Having spent a fair while working in and around Soho, London, I thought it was time to share my thoughts on the coffee shops that I've been to in and around the office as well as the places you can buy beans from. Let's face it if you're a geek then you're probably into your coffee, how seriously you take it is a question of degree. For example one of my colleagues Tristan who originates from Paris will do all he can to avoid Starbucks.
I've updated the reviews following a visit to Flat White in Berwick Street
Coffee Shop Reviews
Anyway on with the coffee-shop reviews from the sublime to the quite average. My reviews are generally based on the quality of the mochas and lattes.
Pret a Manger
Pret a manger run fully automatic machines and their milk is Rachel's organic. Their coffee is perfectly reasonable and the cost is one of the lowest compared to the coffee specialists. Their coffee is always very consistent which is always something I look for. The thing that lets the side down is that the staff lack care and attention to detail. Once I was served a skinny mocha instead of a normal one. When I returned they apologised and said they would make a new one. A minute later I was handed my drink. As I left the shop I tasted it and realised they had just given me the original coffee back again. As the price is very reasonable and the coffee is consistent and not to shabby I will give Pret.
Starbucks is prevalent around London as are many of the big chains, when I am in France for work I find the lack of coffee shops quite amazing they simply don't exist except for a few Starbucks in big cities like Paris. In London Starbucks coffee shops are often within sight of another Starbucks. In fact for London all the jokes about Starbucks are not far off the mark at all:
New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks
and the scene in Shrek 2 where the people run out of Starbucks to escape the giant Gingerbread man to run straight across the road into another Starbucks.
Anyway I digress, onto the coffee; Starbucks coffee is ok, I prefer it to Nero and Costa but they do have some issues with consistency. I also think that the coffee suffers due to the milk being steamed to death, (I didn't appreciate this at first but since Caffe Vergnano well… more on that later!). Staff are usually friendly and the stores do have a nice feel to them but once you've read books like Naomi Klein's, No Logo you start to feel very targeted. The biggest problem with Starbucks is that there's better coffee to be had elsewhere and the prices they charge are some of the highest. Whilst I don't resent paying for quality this isn't quite it. Rating .
Costa are ok, but their coffee is very inconsistent though their coffee is more often good than bad, but only just. I think a good way to describe them would be underwhelming. Prices are less than Starbucks but so is the quality..
Similar to Costa in a lot of ways, coffee ranges from being okay to tasting burnt. Like Costa I tend to try and avoid them if I can..
Now this place is quite different to the chains. Monmouth has a very down to earth feel and they produce all of their own beans. There coffee is always on the strong side and I've always found it good but a little overpowering. They also serve their coffee in very small cups. Pricewise it's a touch lower than most of mainstream chains and for a Monday morning wake-up call I'd recommend it. .
Vergnano is the Daddy of the coffee shops near to where I work. It's pricey but their coffee is awesome from a latte to a mocha you're unlikely to be disappointed. Their machine is an Elektra Belle Epoque and it's as beautiful as the coffee it produces. Highly recommended .
Flat White was a recommendation in the comments of this post and they've been shut for a while for refurbishments. Now they've re-opened I went there to sample a latte. Quite simply this was the most amazing coffee I have ever tasted. The latte was served at the perfect temperature and had the most exquisite nutty/creamy flavour which complemented the rich coffee flavours. Not just recommended this is the best! .
Beans and Ground Coffee
Here's the lowdown on where to buy your beans or ground coffee. This is based on the experiences we've had with the Rancilio Miss Silvia we bought for our office.
Monmouth Roast their own beans and have a fantastic range. We've tried several espresso blends with the Rancilo Miss Silvia we have in the office and overall found the organic espresso blend to be pretty tasty. It has a nice amount of crema with a nice rich flavour and cocoa aftertaste.
Verganano's coffee allows you to attempt to make a tasty coffee with your home machine. However we used the pre-ground tubs and found the grind to be all wrong for espresso. I guess this highlights that haveing a decent grinder allows you to dial in the best grind for your machine. Flavour wise it was good but not as complex as some of the Drury beans.
Drury have been roasting since 1936 this experience really shows. We've been using their coffee pretty much exclusively. Our favorites are the Gran Riserva, this is the Daddy of all coffees with a really amazing flavour and extreme levels of caffeine. Caffe Cuidado takes the overall prize for the best all-round coffee in my opinion. This coffee is smooth but full of flavour and exhibits a beautiful hint of cocoa overtones which just make it perfect for every day drinking.
Caffe Vergnano wins for the best coffee shop and Drury for the best beans and ground coffee if you like to brew your own. If you've found a little tucked away deli in and around soho or Covent Garden that serves amazing coffee be sure to recommend it in the comments.