The 50 Best coffee shops

Need a caffeine fix but tired of chain cappuccinos? From intense espresso and powerful americanos to full-fat lattes and flat whites, Kate Watson-Smyth finds independent blends for all

Kate Watson-Smyth
Friday 04 January 2013 19:00 GMT

The experts:

Chris Salierno is the marketing director at La Marzocco coffee machines

Dale Harris is wholesale director at Has Bean Coffee suppliers

Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood is the UK Barista champion and owner of Colonna & Smalls

Jeffrey Young is editor of ‘The London Coffee Guide’


Allpress Espresso

58 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DJ

Very popular artisan roastery/café set in edgy Redchurch Street, just off Brick Lane, says Jeffrey. “Very energetic, buzzing environment that is well suited to the local scene. Delicious gourmet artisan food that is produced in-house and overseen by well-known Australian chef Tony Papas.”


1 Granary Square (off Goods Way), London N1C 4AA

Jeffrey says this new, inspirational, design-led venue, created on a monumental scale, is one of London’s most powerful destination coffee venues. “Live roasting and artisan coffee made in a diverse set of ways by some of the UK’s best baristas complement the superb and comprehensive all-day brunch menu.” Its evening menu is a treat too.

Climpson & Sons

67 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH

“Great coffee and fantastic location just off London Fields. Rustic, local feel, a tiny café that blends in effortlessly into the very busy market stalls of Broadway Market,” says Jeffrey.

Flat White

17 Berwick Street, London, W1F 0PT

“The original Antipodean café in London. The Harley Davidson of coffee venues: simply raw, edgy and full of caffeine,” says Jeffrey.


66 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 7QJ

Local, quality-focused artisan café with excellent in-house-made delicious food, has a very loyal following, says Jeffrey. “The owner Peter Dore-Smith is a perfectionist and his enthusiastic team are always very welcoming.” It’s independently owned and only minutes from the mayhem of Oxford Circus.

Monmouth – Borough Market

2 Park Street, London SE1 9AB

Queues out of the door almost every day speak for themselves, says Jeffrey. “This is an institution in the London artisan coffee scene and a genuine UK pioneer of quality coffee. Monmouth also roasts coffee for many other quality cafés in London.”

Ozone Coffee Roasters

11 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4AQ

One of the most beautiful coffee spaces in London, says Jeffrey. “New Zealand-owned Ozone is tucked away in Leonard Street just off Silicon Roundabout. Great lunch venue and an impressive coffee roastery with a tasting room integrated into the café.”

Prufrock Coffee

23-25 Leather Lane, London EC1N 7TE

A place where all the insiders go and not only those from London, says Jeffrey. “Coffee geeks from over the world come to this true altar of coffee in London’s Inner East. Former World Barista champion Gwilym Davies takes coffee to new heights here.”

Tina We Salute You

47 King Henry’s Walk, London N1 4NH

Local Hackney venue with a very intimate feel. “Great coffee and tasty food served on a communal table or at comfortable retro sofas,” says Jeffrey. Each month new artists feature works on the walls of this hidden gem.

Workshop Coffee – Clerkenwell

27 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RN

This Australian-inspired cafe/roastery has quickly become a key feature of the trendy Clerkenwell design and media area. Fantastic brunch offers and late night opening hours add to the appeal of this coffee centre of excellence, says Jeffrey.


Small Batch Coffee, Brighton

My Hotel, Jubilee St, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1GE

“They have six sites in Brighton, which offer great service in cool locations,” says Chris.

Workhouse Coffee, Reading

335 Oxford Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG30 1AY

Chris rates this independent coffee shop, which now has two branches in the town, as one which combines great design and good coffee.

Hermitage Road, Hitchin

21 Hermitage Rd, Hitchin, Herts, SG5 1BT

“Beautiful restaurant and coffee bar with an incredible focus on quality produce and good service,” says Dale. He adds that the building is beautiful and full of history too.

Ground Kemptown, Brighton

36 St Georges Road, Kemptown, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1ED

“This two-branch coffee shop, the other is in Hove, takes its coffee seriously and makes up a large slice of the increasingly strong coffee scene in this part of the country,” says Max.

Taylor St Baristas, Brighton

28 Queens Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 3XA

This company has done a lot for coffee, not just in Brighton but in the UK as a whole, says Max. “There are several stores dotted around the capital but this little Brighton branch is still my favourite.”


The Boston Tea Party, Bristol

1 Princess Victoria St, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4HR

Quirky, ethical, family-run café in highly affluent Clifton, says Jeffrey. “It also has a strong, loyal customer following.”

