Sometime around the beginning of September, after deciding that there was no way we could afford to continue on to Prague from Croatia with 60 Euros left, we decided that the cheapest way was to fly to Frankfurt Hahn airport (a small, local airport with no 24 hour shops and limited seating) and catch the flight out from there at 6am and head to London to start our new life.
Only problem was that it was 2pm the day before the cheapest flight. So we did what every seasoned (broke) traveller would do, and decided we would fly to Frankfurt, then tough it out at the airport for 16 hours. After all, how bad could it be?
After 16 hours on the hard airport floor, badly hidden away underneath a set of stairs (a space we ended up involuntarily sharing with two Italians and one Spanish girl, seemingly doing the same thing, but far more prepared for the situation) unable to sleep due to what seemed to be some sort of German north pole situated directly underneath the floor, food rations having dropped to half a bag of almonds, and the Ipad was running out of battery with no power point as far as the eye could see.
Don’t worry kids, we survived. Barely. We arrived in London grumpy, exhausted, and some could say almost visibly distressed due to our institutionalisation at said German airport.
The very first thing I did after coming out of security was to head to the first coffee shop I laid eyes on. I needed something to make me feel human again. Whenever I come home (to Australia) after being overseas, the first thing I always want to do is take a bath. After over 23 hours on a plane, yes, all I want to do is sit in a luke warm pool of my own filth, but its more than that. It’s a place of calm. It’s a place of reflection. It’s a place to put everything in perspective and then ease yourself back into reality slowly, gently, at your own pace until you feel ready to face the world again. Luckily, coffee has almost the same affect.
No matter what the world happens to be throwing at you, coffee acts like a bubble of peace. When you have the right kind of coffee in your hands, it’s like you’re in this untouchable place that not even a baby with a cry like dying cat could pierce. At home, ‘going for a coffee’ was always the solution to so many problems. A good coffee deserves a seat at the United Nations. If only Israel and Afghanistan had a good coffee shop somewhere along there border, with a barista from Melbourne wearing Cheap Mondays and stretchers in his ears. They could meet up together, sit down on some colourful cushions, listen to some Josh Pyke and maybe share a croissant while talking about there problems.
I arrived at Costa’s shaky, eyelids fluttering, but alive. I ordered a latte. I dismissed the glassy, empty look in the cashier’s eyes. ‘That’ll be two pounds fifty thanks’ I watched him as he dully punched at buttons on the register. Receiving my changed I went and stood in the corner like the rest of the customers, all eagerly awaiting our own Elixir of Life with complimentary napkin.
Watching the Costa’s employees busily shuffle around behind the counter, faces blank and expressionless, I became worried. There was no love. No love for the coffee. I wondered if the staff even drank coffee. Watching the ‘technique’ of the ‘barista’ as he made the espresso shots, allowing them to just sit on the bench while he filled a far-too-big jug with far-too-much milk. My heart cried out in silent pain as I watched the golden crema disappear into the murky blackness of the espresso.
I knew this was a bad sign. A barista that doesn’t understand the importance of crema on the espresso does not deserve the title barista. I watched him froth the milk. I say froth to emphasise the fact that that was exactly what he did not do. Instead of slowing tilting the jug, turning it on its side to ensure the milk spins in the correct manner to ensure it’s creamy, velvety and smooth, he stood, shoulders slumped, jug upright, staring at the wall behind the customers. The only movement he made was the shock of the boiling hot jug when it burnt his hand.
The jug burnt his hand. That is how hot he allowed the milk to become.
I considered leaving then and there; I didn’t even need to taste the coffee to know what I was in for. But I needed the caffeine. Desperately. At the time, it felt like a matter of life and death. I can be very dramatic when I haven’t slept enough.
I think I maybe took 3 sips of that ‘coffee’ before throwing it out. At first I felt angry, outraged! How dare these people disgrace the name of Coffee. But then I felt sad, disappointed and wanted answers. Surely this cant be what all coffees in London are going to taste like. Its then that my journey began
I promised myself I would hunt down the best coffee shops in London. I wanted velvety milk, mouse like foam, smooth flavour. I wanted pretty designs on the friggin foam god damn it. But most of all I wanted to feel the love. Or more so taste it. I wanted to watch the barista carefully swill the milk at JUST the right angle, I wanted to watch him scoop off the crappy empty bubbles and slowing spoon that thick heavenly foam onto my latte.
And truth be told, with sufficient dedication, you can find coffee nirvana. Granted, majority of the good coffee shops in London are either run by Australians, or have Australian baristas (no lie) but they are out there!
So I thought it was my duty, as a coffee loving Australian and in particular, a Melbournian (Melbourne coffee is second to none. Don’t believe me? Take a trip to Degraves Street next time you pass by good old Melbs. You won’t be disappointed) to compile a list of the best coffee shops in London, in no particular order. Enjoy!
1. The Shoreditch Grind
Address: 213 Old Street, London EC1V 9NR
Closest tube: Old street
Coffee shop downstairs, recording studio upstairs. In typical east London fashion, this coffee shop is always full and buzzing with the typical young eastside Londoners. With amazing coffee, free wifi and plenty of natural sunlight due to their huge windows that wrap around the front of the building, whats not to love? They also serve fresh baked goods and the whole design of the building makes for a lovely sipping experience.
Address: 13 Charlotte Pl London W1T 1SN
Closest tube: Goodge Street
Lantana is a bustling little café tucked down a laneway off Goodge Street in Fitzrovia, central London with their focus on serving excellent coffee and an interesting but simple menu in a relaxed environment, it has been called “a little bit of Australia in Fitzrovia”. Serves breakfast and lunch, and all day brunch on weekends. They have Lantana In which is the sit down and drink/nibble or Lantana Out for those busy londers who just want to pop down for a quick takeawa
3. Prufock Coffee