Well-tested personal favourites gleaned from years of travel
Chain coffee houses are great for their overwhelming availability, but an off the beaten path coffee shop dedicated to making great beverages and providing a warm, friendly atmosphere is certainly a delightful find. Whether your travels keep you close to London or take you across England, the following are a selection of some of the best places to find superb coffee (or tea) in an equally superb setting.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a place of great tranquillity and natural beauty. At one time a lonely monastic outpost and final destination for pilgrimages, the island still retains an aura of rest and serenity. It's no surprise then that the island's coffee shop, with its brightly coloured walls and cheery fire, is also a comforting place and an excellent retreat from the mist and rain of the northeast coast.
Lindisfarne Castle and Bay. Photo by Erin Connelly.
When I visited the island, a local told me that Pilgrims Coffee Shop 'makes the best coffee in Britain'. That is truly a well-contested title, but my local friend was not exaggerating. In addition to coffees and teas, the shop offers a great selection of homemade cakes, pastries, and lunch items. The shop attracts many locals and families, which gives it a friendly vibe and a feeling of 'please stay and visit'. It's always hard to leave this happy little place and return to mainland life.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Front Street Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 2SJ
Imperial Teas of Lincoln
Situated in an old Norman building and medieval undercroft on Steep Hill in Lincoln, Imperial Teas is both a specialty store (offering rare and quality teas/coffees) and an exquisite coffee shop.
The 12th century shop on Steep Hill. Photo by Imperial Teas of Lincoln.
In 2011, Steep Hill was named the 'Best Street in Britain' and the pride in the eclectic mix of shops on the street is palpable. The proprietors of Imperial Teas are undeniably passionate for their trade and possess more specialty knowledge about tea and coffee than any other coffee shop owners I've ever met (and that is a lot of people). From the beautifully arranged choral music playing in the background to the rare imported teas, Imperial Teas of Lincoln is an outright winner for choice, artistry, and overall inviting atmosphere.
47 Steep Hill Lincoln LN2 1LU
Tina We Salute You, London
A friendly and laid-back neighbourhood shop, Tina We Salute You is a delightful gathering place right down to the communal table in the centre of the store. The main characteristic of the shop, besides good coffee, is the owners dedication to promoting local artistic talent. Every 8 weeks the walls of the shop are painted white and local artists are invited to decorate the blank canvas.
In keeping with the free-spirited, paint on the walls theme, regular customers are invited to write their names on a back loyalty wall where their purchases are tracked with hand-drawn stars. In addition to hot drinks, the shop provides a range of delicious cupcakes and other baked goods. With so many great coffee shops in London, it's hard to know which one to choose, but this visually appealing, warm, and distinctive shop is sure to become a fast favourite.
47 King Henry's Walk
The Perky Peacock, York
The Perky Peacock has one of the most charming, albeit hard to find, locations in the city. The small shop is hidden away in a 13th century Tower under Lendal Bridge.
The Perky Peacock in the tower. Photo by Lisa Jarvis.
A very popular hangout for locals and a take-away favourite for nearby offices, the shop is just gaining renown throughout the city and beyond. A beautifully decorated and comfortable environment, the Perky Peacock is a great place to hide-away for a few hours with friends or for a quiet time of reflection on your own.
Postern Tower, Lendal Bridge
Coffee Culture, York
York is the home to such national treasures as the Shambles and the York Minster and is also the home to some of the best coffee houses in England, so much so that the city merits another entry on this short list of cosy coffee shops.
Coffee Culture is located on Goodramgate and spread out over 3 floors connected by a jumbled staircase. Visitors can seat themselves around chairs and tables or window seats overlooking the street below. Comfy sofas are also available and usually occupied by good friends catching up for a few hours over tasty lattes. Coffee Culture is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a hot drink, especially when the Yorkshire weather turns frigid.
The next time you're craving a delicious handmade coffee give the chain shops a miss and try one of these cosy places. They are certain to draw you back for many more visits.