The coffee scene in the UK is booming with hundreds of coffee shops opening each year. Included in the mix are award-winning roasters and World Barista Champions. Some have an emphasis on ethically sourced, independently roasted and perfectly brewed flavours, and there are “third wave” coffee tastes from Aeropress to cold-drip methods.
It’s clear there’s more to the UK’s caffeine fix beyond regular chain-cafe coffee. Here is a round-up of some of the best across the British Isles.
Brighton: Small Batch Coffee Roasters
The Small Batch Coffee Roasters in Brighton is family-run coffee house that roasts its own Arabica coffee, sustainably sourced from local farmers in over 20 countries. Now a powerhouse in local coffee culture, Small Batch has eight locations, serving everything from the classics to their own unique blends and cold brews. And their latte art is impressive.
Bath: Colonna & Small’s
This may be an unassuming shop front but it has an impressive provenance. Co-owned by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, a three-time winner at the UK Barista Championships, this speciality coffee hub in Queen Square is all about flavour. The menu changes weekly for that reason, rotating seasonal coffees from across the world, sourced by expert roasters all over the UK. In any case there will always be three espresso beans and three single origin/estate filter coffees brewing on the bar every day.
Bristol: Full Court Press
This minimalist interior matches the slick menu which features two filter blends and two espresso blends that change weekly. You will find these featured on a board complete with tasting notes. The coffee comes from individual farms and co-ops all over the world, as well as some 30 roasters in Europe, enticing people to keep coming back. There’s a small selection of food items including gluten free options.
Owned by World Barista Champion, Gwilym Davies and UK Barista Championship Head Judge, Jeremy Challender, this airy open-plan café in Farringdon, London scooped Time Out’s “Best Coffee In London’ accolade. Expect hand-brewed filter coffee, perfectly brewed Espresso and guest beans slow-brewed in an Aeropress in this two-floor wonderland. Each week, three coffees are showcased on the brew-bar while you ask the baristas their secrets. Food is fresh and home-made with some gluten-free options.
Birmingham: Quarter Horse Coffee
What makes this independent roaster in Birmingham so special is that you can see the roasting process in action at its on-site roastery. Premium beans, sourced from all over the globe from entrepreneurial female producers in places such as Colombia and Guatemala, are roasted weekly for maximum freshness.
Leeds: Laynes Espresso
This espresso bar is not only is a sleek hangout where you can try dedicated brews (and some of the best sweet treats in the city from Porterhouse Cake Co) it’s also an educational space offering classes for hobby baristas through to professional qualifications.
Manchester: Pot Kettle Black
This inviting space in the Victorian-era Grade II-listed Barton Arcade in Manchester was set up by two local Rugby League stars – Jon Wilkin and Mark Flanagan who play for St Helens and Salford Reds respectively. They wanted to serve artisan coffee in atmospheric surroundings, alongside a menu of healthier food choices including all-day breakfasts, gluten-free food and vegan options. So far they have won three awards for their food and coffee.
Sheffield: Steam Yard
Steam Yard’s owners wanted to keep the alternative, independent spirit of Sheffield’s Division Street alive and this café, with its cool concrete-wood-leather interior, still retains touches of its industrial past. Set in a Grade II-listed building, it serves coffee from London’s award-winning Square Mile Coffee Roasters, and is also known for its speciality coffee-doughnut combo, known as the “Steve McQueen”.
Newcastle: Flat Caps Coffee
For coffee brewed in three ways – Filter, Aeropress and the old-fashioned Syphon – head to this bohemian basement café. Owned by a UK Barista Champion finalist and former banker, Joe Meagher, the café sources its beans from roasting companies around the UK and Europe.
Edinburgh, Scotland: Brew Lab
Brewed with meticulous detail and precise brewing techniques, you can try single-original filter and cold brew coffees alongside traditional espresso roasts at Brew Lab in Edinburgh. The coffee menu in this urban styled environment changes weekly and your brew will be served with locally produced food add to the charm. A tad expensive but the experience is worth it.
Cardiff, Wales: Quantum Coffee Roasters
Resembling a funky science lab, Quantum in Cardiff loves experimenting with its brewing methods, using V-60 and Chemex pour-overs, I-brick and cold brew towers to get the perfect brew from their in-house roasted blends.
Belfast, Northern Ireland: Established Coffee House
One of the pioneers of Belfast’s growing coffee scene, the fine coffee blends and tempting brunch menu are a big draw at this cool, minimalist café in the Cathedral Quarter. There’s also a dedicated training room where visitors can learn how to brew better coffee at home.