There’s no escaping it. The first and most important thing that must be said about Department of Coffee and Social Affairs is that it has the best name of any espresso bar in the city. The name, rendered above the door with pitch-perfect lettering and logo, was the reason that this was one of the first coffee establishments I visited in London.
There are a couple of other places in the city that come close. I confess to being intrigued about an espresso bar with the quirky name Tina, We Salute You, though I haven’t visited yet. I am reminded of other great coffee shop names, notably the late great Coffee Messiah in Seattle; and I must evince some hometown pride in mentioning Death Valley’s Little Brother in Waterloo as a strangely compelling name.
Of course, I wouldn’t have returned there multiple times if the espresso weren’t also delicious. In fact, Department has the distinction that it’s where I took my parents during their brief visit to London (along with lunch at the also well named Pieminister up the street). I’m not sure what beans they use, but they produce an especially dark, rich crema that’s both tasty and photogenic. I also really like the ambience. There’s plenty of space spread over multiple rooms and nooks in a somewhat disorganized way, with lots of interior brick (something I love). The shop is usually busy without being cramped, leading to a comfortable noise level for conversation or work.
The World Tour’s stop here was especially fun. Most baristas smile at the Rocket Cup and then go about their craft. The people behind the counter here wanted to know more, asking me if I was the designer after having noticed the credit on the cup’s base. It’s always flattering to get into conversations about the cup, especially with obvious coffee nerds.
Leather Lane (!) is just a bit out of the way of my normal routes into the heart of London, so unfortunately I don’t stop by this neighbourhood as often as I would like. Otherwise, Department would surely become a more regular stop for me.