Four decades of perfecting the art of brewing coffee
London is not known for its coffee, but it is possible to find well-crafted versions of the caffeinated drink - you just need to know where to go. One such place is Monmouth Coffee, a minimalist cafe that opened their first retail and roastery in Covent Garden in 1978.
The original Monmouth Street shop has a smart-looking exterior and is wholly in place in a row of upmarket clothing and lifestyle stores. The queue spilling out the door onto the pavement is a testament to the consistent quality of the cups of coffee produced.
The flagship branch on Monmouth Street in Covent Garden. I've never managed to get one of the highly sought-after tables inside, but the long bench outside is usually available. It's a pleasant spot to sit and enjoy the sunshine. Image credit: Nicole James
Inside is cosy with just a few tables. If you want to drink in, walk straight past the takeaway queue to the back. There might be a short wait, but for a lovingly made cup of coffee, it will be worth your while.
The inside of Monmouth Coffee, Covent Garden is snug and has a buzzy vibe. Image credit: Nicole James
They have a small pastry section, baked and delivered daily from the artisanal Little Bread Pedlar bakery in Bermondsey. In the Winter months, they also sell fresh cream truffles and single-origin chocolate.
Personally, I never feel comfortable buying the pastries as they are open to the air and displayed between the cashier and queue.
If you happen to find yourself south of the river, there is another Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market. Croissants and bread are for sale and there are complimentary pots of jam in the middle of the massive communal table.
It is quite nice to sit at the huge communal table and people-watch through the double-fronted open windows. The focus, however, is mainly on the coffee. There are several cones of drip coffee continually filtering, sending out an enticing aroma through the whole shop.
The coffee menu is short; they are purists. There is no soy or skim milk in sight. This lack of plant-based and skinny alternatives might pose a problem for some people. There is decaffeinated coffee, so I ordered one as an espresso. To me, it was bold and intense. I added a dash of milk to reduce the acidity.
There is an entire carton of Jersey whole milk and organic cane sugar from Costa Rica on a counter near the cashiers, so you can pour the exact amount you want in. The free 'help yourself' milk and sugar concept feels generous.
On the day I took pictures for the review, my espresso only had a thin crema on top. For me the thicker the crema, the better. I like it to look like a beer head. Despite the slightly watery appearance, it was full-flavoured and hit the spot. Image credit: Nicole James
I enjoy their coffee so much, I decided to buy some of their freshly roasted beans to recreate the experience at home.
The barista talked me through their current selection; beans from The Uraga Coffee Mill in Ethiopia which has bushes planted 2200m above sea level, decaffeinated beans from Nicaragua that are medium-bodied and taste like dates and caramel, and their two unique espresso blends. It was like being a kid in a candy shop with so much to choose from.
You are spoilt for choice at Monmouth as they have a wide variety of coffee beans for sale. Buy as little or as much as you like to take home. Image credit: Wikipedia
He was very knowledgeable and explained how drip style has more caffeine than an espresso. It is a slower process and the water is in contact with the beans for longer. In the end, I bought a bag of their organic espresso blend which the barista promised would have sweet, fruity length.
The third outlet is in Bermondsey and I dedicated to catch the early morning Saturday crowd. Nearby, is their new roasting headquarters where they roast a daily batch and supply numerous cafes across London.
Visiting the roastery in Bermondsey for a coffee tasting is possible. Contact the sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org