I’m delighted to announce I’ve just started writing for London’s Best Coffee App. A dream job really, I don’t think I could possibly have picked a better app to write for. To give you some idea of how good it is, even technophobe I, with just the absolute bare essentials of Twitter and Instagram have it on my phone. Hand on my heart I’m not just saying this, but it’s an indispensable resource for anyone who’s ever found their mind go blank wandering around London and in need of a decent caffeine fix, need never be stranded and gasping again. It also means I have a valid excuse to hunt out all the new cafes; yippee!
With my sparkling new coffee app head on I stride out of Monument Station on my first assignment; Taylor Street Gallery and Training Centre. I only heard about their latest branch in Monument maybe a week or two ago and it caught my attention because it sounded as though they were doing things a bit differently, they were also critically open weekends.
Taylor Street Baristas are probably the largest collection of independent cafes in London, with eight right now and growing. Many of their quality locations are hidden away unobtrusively, quietly in busy city locations, perfectly placed to service office workers and coffee guzzlers with a standard far and away above what they might be more accustomed to. I guess this is why I’ve never felt overwhelmed to write about them, as the caffeine tourist that I am, despite glowing reports from all over as well as top class drinks consumed first hand.
It’s a refreshingly sunny, beautiful Saturday afternoon and I navigate the shadowy streets behind till I find the familiar logo beside a doorway, tucked away, hidden from prying eyes. At first, as I walk into an empty room, I fear we might have our facts not quite straight, it doesn’t feel like a cafe at all, more a training room or school. In fact both head barista Alex and part owner Andrew look up at me expectantly, waiting for me to speak. It transpires I’ve lucked out and stumbled in shortly before a public cupping they hold every Saturday at 2pm.
Admittedly possibly not the best decision based on the amount of caffeine I intend yet to imbibe that afternoon, I still want to try a coffee and soak up a bit of the ambience. Although a proffered menu declares beans from Square Mile, I’m told they happen to have a particularly good Union geisha micro lot around and so I’m made one of these. Without question a cup of the beans is brought for me to inhale, my V60 is carefully prepared and served in almost a tea like manner from a little pot into a dainty open mouthed cup. The coffee itself matches that delicate announcement; clean tasting, full of gentle stone fruit flavours, an exceptional drink indeed.
I settle into a faded plush sofa as a slow trickle of customers arrive for the cupping, seemingly ranging from an experienced staff member from one of their other stores to a pair of complete novices. I watch on as the cupping process is explained in a way that manages not to be condescending but inclusive and accessible for any level, clipboards are handed out with forms for informal and personal note taking. I can’t resist diving in when asked, and relish trying coffees roasted from all over the world, my favourite on this table is a Palma Real natural from The Barn in Berlin.
Now, my earlier confusion was not completely unfounded, for the Monument branch is styled as a gallery and training space. I got Alex to explain this for me after the cupping. The idea is, I find, thrilling; a constantly evolving space that holds ‘exhibitions’ that dictate what you will find, and learn about, from one month to the next. The current exhibition is ‘which brewing method are you?’. What this means to you or I is that the menu simply has four options; V60, aeropress, cafetierre and clever dripper, and one coffee; Square Mile La Buitrera. You have the choice to enjoy and pay for each filter coffee at a time for £4 using your chosen method, or to pre pay for all four which can then be drunk whenever you like, and when you get to the end you get a small bag of beans to take away and a 10% discount on the brew method you enjoyed the most.
There’s not currently an espresso option, although there are three two group Nuova Simonelli’s in the training space downstairs so the potential is there should they decide they need one for another exhibition. In fact, the potential is there for much, it feels like quite a brave move – I certainly can’t think of anywhere that has quite the same format. Each time I ask a seemingly straight forward question I’m rebuffed with ideas, potential and non parameters that I find so very appealing to me. The room itself is little more than that, plain walls, wooden floors and stripped back lights, merely a background for those exhibitions. Nothing is fixed; naive paintings are hung by bull dog grips and strings, blackboards and shelving are temporary and again strung for now from strings until the next rotation. The atmosphere is surprisingly calm for such a simple and inspiring space with no fixed rules, you’d imagine done wrong it could feel quite unsettling, however it reminds me a little of Dunnefrankowski at Protein, it has the same air of education, an urban classroom if you like.
Oh, and don’t miss the toilet downstairs. A veritable igloo made from vegetable crates!