unforgettable little caffeine gems.
1. Monmouth Coffee Company
Vibe: The “IT girl” of cafés.
Monmouth has been one of my favourite places to get coffee in London for years. I used to work about a five-minute walk away from the Borough Market branch and would sometimes make two trips a day to avoid drinking the painfully disgusting instant coffee at the office.
At Monmouth, it’s clear that it really cares about the coffee it sells and how it gets from the farms into your cup from the ever-changing, ever-delicious range of options. As well as ordering your coffee to go, you can pop in and choose from a wide selection of beans from all over the world. You can take them as they come, or have them ground for the specific type of coffee apparatus that you use at home. There’s even a subscription option, which means you’ll get 250 grams of Monmouth’s coffee of the moment delivered right to your door.
Getting there: There are three locations in London. One at Covent Garden (Covent Garden is the closest station), one at Borough Market (London Bridge is the closest station) and Bermondsey (Bermondsey is the closest station).
2. Story Coffee
Vibe: Trendy, no Wi-Fi zone.
I used to get my morning caffeine hit from Story Coffee when I lived just around the corner. The reason I love it is not just because of the chilled Scandinavian vibes and the excellent coffee, but because it’s a firm believer in disconnecting by spending less time on screens and more time having real-life conversations. There is no Wi-Fi whatsoever, and laptops and tablets are only allowed during the week. So, if you’re looking for a coffee spot in southwest London to switch off, sip a delightful espresso and read your favourite book without the hum of keyboard taps in the background, then look no further than Story Coffee.
How to get there: There are three locations in southwest London. One at Clapham Junction, which is currently closed, one on St John’s Hill (closest station is Clapham Junction) and the third is in Wandsworth (closest station is Wandsworth Town).
3. Coffee Plant
Vibe: For real coffee enthusiasts, local hang out.
I first discovered Coffee Plant when I lived on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. Every morning, even at around 7 a.m., there would be several people sat outside on the street drinking coffee and watching the world go by — it seemed like a real local’s hangout. After my first visit, I didn’t buy coffee from anywhere else in the area. The service was always great, and the pre-gym coffee always hit the spot. Coffee Plant also sells a variety of coffee online from continental to medium and medium-mild roasts — you can order your beans whole or ground and have them delivered to your door.
Getting there: Coffee Plant is right in the heart of Notting Hill on the bustling Portobello Road. The nearest station is Ladbroke Grove, but if coming from central London, it can be quicker to get the Central Line to Notting Hill Gate.
4. The CoffeeWorks Project
Vibe: Remote working, local hang-out.
In the heart of Islington, just off Upper Street, is a firm favourite of remote workers and pram-pushing mums — The CoffeeWorks Project. It’s the perfect spot for getting work done or sitting and watching the world go by. It has a large inside area split over two levels and a decent-sized garden to the rear. If you’re planning on spending a good amount of time there, I recommend getting down early as it’s nearly always very busy.
Not only is the coffee great, but the savoury and sweet treats are delicious, too. The menu isn’t huge, but you’ll be sure to find something to keep you fuelled while working.
Getting there: Angel station on the Northern Line is your closest station, or there’s Highbury and Islington about 15 to 20 minutes walk away
5. La Mook
Vibe: Cute, refuelling stop.
This little gem is probably about as off-the-beaten-track as you can get and it doesn’t even have a website. The likelihood of you just stumbling across this place is pretty impossible. However, it’s definitely worth a visit.
First off, La Mook serves Illy coffee, which is consistently one of my favourites. What makes this place really special though is the staff who are so much friendlier than in your average coffee shop. Then there’s the tempting display of sweet and savoury treats in the chiller — the melted ham and cheese croissant is highly recommended for a Saturday morning (or any morning) treat. If you’re in the Blackwall area, or just fancy an adventure to a part of London you’ve never been to before, then you absolutely must pop in for a coffee and a croissant.
Once you’ve grabbed your coffee, head left out of the café and follow the building around until you’re greeted with this lovely view over the O2.
Getting there: La Mook is tucked away underneath a residential apartment building just to the east of Canary Wharf. The closest station is Blackwall DLR.
6. Shoreditch Grind
Vibe: It can go from espresso to espresso martinis in an instant.
Probably one of the trendiest coffee shops and eateries in London, Shoreditch Grind is a firm TPG U.K. tried and tested favourite. You can grab a coffee in the morning, have a working lunch in the afternoon then finish the day off with a cocktail or two with friends or a date in the evening. If you’re a fan of an espresso martini (or two), then you absolutely must try one here.
Shoreditch Grind was the original of now a small cluster of coffee houses across the city. You can’t miss them, especially with the tongue-in-cheek quotes that are frequently updated on its signage. If you’re lucky, you might even get to listen to some famous voices upstairs in the recording studio.
You can also buy your coffee online. Having temporarily left London due to the pandemic, it’s a relief that I can still enjoy Grind coffee up in the northeast. It’s also guilt-free, as Grind’s espresso coffee pods (that are compatible with my Nespresso machine) are compostable and free from plastic.
Getting there: Shoreditch Grind is located on top of Old Street station. The other Grind locations are dotted around the city and all easily accessible by the tube.
If you take your coffee seriously, then I’m sure you’ll be over the moon with these new cafés — that’s if you hadn’t already discovered them yourself.
Featured photo courtesy of Story Coffee
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