The London Espresso Scene

A rocket cup's worth of espresso with a water chaser.

A rocket cup’s worth of espresso with a water chaser.

In the past few years I’ve become a regular drinker of espresso. For most of my twenties and thirties I eschewed all coffee drinks, believing that they upset my stomach too much to be worth the effort. It look a long time to realize that the problem had more to do with the milk I was drinking in my coffee. Once I moved to straight shots of espresso I found I could enjoy a daily dose in the morning.

In Waterloo, whenever possible I would visit Death Valley’s Little Brother in the mornings, and work there for an hour or two before continuing on to campus. It was clear that, as part of spending a one-year sabbatical in London, I would want to develop a deep knowledge of London’s vast independent espresso scene, whatever its current state.

Happily, the reality exceeds any expectations I may have had for this city. The core of London is teeming with amazing independent shops, stalls and stands to suit just about every taste. Initially, I worked from a few scant recommendations I was able to collect from local friends and others who had spent time here. Soon after I discovered two important resources. The first is a locally produced map of speciality coffee in London. The second is a mobile app, created by the same media firm.

The app in particular has been an excellent tool. I’ve used it to discover dozens of great espresso shops in the city—mostly in the core, but also in many other neighbourhoods when I’ve found myself heading out for meetings. At the halfway point of my stay in London, I’ve had espresso at about 45 places around the city. I doubt the total will get much higher given the relative inaccessibility of the places I haven’t visited, but I shouldn’t have a problem getting over 50.

I’m not about to start reviewing the espresso in these shops, nor am I particularly qualified to do so. But it would still be fun to say something about my experiences. With that in mind, I’m going to try to combine my morning dose with my successful venture into the espresso world, the Rocket Espresso Cup. My plan is to take the cup with me around London, get it filled with some of the city’s finest espresso, and document the process in words and pictures here. Hopefully I won’t earn too many dirty looks from hard-working baristas, and perhaps I’ll contribute to the cause of Rocket Cup awareness.

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