10 Independent Coffee Shops You Must Visit

Bar Italia

Bar Italia

Here at Londonist Towers, we’re massive fans of coffee, in all its forms. So it’s only natural that we put together a celebration of our favourite independent coffee shops around town: places that combine truly special coffee with stand-out atmosphere.

Of course, there are dozens more great coffee spots in London, so please do let us know your favourites in the comments below. Just don’t mention the S word…

Bar Italia

About as Soho as they come, this 65-year-old West End institution is open 24 hours a day, ensuring you’re never too far away from a pick-me-up, be it on the way to work or post-partying in attempt to stop yourself falling asleep on that night bus. Putting very decent espressos, breakfasts and bites aside, the atmosphere is what really makes it here. Whatever time of day you visit, you can be sure of an eclectic crowd and the kind of genuine buzz you’d have to stick your finger in a socket in order to recreate in a Starbucks.

Caravan Kings Cross

Part of recently developed Granary Square, this newer, bigger and (we think) better spin-off from Caravan’s Exmouth Market original comes complete with a built-in coffee roastery. If you’re popping in for a cuppa or something to eat from their very reasonably priced menu of pizzas and small-plates, you’ll enjoy the waft of roasting beans. If you want to get closer to the action, ask about coffee masterclasses which they run regularly, and you can buy beans and coffee paraphernalia to take home, too.

Funny: Four Corners

Funny: Four Corners

Four Corners Café

A relative newcomer to the area, Four Corners brought top rate coffee and humorous A-boards to Waterloo when it launched on Lower Marsh last summer. Coffee comes from Shoreditch roaster OZone and is handled with care by the ever-friendly team, while back-up comes in the form of homemade gin infusions and lemon sherbet vodka for days when coffee just isn’t strong enough.

Long White Cloud

A forerunner to hipster Hoxton, this the-only-way-is-east café combines great coffee with some pretty cool, regularly changing art exhibitions and a vibrant menu of brunch-style dishes with an Antipodean undercurrent, they even stock some specially-imported Kiwi products including Vegemite, Jet Planes and Giant Toasties. It’s open until 10pm on weekdays and can turn into an impressively bustling bar for the later hours, even if wine and beer sales compete with coffee. Pop in during the day to make use of free Wifi and a bit of creative energy. Oh, and do try a bacon and egg pie.

Monmouth Bermondsey

Monmouth were one of the very first independent shops in London to roast their own coffee, and they’re still up there with the best. While the ever-popular Covent Garden and Borough Market branches come with too many tourists and too long a wait for our liking, this Saturday-only site close to the action of Maltby Street Market is busy but not hectic. The roastery, which now supplies many cafés and restaurants around the capital as well as their own, is only a few minutes’ walk away, too.

Notes

Notes

Notes

With a whole menu for espressos and their very own roastery, it’s no surprise that Notes take coffee pretty seriously. A sentence from their website will give you an idea of just how seriously: “every morning we take our time to ‘dial in’ each coffee –  adjusting the grinder settings and coffee:water ratios in search of the best possible flavour”. Branches in Covent Garden and near Trafalgar Square are both good options whether you’re just central and in need of a pick-me-up, or eager to put some time in and explore just how different one espresso can be from the next.

Prufrock

Well known for serving some of the best coffee in London, Leather Lane’s Prufrock Café is a discerning coffee drinker’s playground. There are numerous beans and blends on the go at any one time, and a comprehensive tasting chart to help you decide what to go for. Rest assured they know how to treat it: the fact that there’s also barista training on-site is an idea of how much care they take and how on top of the game they are. Anyone for an ‘espresso theory’ course?

ScooterCaffe

Another coffee destination set on Waterloo’s quirky Lower Marsh, this low-lit, scooter memorabilia-filled destination comes complete with cats, a puppy and a crowd that’s verging ever closer to being hipster. There’s limited options by way of food, but you’re welcome to bring your own – which is handy when Lower Marsh Market is on. Creamy lattes are superb here, although many of the other offerings lag behind some of the more specialist spots in this list. Still, it’s the atmosphere which makes it among our very favourite hangouts in the capital, whether for daytime coffees or evening negronis. Just don’t ask for a flat white whatever you do, or the level of service will sharply decrease…

TAP Coffee

Selling equipment for creating coffee at home, as well as numerous varieties of beans, Fitzrovia’s TAP is a haven for true coffee aficionados. Espresso-based drinks are present and correct, but it’s slow-dripped filter coffee and aeropress offerings that are are their signatures, and so long as you don’t mind waiting a short while for your coffee to come into fruition we’ve found them to be particularly rewarding.

