I think I may have found one of London’s most cheerful cafes.

I spotted Vanilla Black Coffee & Books on Instagram and knew instantly that I had to visit. Whilst yellow isn’t my favourite colour, it has got to be the happiest colour in the rainbow and it never fails to make me smile. How could I resist a cafe with a yellow espresso machine and matching yellow walls? So I made it my mission to head to Kennington before we moved out of Colliers Wood for good.

I had a really restless night’s sleep on Saturday night after being woken up by family checking that James and I were safe and sound following the horrific attacks on London Bridge. So I decided I might as well just get up early and head out for coffee and a walk in the sunshine, hopeful for a bit of a pick me up on a sunny but sombre day for London.

Vanilla Black is about a 10 minute walk from Kennington tube station and somewhere I haven’t visited for a while. I forgot that there are some lovely homes there and promptly got distracted on the way. Eventually I spotted a colourful row of shops and my coffee destination.

Neither my photos nor those over on Instagram give this cafe justice for how big, bright and breezy it is.

I wasn’t in the market for food as we had quite a bit at home but you can grab pastries and cakes and I think there’s a whole brunch menu on offer. Instead I ordered a coffee and took a seat on the stools by the window.

You might have noticed from the name and these photos that there’s more to this cafe than coffee and cake. The book shelves to the right of the cafe (on entering) are full of books to buy (all non-fiction I think) and to the left you’ll find children’s books and toys. There’s even a corner with a selection of stationary.

I don’t think you can peruse whilst you drink coffee or eat, but it’s an ideal place to grab a gift or two and even some inspiration for yourself.

My coffee arrived quickly (they serve Allpress) and I enjoyed it slowly whilst basking in the sunlight, watching the world go by.

The roads felt eerily quiet that morning.

If you want direct sunlight, there’s a lovely courtyard out back where they have a collection of tables for customers to enjoy. It could easily make for an ideal summer breakfast or brunch spot.

But I was quite content on my seat indoors, until I had drained my cup.

And decided I should head back out into the world.

Vanilla Black is certainly somewhere to go and lift your spirits and enjoy the sunshine. You can find it for yourself here.

One of the things I’m known for amongst my friends is my love of good coffee. It hasn’t always been this way, in fact I didn’t even like coffee until after university. But in the early days of blogging, when a wave of independent coffee shops were sweeping through London, I discovered an enjoyment for not only the taste of speciality coffee but the place offered to enjoy it in.

I wrote about my love of London coffee shops before. But there’s so much more good coffee to discover beyond the capital, seeing as it’s UK Coffee Week, I thought I’d share the coffee shops I’ve discovered outside the M25.

L I N C O L N – Coffee Aroma

Truth be told I wasn’t expecting to find any independent coffee shops in Lincoln, but I was getting into town an hour or so before my friends and thought it was worth a Google. I happily found Coffee Aroma.

Tucked down a small side street off the main high street, it looks like any other cafe on the outside but step inside and you’ll realise that these guys know their coffee. It’s warm and cosy with a creaky staircase, worn leather sofas and walls covered in music sheets (they do live music events upstairs.) Well worth skipping Starbucks for.

(As a cheeky bonus for you, I also discovered Makushi whilst we were there. Much more modern in style but equally good coffee.)

B I R M I N G H A M – Yorks

I hardly ever have much time to actually explore my hometown as I’m usually there to visit friends or family. But on the occasions my train pulls into the station with enough time to have coffee, off to Yorks I go.

Their newest and recently(ish) extended coffee shop is just around the back of the station. The bare brick, reclaimed wood interior fits in with the old corner shaped building. The coffee, which is roasted on site, has a light fruity note. And I definitely need to go back to try their brunch menu. But what I often like most is overhearing the brummie accent and the comfortable feeling of being ‘back home’.

C A M B R I D G E – Espresso Library

You’ll have seen this coffee shop before but I thought it was worth highlighting here.

