Before I moved to England, I was given the following warning from an expat: ‘don’t drink English coffee, we only know how to make tea’. Fortunately, I didn’t heed his advice and have discovered that the land of tea is also very good at making coffee. The following is a selection of personal favorites gathered from years of travel around England. They are all locally-owned, off the beaten path, and often quirky coffee shops, which excel in both quality of products and atmosphere.
Favorite London Coffee Shops
Tina We Salute You is a place that caters to the local community. The main feature of the shop, apart from good coffee, is the owners dedication to promoting local artistic talent. Every few months the walls of the shop are painted white and local artists are invited to decorate the blank canvas. The shop began as a cupcake stall and still provides a range of delicious cupcakes and other baked goods. London is home to many of England’s most unique coffee shops and it’s often hard to choose the best out of such an excellent range of choices. This visually appealing shop certainly stands out from its competitors.
47 King Henry’s Walk
Flat White, London
Flat White is the name for an Australian/New Zealand-inspired combination of strong espresso (1 or 2 shots) mixed with foamy steamed milk (similar to a latte), otherwise known as ‘a damn good, strong coffee’ as the owners put it. Flat White prides itself on being an Australian/New Zealand style coffee shop in the heart of Soho and draws a loyal crowd of expats from down under, as well as Soho locals. Milkbar near Shaftesbury Avenue is the sister café to Flat White and also worth a visit if you’re in the area. In honor of the shop, I ordered a flat white coffee on my visit, complete with coffee art, which did not disappoint. This is the perfect place for visitors who love bold coffee and a relaxed antipodean attitude.
17 Berwick Street
A popular coffee shop near busy Oxford Street, Kaffeine is a relatively new addition to the London coffee landscape. High-quality food and coffee are taken very seriously in this shop. The espresso machine used here, the Synesso Cyncra, is called ‘the holy grail of espresso machines’ by the owners and they also produce a weekly food blog to keep customers informed. The wooden floors, exposed brick, and soft, natural lighting make this a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. Considering its proximity to one of the busiest shopping districts in the world, I was surprised at the ease with which I found a table at Kaffeine. The baristas handled the incoming shoppers with humor and efficiency and, if not for other waiting customers, I would have been tempted to order a second coffee and stay for the afternoon.
66 Great Titchfield Street
York Coffee Shops
The Perky Peacock, York
The Perky Peacock is a small shop hidden away in a 13th century tower under Lendal Bridge by the River Ouse. With that romantic address alone, this quirky shop is a must-visit on your journey to England’s north country. The shop is named after its proprietor, and barista extraordinaire, Nicola Peacock. There isn’t much seating in the shop, but I found Lendal bridge to be a lovely area to walk around while enjoying my coffee. From the peacock-inspired art to the hand-crafted coffees, this charming shop is an outright winner.
Postern Tower, Lendal Bridge
Coffee Culture, York
Coffee Culture is located in a tall 3 floor building in historic York. There is plenty of seating available from squishy sofas to tables and window seats. I ordered a simple latte, which came with cute coffee art, and took a seat near one of the windows overlooking the street below. With its ample space, Coffee Culture is the perfect place to enjoy a hot drink, especially during wintry Yorkshire days.
Elsewhere in England
Pilgrims Coffee House, Lindisfarne Island
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off of England’s northeast coast, was an early Christian outpost and home to religious hermits and monks. With its isolation and monastic history, the island still retains a sense of tranquility and escape from mainland pressures. It’s not surprising then that the island’s single coffee shop is also a restful and comforting retreat. Lindisfarne is a rainy and misty place and this coffee shop is a real oasis from the cold. The latte and sponge cake I had on my visit were delicious and artistically created, but it’s the cheerful coziness of this place that will draw me back, regardless of its remote location. The shop also provides a variety of homemade cakes and desserts, hot chocolate, and tea.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Berwick upon Tweed
The Bean Espresso Bar, Beeston (Nottingham)
The Bean is located in a 2 floor building off of Beeston High Street (a small suburb of Nottingham city). The shop has won awards in previous years for its no-nonsense approach to coffee and quality selection of sandwiches and treats. The café has somewhat of an Asian influence with its deep red walls, Chinese watercolor paintings, orchids and bamboo-esque chairs on the second floor. It’s a meeting place for an eclectic mix of people from university students to young parents and pensioners stopping off after a morning of shopping on the nearby high street. There is also a ‘book crossing’ located on the second floor where locals can borrow a book or leave one behind. Not a far journey from bustling Nottingham city, this quiet café is a nice place to work for a few hours or catch up with friends over good quality coffee.
1 Stoney Street
Blake’s Coffee House, Newcastle
I asked locals in Newcastle for directions to the best coffee shop in the city and Blake’s was the immediate answer. When I visited this coffee house every table was full with a good-sized crowd also waiting in line and around the store perimeter – I had the impression that this is a usual occurrence. This shop is a great place to visit if you’re not in a hurry and have some time to wait for seating. Alternatively, it opens early in the morning, before the city really gets going, and is famous for its full English breakfast (including a vegetarian option). Later in the day, the café also serves quiche, Indian food, and a range of sandwiches. I particularly enjoyed the large space, tall ceiling, and sound of happy conversation bouncing around the café. Delicious, energetic, and certainly worth the wait.
53 Grey Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
Vanilla Kitchen, Peak District
Located in beautiful Derbyshire in a stone cottage building, the Vanilla Kitchen offers a range of unique drinks and treats, including organic coffee, orange hot chocolate, vanilla shortbread, and indulgent brownies. The shop caters to a wide range of visitors and needs, including gluten/dairy-free and vegetarian products. The café strives to have a hospitable and communal atmosphere through toddler and mummy days, pancake mornings, and supper clubs. I visited after a day of walking in the peaks and particularly enjoyed the simple filter coffee with a rich gooey brownie.
Coffee Aroma, Lincoln
Lincoln is an absolutely stunning medieval city located in the Midlands. Its famous Steep Hill, home to many unique eateries and shops, won the Best Street in Britain award in 2011, so competition among coffee houses is fierce in this city. Coffee Aroma is no stranger to awards having received a coveted place on the Guardian’s top ten list of great coffee shops. Perhaps more than any other coffee shop I’ve visited, save for the Perky Peacock of York, this coffee shop prides itself on its artistry and presentation. For fans of barista-watching and creative coffee art, this is a great place to visit on your trip through Lincoln.
24 Guildhall Street
For an alternative to the usual chain shops, be sure to visit these unique places on your next excursion through England.
Written by Erin Connelly for EuropeUpClose.com