Colonna & Smalls, Bath

6 Chapel Row, Bath, Avon, BA1 1HN

This speciality coffee house always offers three different types of espresso and three different types of filter coffee and will explain which is best depending on what sort of drink you wish to have: flat white, cappuccino etc. Chris says the coffee is “simply stunning”.

Cafe Boscanova, Bournemouth

650 Christchurch Rd, Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 4BP

“This,” says Dale, “is one of coffee’s best-kept secrets. Boscanova is fantastic. Luke is the world’s most curious barista and Joe runs a fantastically open, inviting space.”

Lahloo Pantry, Bristol

12 Kings Rd, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4AB

This is Dale’s Bristol highlight. “The coffee is brewed, the tea is loose leaf.” It started out as a tea shop, named after the tea clipper run by the owner’s Great Great Grandfather, and is open for brunch, lunch and afternoon tea with delicacies available to buy for your own pantry.

Relish, Wadebridge

Foundry Court, Wadebridge, Cornwall, PL27 7QN

Hugo Hercod, the 2008 Barista champion, has been running this hidden gem tucked away in Cornwall for several years now, says Max. “Ever changing espresso coffee from the UK’s top roasters is served up alongside fresh hearty dishes.”

Esspressini, Falmouth

39 Killigrew St, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3PW

“Relaxed café meets speciality coffee,” says Max. A choice of three espresso and three filter versions, this is fast becoming a coffee beacon in this far corner of the country.

Devon Coffee, Exeter

88 Queen St, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3RS

“A classic independent coffee shop in the centre of Exeter, says Max. “High quality coffee and bites delivered with warm and friendly service.”

No 5 The Brew Rooms, Cheltenham

5 Montpelier Avenue, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 1SA

“Like a lot of great specialist coffee shops, this store’s small size allows it to go big on the coffee focus,” says Max. “There are many different coffees at this hidden gem nestled away in Cheltenham.”

Full Court Press, Bristol

59 Broad St, Bristol, BS1 2EJ

“Full court press is a defensive technique in basketball that displays an all-out no compromise approach,” says Max. “The man behind this project has been behind the scenes in the coffee industry for more than 10 years and he is taking a full court press approach to his speciality coffee shop.”

Provedore Tapas, Falmouth

43 Trelawny Rd,Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3LY

“This is a warm and colourful tapas bar but it applies equal care to its coffee and for that reason it deserves a place on this list,” says Max.


Bettys Harrogate

1 Parliament Street, Harrogate, HG1 2Q

Established in 1919, an institution and one of the finest coffee and tea venues in the country, says Jeffrey. “A beautiful and traditional venue that is owned and run by fine purveyors of coffee, Taylors of Harrogate.”

Bold St Coffee, Liverpool

89 Bold St, Liverpool, L1 4HF

Dale says this is one of the loveliest cafeé he knows. “Really approachable staff, the highest quality of coffee with the least pretence imaginable and they are repeatedly awarded the best café in the city. A solid community of like-minded coffee people within Liverpool.”

Laynes Espresso, Leeds

16 New Station St, Leeds, LS1 DL

“Smart but beautiful bar in Leeds,” says Dale. “Dave Oljenik has been an inspiration to a lot of the UK’s baristas for a number of years – everything is smart and simple. Excellent regular classes and events.”

North Tea Power, Manchester

36 Tib St, Manchester, M4 1LA

“This is a beautiful café in the northern quarter of the city,” says Dale. “The staff are warm, the espresso is exceptional and you’ll never want to leave.”

Opposite Cafe, Leeds

Victoria Quarter, Queen Victoria Street, Leeds, LS1 6AZ

“The first of these was set up, as the name suggests, opposite Leeds University,” says Max. “This tiny unit in the Victoria Quarter was set up to explore speciality coffee, with the food and usual cafe offerings stripped right back so that it’s an exciting coffee experience.”

The Attic, York

2 Kings Square, Harlequin, York, YO1 8BH

The Harlequin is a charming and relaxed coffee shop, says Max, but head upstairs and you will find a space dedicated to speciality coffee. “What a combo.”

Spring Espresso, York

45 Fossgate, York, YO1 9TF

“This is a brilliant all-round café,” says Max. “The staff are dedicated to carefully prepared coffee with a quality food offering too.”

Cafe de Vie, Newcastle

20 Saville Row, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE1 8JE

The French owner often holds French-speaking events at this tiny café and at busy times there are long queues. Worth noting in big cities where there are no shortages of the big chains for time-pressed commuters to visit.

Cafe Royal, Newcastle

8 Nelson Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5AW

This gastro-café is full of locally sourced products and on-trend dishes. You will need to book here at busy times. Lunch tends to be lively, evenings are more sophisticated.