With a town full of students and a reputation regular cyclists, it’s no surprise that a cycling-themed cafe can be found on the route between Cambridge Station and the town.

What I liked most about this coffee shop is that it’s a huge space and there’s loads of light. Obviously the coffee is pretty good too.

B A T H – Colonna Small’s

Last year I was in Bath for a hen do and got there early to explore the town. Naturally, the first thing on my mind was coffee, so I made my way over to Colona Smalls (which I’d heard about it via Giulia.)

As I waited to put my order in I overheard the Barista talking to another customer and it was pretty clear how passionate he was about coffee and recommending what to have.

Set up in what I think must have been an old shop that extends right out into the back, it’s full of light and small corners to enjoy a coffee or two.

Colona Smalls now offer Nespresso pods so you can try their coffee without needing to leave London.

L E E D S – Laynes Espresso

My most recent discovery as I popped in there on Thursday! I was up north for an all-day session of sifting through the M&S Archive for work. Laynes Espresso is handily only a few minutes from Leeds station so I popped in before jumping into a cab.

The coffee was great and slipped down very nicely, the food looked pretty tasty too. It didn’t feel as cosy as the previous coffee shops here, but I was only in there for a short while.

 

So how do you find a good coffee shop in the UK? My first port of call is usually Brian’s Coffee Spot, his passion for good coffee ensures that if he’s been to a town, he’ll have sought out a cafe worthy of his visit. If the town isn’t covered I resort to Google and search for ‘independent coffee shop’ and the town I’m visiting. Then I might check the location out on Instagram,  most good independent coffee shops will be on there!

I’m always looking for other coffee shops to discover. Do you have any UK coffee shops to recommend?

I’m going to put my hands up and admit that I’m a coffee snob and I’ve done some slightly ridiculous things in the pursuit of a good coffee. This includes, walking 15 minutes out of my way (and more when I’ve taken an unexpected detour), being late for work, being late for meeting friends and almost missing our train to Birmingham at Christmas. James and I even have an ongoing joke about how I don’t like Pret coffee and it looks like I will never live down my snobbery.

So I thought I’d set the record straight about why I love London coffee shops, and how after drinking it on a regular basis it’s hard to go back.

But-first-coffee-Printable from Etsy

1. It has encouraged me to explore new places. I started writing this blog about four years ago and coffee shops were one of the first things I went to as a way to explore the city. I quickly noticed that it took me to so many new areas without breaking the bank. Since then it has helped me gain my bearings in the city and I even find other new places to visit along the way. This happens when I leave the city too and I’ll often check out Brian and Giulia’s blogs to see if there’s anywhere I should check out. Next stop ~ Colona & Smalls (I’m heading to Bath in Spring).

2. It tastes better. I still drink coffee at Starbucks and Costa but it’s just not the same. The coffee from London coffee shops has a much more silky and smooth texture, a less bitter taste and just generally more flavour. I haven’t got a refined pallet to be able to make out all of the coffee notes just yet but I’d love to do a cupping class.

London Coffee - 2015-16

3. It’s pretty. I’m not going to deny that part of the reason I drink what is slightly more expensive coffee (by about 50p -£1) is because of the latte art, it’s so pretty! Throw in a colourful cup and it’s irresistable to Instagram. Follow ~ @LondonCoffeeShops on Instagram for more.

4. There’s usually delicious sweet treats or a brunch/ lunch option on offer. Most cafes in London either have an amazing kitchen or have teamed up with a great bakery. I’m particularly partial to banana bread (this could easily be a future feature), but offer me a hunk of carrot cake, a freshly baked flaky pastry or a tasty toastie oozing with melted cheese and my money is yours.

5. The cafes are often very lovely, inside and out. The promise of latte art with a colourful background makes it almost impossible for any colour magpies like myself to miss it. Next stop ~ Paper + Cup and Hej Coffee.

