Coffee shop study, Soho

Over the last few months I’ve been semi-intentionally trying to compare coffees from as many of Soho’s coffee shops and food boutiques as possible, and I think I have enough to put together a reasonably useful list. I must admit, at this point, that I am not a proper coffeephile, and always order a mocha wherever I go. Anyone who actually likes coffee tells me that mochas definiteively do not count as real coffee, and as such this list is redundant. But they’re all rockist stick-in-the-muds and should be ignored.

So, here, in descending order (it’s more fun that way, like exam results at school and the hit parade) are all the coffee retailers I can remember visiting in recent months. I know there are loads more I need to visit, and please please make recommendations (or otherwise) in the comments section.

17. Starbucks — A confession – if I’m not trying to be healthy, I get my mocha with cream on top and spoon on their vanilla powder and nutmeg. And I love it. But I can’t judge it on that basis when every other shop on this list is compared by their naked mocha. And Starbucks’ naked mocha is a weak, miserable cup of coffee. End of.

16. Costa — Too strong. A chain. Just not to my taste.

15. Caffe Nero — Another chain, another low score. Inconsitency is a strange complaint in a chain, but I never know if a Caffe Nero coffee is going to taste good or not, whch is really off-putting. When it does taste good, no complaints beyond its chaininess. When it doesn’t…

14. Pret a Manger — Decent coffee, if too strong, but keenly priced and swiftly brewed. My complaint here is a strange one – what relegates it to this level is the way that the chocolate sprinkled on top doesn’t melt or blend into the drink, but ends up in the bottom of the cup resembling nothing as much as sand. I dread getting close to the end.

13. Crepe Affaire — A bit unfair as coffee is a minority interest here, but the chocolate in the mocha is far too cloying and slightly artifical. It’s tasty but it’s too much and it feel wrong.

12. Le Pain Quotidien — Perhaps this is harsh marking, as the coffee’s really pretty decent (if invariably lukewarm), but I dislike their staff, their pricing and their atmosphere. Really, it’s fine – just an irrational meh from me.

11. The Breakfast Club — High quality coffee that is too strong for my tastes – people who drink mochas are usually those who don’t want such a full-tilt coffee experience. Also loses marks for fancying itself rather too much (this includes the staff) – it’s a hipster hangout and perhaps a bit too self-consciously proud of the fact.

10. Yumchaa — I’d love to put this place higher as it’s an absolute delight – a proper tea shop (I feel like a traitor asking for coffee, and not even proper coffee at that) with great staff and a lovely atmosphere – it’s great for meetings – all less than 50 yards from my office. But the coffee is too strong for me.

9. LJ Coffee House — A mid-table place for somewhere I’ve only been once, and was happy with but I honestly can’t remember anything more… This may be a mover when I’ve had a chance to re-sample.
View Coffee shops of Soho and environs in a larger map

8. Nordic Bakery — Perhaps the mildest of all the coffees I’ve had, and with a certain pleasant nuttiness. Underwhelming if I’m not in the right mood, but I often am in the right mood. It helps that it’s the perfect distance from my office for a pleasant afternoon stroll.

7. Milk Bar — This probably deserves higher, but it’s marked down because I’ve only been there once and it was full of hipsters. Like, really full. Seems to be a Flat White clone (the menu’s the same to I think) but without the charm or, going by this tiny sample size, quite the same level of quality.

6. Reynolds — A real find, though more for its fantastic lunch choices (seriously, check it out). Real coffee, well made, and I’m very happy to patronise (in every sense).

5. Eat — A wonderful surprise, especially compared to the woeful placings of the other chain stores. It’s not artisan coffee, but it absolutely hits the spot in terms of strength and sweetness.

4. Sacred — Sacred will be disappointed to only make #4. New Zealand clearly makes astonishingly good (read – to my personal taste) coffee, and Sacred’s offering is thick and creamy, sweet and potent. But it’s a little bit patchy, which drops it a place or two. They also have a franchise in Westfield in Shepherds Bush which is a Very Good Thing.

3. Paul — Only tried once, and it was the thickest, smoothest, most full-on mocha I’ve ever had. Perhaps a bit too much – it takes perfection and then it overdoes it, hence its #3 rating. I can’t wait to have another one, though, and it has a lot to live up to.

2. Bar Chocolate — A surprise discovery, since Bar Chocolate is a hipster bar whose staff obviously serve coffee as a bit of an afterthought. But it is gorgeous – everything a mocha should be. The only place where I’ve had my change returned to me on a little silver plate.

1. Flat White — Number one among a host of contenders for the consistency of greatness over the dozens of coffees I’ve had from there. It’s a bit trendy but somehow gets away with it because it has a slightly embarrassed charm, perhaps helped by the staff who just seem to get it right.

  1. Mocha – the jury’s still out…

  1. November 15th, 2010

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: