Zone 1 Coffee Project

A couple of days into the London Coffee Cups adventure a friend dared me to step it up and go to every independent cafe in Zone One in London. It’s a great challenge and I’ll be blogging and making videos as I go.

Zone 1 central london coffee
The Zone 1 Coffee project is sending me off to hunt for Flat Whites in every corner of Central London.

There are about sixty cafes listed in the London Coffee Guide and the Independent Coffee Book London that are in Zone 1. I’ll be working my way through all of them. Hopefully I’ll get to meet a lot of baristas and some cafe owners along the way that I can introduce to you.

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Best cafe in Yorkshire

On the way back from Yorkshire we stopped off in the city of York. We wandered the old town, climbed the city walls and got a little bit lost. But we couldn’t find any good coffee in York. We were about to cave in and go to Costa but I jumped on FourSquare and found The Attic cafe. The ground floor looks like a normal tea rooms (The Harlequin) so we’d ignored it while walking through town. But hidden upstairs is a local focussed cafe where the owner is pulling world-class coffee shots.

Flat White coffee from Attic
The Attic cafe is hidden on the top floor above a tearooms and serves a mean Flat White.

I would have been happy enough with a Flat White. But he made a double, ristretto based Flat White that I’m still thinking about days later. Gordon has won a number of barista competitions and we had a good gossip about the London coffee roasting scene. The cafe wasn’t officially open yet but he could tell from the Kiwi accent my pained expression that I was desperate for a real coffee.

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Railroad Cafe

Railroad cafe in Hackney is a nice small cafe. It’s in Hackney and is part of the growing number of lovely independent cafes in the area. But it’s not quite pushing the boundaries of coffee quality.

Railroad cafe in Hackney
Railroad is like a dependable old friend.

The flat white was yummy and the pottery cups added a nice touch. It’s a great neighbourhood hangout but probably not worth traipsing across London to get to.

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Giddy Up

Giddy Up has real heritage as a local coffee venue. The baristas are excellent.

Coffee Cart Barbican London
The Giddy Up Coffee Cart off Whitecross Market is a real local gem

On the day, the flat white was actually only ok, not amazing. The mouth feel was a bit tart and the froth wasn’t as velvety as it could have been. But the overall experience was stunning.

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Brill Cafe

Brill is a lovely local cafe in Exmouth Market. The Flat White is near perfect.

Brill Exmouth Market
Brill is a combination music store and cafe in Exmouth Market.

Milk is a smooth texture. Temperature is lukewarm (not as hot as most, but perfect for drinking as soon as it arrives). Taste is smooth and mellow. Recommended.

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Coffee cups of London

I’ve just finished a pilgrimage to 24 independent cafes. I’ll be posting short reviews focussing on the coffee, the whole coffee and nothing but the coffee. No more comments about music, architecture, staff, wifi or ambiance. For the next few weeks it’s all about what is the best coffee in london.

Best coffee in London
I’ve been hunting for the best coffee in London

From small coffee carts to large roasters and hidden independent cafes I’ve tried as many coffees as I can. I’ve had a a Flat White and a Latte in each cafe so I’ll be summarising my thought on the best Flat White in London.

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Dose Espresso

Dose Espresso was the first cafe that we visited in Clerkenwell. We were exploring the Barbican while apartment hunting and needed a coffee to help brace us for the steep local property prices. It was early days in London for us so I was pretty impressed when we bumped into two Sloan Rangers in mock riding gear. I thought to myself, this is a haven of modern classiness in a sea of grungy hipsters. In the year or so since then, Dose has continued to impress as a clean, efficient and modern cafe. City bankers mix easily with Farringdon web designers and Clerkenwell architects.

Dose Cafe in Farringdon
The latte at Dose is small but perfectly formed.

The seating, architecture and vibe are welcoming, but not too welcoming. The staff aren’t quite “too cool for school” but somehow the whole layout does make you accutely aware that you are somewhere that knows that it’s “cool”.

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Flat White Cafe

Flat White in Soho started in 2005 before the flat white was widely available in the UK. It was the original antipodean cafe in London and therefore the first place that I went when we landed in London after living in Colorado for a ski season.

Flat White in Soho
A flat white from Flat White and a peak of the best chocolate brownie in London.

I vividly remember the feeling of sitting in Flat White in Soho on a grey London day. Homesick for the fist time and hearing the first New Zealand accents that I’d heard in months. Suddenly I understood China Town in San Francisco, the Jewish Quarter in Paris or the British expat bars in Asia. When we are a long way from home, we take some comfort in familiar accents, customs and foods.

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Coming Soon Cafe

Once you get more into coffee, you might start to ask yourself why you can’t choose the coffee beans that go into your flat white. It’s almost always a generic blend chosen by the cafe and there is no chance for you to learn by tasting different beans.

Coming Soon Cafe
You have a choice of single origin beans for your flat white at Coming Soon

The same thought occured to architect Hoi Chi Ng and the itch eventually turned into The Coming Soon Pop-up Cafe in Exhibit Gallery at the Barbican. Hoi Chi is using as many different beans as he can get his hands on. This is a definite journey of discovery for him, but he’s inviting all of us to come on the journey with him.

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