Before I jump into the espresso side of things I would like to give you a little bit of history about London and its coffee. I have spoken to one of the roasters from Monmouth and she told me a lot of great things that I didn’t know before.
Well, the local coffee monopoly is held by a company called Mercanta they import green beans. One of their loyal clients who also happen to be a roaster are called Monmouth. The selection of roasted beans is vast in single origins and few blends for espresso. Basically from what I’ve been told Londoners are use to freshly brewed coffee and Monmouth has been doing that for years and years before putting an espresso machine into their store. So a typical Londoner has a palate for a single origin cup of coffee that they can always get at Monmouth for example. The espresso market is starting to grow through out London. Unfortunately only a handful of places will serve you a great cup and the winners are …. haha
My London favourite would have to go to a place called Flat White (17 Berwick St. SOHO) This place is ran by a guy called Cam, he moved from New Zealand to open this shop. From what I’ve been told Cam was trained by Paul Bassett back in the day and it really shows from endless collapsing and generous coffee dosing that Flat White employ.
Using 2 x two group Linea – Mazzer combination baristi are very familiar with equipment and use all the right extraction methods. They use Monmouth espresso blend which is a medium roast consisting of 100% arabica, the espresso or rather ristreatto is very complex in flavours. The fruity, slightly rubbery smell really reflects in the cup. The last drops of the espresso are the best part very interesting acidic almost nectar like sweetness is mind-blowing really. Staff at Flat White are really friendly and Cam is a top bloke who is willing to talk to ya for hours and hours. Their latte art is on the money most of the time and great consistency all round makes this espresso bar what it is. Oh and did I mention they serve flat whites haha.
espresso price: £1.70GBP expensive right ?? that’s about $3.4USD
Monmouth Coffee Co. (27 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden) really is a coffee shop, their prime market is in selling beans. The specialise in drip coffee making, they use melitta cups with filters so the coffee is freshly ground and hot water is poured over the top, hard to get it wrong, that’s the beautiful thing about melitta drip cups. They have a variety of different single origins and even throw in seasonal specials and to rotate their stock they do a brew of the day, so the customer gets to try something different every single day. A really cool concept. They employ the same idea at both of their locations, the other shop is in Borough Market (2 Park Street, Borough). Both of the shops are worth visiting, I recommend experiencing a few different single origins through the filter before moving on to espresso, you will like it believe me!
Ok espresso side of things … from what I’ve gathered espresso for Monmouth is almost like a sidekick. They only have espresso machines because the clientele has developed a palate for it, however as I am told they much rather not even have espresso all together. Both shops have Linea machines and Mazzer grinders. Sadly there wasn’t a single barista working in the shop that had passion or knowledge about espresso, so the shots were very average, coffee would gush out and you get an overextracted shot of coffee every time. Deep inside though you can sense the fruity light acidic notes just like at Flat White. It really is amazing how much of a difference you get between flat white and Monmouth espresso wise.
One thing I didn’t like about Monmouth is that they leave their coffee exposed to the air all the time, the coffee that they sell behind the counter sits in massive plastic buckets. Would be nice to see them seal all the coffee after roasting for freshness sake.
espresso price: £1.00GBP Much cheaper than Flat White, Filter coffee i believe is £2.00GBP
Bar Italia (22 Frith St, SOHO) a very traditional Italian espresso bar, with cool 3 group piston machine with very Italian philosophy. These guys have been there since 1946. I make you coffee like my great great uncle Mario use to make it in Milano and you are gonna like it! So of cause the coffee is imported from Italy, the shots are gushing out and the end result is sub par. But hey … go there for experience, great atmosphere and nice Italian pastry.
There is one more espresso bar that I would like to mention, sadly after a month of living in London I never went there. It is called Climpson & Sons (67 Broadway Market, Hackney) and I hear great things about it. The owner use to work for Flat White so I am guessing expect a similar cup, but don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.