Photograph

6. The people are nice. It takes some real guts to set up shop in London. Not only is it SO expensive and you’d need to put some serious lifetime savings on the line, but it’s competitive too. This usually means the people behind the scenes have a real passion for what they’re doing, what they’re serving and they expect it to come across in the people who work for them. Despite it being a competitive industry in London, they’re usually super nice about other cafes too!

7. You’ll get a nice atmosphere with your coffee.  Add all of the above together and you’ll find a pretty nice place to enjoy a coffee or two.

_ _ _ _

Do you love London coffee shops? What do you love most about them?

This post was inspired by a Travel Link-Up series, hosted by Jessi, Emma, Kaelene, Angie!

When I first started blogging I decided one of the things I’d write about was the great places to enjoy a coffee or two. It was during the time when it felt like there was another wave of the coffee revolution going on so there were plenty of new places to choose from. I was also working on sorting my finances so it seemed an affordable way to find new places, get out to an area I hadn’t been to before and use my camera. An addiction to good coffee was born and I wrote about 36 cafes over a year or two!

These days, some of the great cafes which were just starting out back then (not all that long ago really!) are now opening new branches, and the focus is often equally on the brunch offering as it is on the coffee choice. Whilst I often share the new branches I’ve checked out on Instagram (or now Snapchat!), I rarely write up about them. So when I heard about Story Coffee, I knew it had to be the next coffee spot and perhaps the return of the post series.

Story Coffee is a relatively new independent coffee shop just a few minutes up St John’s Hill from Clapham Junction. We arrived on Saturday afternoon after a dull morning of cleaning the flat, hungry and looking for a good lunchtime treat. It certainly attracts a lot of attention for a little cafe and I was worried for a minute we’d have to go elsewhere. But with a stroke of luck a couple of seats cleared by the window.

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James grabbed the coffees whilst I sat in front of the window and admired the simple, chic design.

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It was a bit of a dreary day outside with the wind whistling and wet leaves rustling along the pavements and it made me realise how light and warm the cafe was thanks to the windows which frame the space.

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We pondered the menu, which was short but full of good treats indicating that whilst you could definitely enjoy a good brunch there, the coffee isn’t just a side order.

I popped up to the coffee bar to order food and grab an opportunity to take a closer look at the cafe’s shiny details.

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And get tempted by the sweet treats.

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In the meantime our coffees arrived. Latte for James, cappuccino for me.

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Whilst I often know when I’m in a good coffee shop, I haven’t really paid much attention to what coffee they serve for a while. I’ve got my favourites (mainly Workshop) but independent coffee shops are usually pretty good in London, so much so that I’ve rarely had a bad coffee. They serve Square Mile here and it was good. Pretty perfectly made too.

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Our lunch (or very late brunch) arrived. Scrambled eggs with chive and crème fraîche dressing and kale for James.

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Neal’s Yard three cheese toasty with a side of tomato relish for me.

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Cheese toasties are just too good, all that melted cheese sandwiched between warm toasted bread. YUM. They’re particularly comforting in cold weather. My stomach is definitely rumbling for another one of these right now.

The total was about £18 so pretty affordable for a lunch option for London. It was just the right portions to satisfy our appetite without being stuffed for the rest of the afternoon. Although the temptation to grab a treat and another coffee was definitely there, I bought a bag of Square Mile coffee to take home instead so that we could enjoy the luxury of good coffee on the sofa.

Story Coffee is a light, bright, relaxed and friendly cafe, if only I lived closer to Clapham Junction to visit more often! You’ll find this gem for yourself here. It’s open 7am – 4pm in the week and 9am-5pm at the weekends.

Have you discovered any new coffee shops? Do you have a favourite coffee or coffee shop?

(Psst If any independent coffee owners are reading this, please consider Colliers Wood for your next venture!)