Workshop Coffee Co

There are now three branches of Workshop across town, but this Clerkenwell original is still the best in our opinion. For a coffee destination, it does a decent line in food, from sandwiches and salads to burgers and jerk chicken, as well as wines and beers of an evening. Back on topic, beans for the brews are all roasted on site and the coffee repertoire includes aromatic single origin aeropress numbers alongside espressos, macchiatos and all the usual styles. What we particularly like here is the fact that, should you want to, you can prop up the bar and talk to one of the team about the nerdy details of coffee until the cows come home. But equally you could just have a latte crammed full of the cows’ milk without a single disapproving glare.

This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.

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  • Mark Painter

    What about Kaffeine on Great tichfield Street, it is superb

    • beanandgroundcoffee

      Agree, Kaffeine are the best! Followed closely by Department of Coffee and Social Affairs :-)

      • Johnny Bull

        Quite right. A dreadful omission.

        • Ben Norum

          Kaffeine did almost make the list, but although the coffee is fantastic (even better than some on this selection), I have always found it quite uncomfortable and the staff unwilling to deviate from what they believe is the ‘ideal serve’ even if the customer disagrees.

  • swagv

    Err, how can you make statements like “there are now three branches” under a title of “independent coffee shops”? Are they chains or not? Are they independent of what exactly?

    • Ben Norum

      It’s an interesting point that you raise, and maybe one I should have mentioned in the introduction. The term ‘independent’ is a tricky one to pin down, but to my mind having two or three branches does not immediately disqualify a company from inclusion, so long as it is still independently owned and maintains that feel.

  • geronimonkey

    I kind of don’t want to post it in case more people start going, but Talkhouse on Portobello Road is brilliant. They serve Workshop Coffee amongst others, and the food is fantastic too.

  • James Guppy

    Hipsters have taken over Scooterworks on Friday and Saturday evenings…Sunday mornings are still pleasant though.

  • Harry

    Discovered the thrillingly titled ‘New Row Coffee’ on New Row in Covent Garden earlier this week. Replete with excellent 90s alt rock soundtrack (weirdly), awesome coffee and a generally lovely atmosphere.

  • Nicole

    Long White Cloud is Kiwi, there’s no “Aussie undercurrent”. Aotearoa (NZ’s native name) literally translates to land of the long white cloud. =)

    • James NZL

      I concur and I would have a number of Kiwi and reluctantly Austrslian cafés in my top 10!

    • Dom O’Reilly

      Nicole, you beat me to it and had more details. Perhaps the writer might like to change the copy?

      • Ben Norum

        Thanks. Apologies for my mistake on confusing Aussie and Kiwi here. I have corrected accordingly. Which other Aussie / NZ cafés would you suggest? Lantana was no.11 for me.

  • Paolo Barone

    You are really missing out on a couple… Carpo in Piccadilly and Vergnano. Definitely the best coffee in London IMHO

  • Dom O’Reilly

    I thought that New Zealand was the ‘land of the long white cloud’. If that’s so, how can the coffee shop of that name have an ‘Aussie undercurrent’?

    • Samuel

      “Antipodean” would perhaps have been a more diplomatic selection of adjective.

      • Dom O’Reilly

        Indeed. Or a simple ‘KIwi’….

  • smallgerman

    Volcano Coffee House
    Unit F01, Ground Floor,
    Parkhall Trading Estate
    40 Martell Road
    London SE21 8EN

  • Daniel

    Ground Control on amwell street does excellent coffee

  • jospar

    Never miss the double espresso for 1gbp @ the best coffee vendor in London, the Algerian coffee in soho.

  • Li

    Is F&W no longer an indie?

  • EV10009

    What about Nude Espresso. This New Yorker loves those guys on Brick Lane

  • Nancy Baynes

    I’m delighted to have discovered a new gem in Newham, where there is a serious deficiency of good independent coffee shops: https://twitter.com/CafeSawmill

  • Susie

    We just want to drink at the one #DavidGandy drinks at!

  • Clo Mlr

    Little Orchard in Clerkenwell – lovely place, lovely team, and great coffee!

  • Joseph Sparks

    The Algerian coffee shop has the best espresso for £1.00 a double or a cappuccino for£1.00. A true London gem.

  • http://www.hausofwest.com sonisandwich

    A great little place has opened at Denmark Hill station called FCB (the Flying Coffee Bean). Worth checking out if you live down south.

  • Mohammad

    Actually, I am an international student, and I will begin studying in January 2015.
    I would really like to thank you on this great,helpful article. Certainly I’m gonna try some of these places.

  • Ian Cooper

    Great list – Four Corners Cafe is my happy place. Absolutely worth a visit.

  • Flick Adams

    Small White Elephant in Peckham. It’s fantastic!!!

  • Martha Lewis

    You should do a list for other independent places. Like independent Petshop. I went to one in Wimbledon called Creature Company, and it’s really brilliant!
    Or independent sandwich places, like Tartine in Balham, which is great!