SW Resident columnist Louise Candlish explains why she thinks London coffee now rivals notoriously tasty Italian brews…
January is all about the coffee for me – think the two faces of Janus, but with back-to-back beans instead of Roman gods. What with giving up the booze – and maybe even chocolate too – a flat white represents the single source of self-medication available to me in January. The last drug.
An interesting thing happened in 2016 (well, quite a few interesting things happened, as we know, but I mean apropos coffee): I had a holiday in Italy for the first time in years and looked forward enormously to the coffee I would have there, remembering it as of orgasmically superior quality to that of other countries.
But when I lifted the first cappuccino to my lips, it was – sorry, Umbria – nothing to write home about.
‘When did they start serving this dishwater?’ I asked my friend.
‘But it’s exactly the same as the coffee I had here last year and every year before that,’ she protested. Which meant that if the coffee in Italy had not changed, then what I was contrasting it with at home must have; my nostalgia dated from a time when there was only early-gen Maxwell House to compare it with.
Mind you, I’m not the sharpest blade in the grinder when it comes to coffee-related insights. For a decade I wondered what it was about French coffee that I disliked so much. Too weak and yet too bitter; smooth but oddly sour. Finally, I realized it was the UHT milk.
Anyway, my point is that the best coffee in Europe is now in London. I cannot be persuaded otherwise. Any time we gripe about three-way temporary traffic lights or despair of school catchments or ogle Aldeburgh on Homes By The Sea, we must remember: we have the best coffee.
The best coffee in Europe is now in London. I cannot be persuaded otherwise
Here are a few of my favourite dealers (and I’m not talking about the vibe of the place, nor the correctness of the method, but the mindblowing bliss of the fix): Tom Tom on Ebury Street SW1, Federation in Brixton Village SW9, Fields in Clapham SW4, Ground Coffee Society on Lower Richmond Road SW15 and Brew on Wimbledon High Street SW19.
As for Italy, there turned out to be a silver lining to my grief: the discovery of the Caffè del Bar website. This SW London-based business sources the crème de la crème of Italian coffee for delivery, meaning that the next time you go on holiday to Italy you could take your own Italian beans with you to avoid any kind of disappointment. Until then, order it, grind it, whack it through the Aeropress and, lo, you will forget the Great 2016 Umbrian Letdown ever happened.