In a city that gets little sleep, it’s no wonder that there’s a growing number of high-quality coffee shops helping to fuel London’s inhabitants. Whilst many of my favourites close their doors shortly after office hours, I recently discovered the perks of Soho Grind (sibling of the better known Shoreditch Grind) by day and by night. Making the tricky transition look easy.

Mid-morning, mid-week, Soho, I found myself in need of caffeine and a treat. It had been a while since I’d been somewhere new so I tracked down one of the latest additions to the Grind & Co family along Beak Street. Its old school cinema-style signage, street art and elements of red is a big hint towards its East London heritage.

I ordered my usual cappuccino and pain au chocolat and sat by the window. Soho is a great place to people watch as the streets barely stop with passing workers and visitors, but I was also lucky enough to enjoy the warmth of a glowing autumnal morning.

Soho-Grind---Coffee

Each branch offers the group’s own coffee blend, roasted exclusively and delivered to site every few days. And yes it is pretty tasty.

It’s a compact coffee shop, offering a small collection of seats upstairs, making it best for solo visits, small groups and takeaways.

Soho-Grind---interior

But whilst visiting I spotted its downstairs den, better for groups and the evening offerings I’d heard about.

I don’t usually drink coffee later in the day but London Cocktail Week called and I spotted Soho Grind on the list. I couldn’t resist finding out how the evening compares to the day and sampling its Espresso Martini for just £4. (More on LCW 2014 to come!)

Down in the basement you’ll find low leather booths and tall stools, opposite a well-stocked bar.

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Like upstairs it’s compact, but downstairs its cosy with low lights and candles. I’d persuaded Lucinda (who’s more of a tea/cocktail drinker) to join me. We ordered our Espresso Martinis and a small charcuterie plate. Food demolished in minutes, here’s the prettier order of the evening.

Soho-Grind---espresso-martini

As someone who loves tea and coffee but is never quite sure about chilled options, this went down rather well. Smooth and not too strong, you get a nice caffeine buzz with a side of evening alcohol.

Soho Grind proves coffee shops can do day and night as well as a restaurant, true to its own style throughout. I’d definitely recommend it for an hour of daydreaming and watching the world go by, or to take a friend or date for a relaxed evening drink.

Have you found a place in the city you’ve enjoyed by day and by night?

As we emerge out of the depths of winter those first weekends when the sun shines, hope springs, and everyone sighs with relief that the worst is (hopefully) over, are precious. Last weekend the sun shone, I left my scarf at home, and I was determined to make the most of the day and enjoy the hint of a new season. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to leisurely sip on a fine coffee in a new cafe so you can imagine this was high on my agenda.

I chose Timberyard’s second cafe, amongst the boutique shops and restaurants of Seven Dials. Its large front sits comfortably on a corner of Upper St Martin’s Lane (about here). Despite the buzz of the area, you’ll find it hard to miss.

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Step through the red door and you’re welcomed by warm wood and clean walls.

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The counter holds plenty of treats.

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I was seriously tempted but I had other food plans on my radar and thought best to resist the indulgence of a tasty cake this time. So I ordered my usual cappucino and took a seat by the window so I could watch the world go by (no statement seems truer in Covent Garden!).

Within a few minutes my coffee arrived.

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Made with Has Bean coffee, it sliped down perfectly.

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You really can’t beat the feeling of a relaxed weekend, enjoying your favourite activities.

Timberyard is a pretty place to start your weekend, there are plenty of seats for solo drinkers and sofas for groups.

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Like their Old Street cafe, their aim is to offer a business-style cafe experience, with iPads dotted around and meeting rooms available. Whilst I spotted a few people with laptops around, at the weekend it feels more relaxed and I assumed the majority of fellow drinkers were planning the weekend rather than the week.

It’s definitely a great option if you fancy a good coffee in the heart of the city, or you’re lucky enough to work nearby and need a change of scene (or office screen).

Have you been to any new cafes recently? Have you tried either of Timberyard’s cafes?