Tebay Services, Cumbria

Between J38 and J39 on the M6

The only small locally opened company to have built a motorway service station which has been running since 1972. Fresh food from their award-winning farm, including lamb, beef and home-made burgers, as well as a coffee shop and a butcher’s counter. A warm and friendly welcome too.

Midlands and East Anglia:

Coffee 2, Halesowen

Cornbow Centre, Halesowen, B63 4AJ

Chris praises this coffee shop as a simple place with well-trained staff. “Always a good coffee well made.”

6/8 Kafé, Birmingham

6/8 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5HG

Central location in the second city, this is a stylish and smart cafe with a loyal following, says Dale, who also flags up the friendly service.

Honey & Harvey, Woodbridge

56 Thoroughfare, Town Centre, Woodbridge, IP12 1AL

Dale says: “Harvey is an ex-fish smoking legend who fell in love with coffee and wanted to have great coffee in his hometown, so he built this place – lovely guy, lovely cafe.”

The Window, Norwich

25 Wensum St, Norwich, East Anglia, NR3 1

The owner, Hayley, serves her own blends, which change with her mood and you can buy the beans to take away.

The Plough, Birmingham

21 High St, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9NT

“The Plough redefines what a pub can be,” says Dale. “It aims for excellence with everything it does – coffee, food, service – and hits every time. This place is worth catching a train from London for.”


Artisan Roast, Edinburgh

57 Broughton St, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 3RJ

Possibly the best coffee served in Scotland, says Jeffrey. “The coffee is inspired and the staff are well trained and knowledgeable. Not to be missed.” Chris adds that they roast their beans really well.

Tinderbox, Glasgow

189 Byres Road, Glasgow, Scotland, G12 8SN

One of the first quality cafés to appear in Glasgow’s modern café scene, this was set up by family-owned Glasgow roasters Matthew Algie, says Jeffrey. “Tinderbox has led the way for many years in the artisan coffee scene in Scotland. Friendly service and a great place to hang out on a weekend.”

Bean Scene, Stirling

40 King Street, Stirling, Scotland, FK8 1AY

“Edgy neighbourhood cafe situated on the main high street of Stirling,” says Jeffrey. “It’s a great lounging venue and well suited to those with a passion for coffee and music.”

Brew Lab Coffee, Edinburgh

6-8 South College St, Edinburgh, EH8 9AA

Dale says this is one of the most exciting cafés he’s visited in a long time. “The coffee is incredible – some of the most skilled baristas in Edinburgh, and the coffee changes weekly. The food is great too.”

Kings Coffee, Dumfries

12 Queensbury St, Dumfries, DG1 1EX

“A lovely small café run by coffee obsessives,” says Dale. “You can normally talk to one of the owners here but if not they’ll be making coffee in Berlin, Melbourne or London, and you can see inspiration from all corners of the world here without it taking away from being a super nice café for the locals.”

Wales & N Ireland:

Coffee #1, Cardiff

Wood Street, Cardiff, Wales, CF10 1EN

The first store opened in 2001 in Wales and the mini chain has since expanded to 26 shops around South Wales and the West Country. It has won the best coffee chain award four years in a row.

Waterloo Gardens, Cardiff

5 Waterloo Gardens, Cardiff, Wales, CF23 5AA

A short walk from central Cardiff but well worth the effort, says Dale. “It was awarded the best UK coffee house 2009 and, strictly speaking, is really a tea paradise, but the coffee is just as well prepared. Super service, knowledgable and interesting staff.”

Home, Belfast

22 Wellington Place, Belfast, BT1 6GE

Founded in 2011 as a pop-up venture, Home was such a hit that after extending for another four months, it eventually found a permanent home here.

Canteen at the MAC, Belfast

10 Exchange Street West, Belfast, BT1 2NJ

Open seven days a week, this is the café for Belfast’s newest arts venue and is fast becoming one of the places to hang out in the city.

Clements Coffee, Belfast

Queen’s University, 78 Malone Road, Belfast, BT9 5BW

The company’s slogan is that it is “religious about coffee” and it takes its name from Pope Clement VIII, who apparently drank coffee regularly and oversaw the creation of many coffee houses in Rome. There are several branches in Belfast, all of which are popular among coffee aficionados.

Best for...A quick recharge

Small Batch - Coffee, Brighton If you are spending the day in Brighton Small Batch Coffee is the perfect place to stop for an aromatic espresso or two

Best for... Unique blends

The Window Cafe, Norwich - This is the best spot in Norwich for a quality coffee. Make sure to ask the owner Hayley to serve you one of her special blends

Best for... People watching

Brew Lab, Edinburgh - It’s a pleasure to watch the skilled baristas at work in this Edinburgh city-centre hot spot. The coffee beans change weekly too

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