London’s Workshop Coffee Co. first opened its doors in 2011 as the European cousin to Australia’s St.Ali—sharing the same name. But in April 2012 the company rebranded (full disclosure: I worked with them on their rebrand) and they’ve since become a household name in London’s specialty coffee scene. The first two Workshop locations were always high on my list of recommended places to visit in London and their wholesale accounts have grown considerably since my last time here.
Last week, Workshop’s third retail location opened at Holborn in the bottom of the new Amazon headquarter building and it’s quite an amazing coffee bar. When you arrive, large front doors open to a bright and spacious area with ample room to place an order or form a queue once Amazon is fully staffed with their employees.
When you enter to the left, there’s a large mirrored logo that casts a glow on several high standing tables and a wall mounted bench reminiscent of the trams in Sweden. This half of the space is designed to accommodate shorter stays and quick shots of espresso, while the back half of the shop offers a more lounging environment where several groups of people were having casual business meetings.
The bar is literally split in two, providing the ability to close off the back of the space with a sliding gate for private events, while keeping the front half open to the public. The back bar also provides the resources to speed up service during rush periods.
The front and back bars are both outfitted with La Marzocco Linea PBs, Mazzer grinders and Uber Boilers. If you’re interested in filter coffee, you can choose from a selection of single origins brewed on an AeroPress or a quick cup of batch brew from a dialed-in Fetco. To accommodate employees operating the well-equipped bar, the space behind it is almost equal to the space in front of it, giving baristas a luxurious amount of room to work with, which everyone seemed very happy about.
The new Workshop feels entirely different than the previous two locations, which are unique from each other in their own right, creating three very distinct experiences depending on where you go. This shop feels like it was designed for speed and efficiency, likely anticipating the rush from Amazon employees and the heavy foot traffic on the street outside. But it also has a very fresh and modern feel in stark contrast to the rustic, wood heavy aesthetic of the Clerkenwell café.
With the growing number of choices to drink delicious coffee in London, the new Workshop offers a refreshing take on the experience that provides a more energizing environment. It feels Scandinavian, without feeling too homey and cozy without putting you to sleep. There are elements that remind me of my favorite coffee bars around the world, like Koppi in Sweden and Saint Frank in San Francisco, all while making its own unique mark on the London coffee scene.
Mark Youd is an artist based in Caerphilly, near Cardiff, South Wales. Before Mark gets to work on his paintings, he starts the day with coffee, which inspired this creative series of photography called “Caffeine Planets.” I asked Mark to describe the process:
It’s a simple, fun project based on the patterns that develop in the crema on my morning coffee…I use Nespresso from a Krups Pixie machine topped up with hot water, by varying the angle of the mug when the coffee is being pumped and/or the speed the hot water is poured, I can influence the pattern that is created in the crema. I take a photo (with nothing more special than an iPhone) very soon after pouring. I then crop the images in photoshop and apply very basic contrast and colour filters (and a healthy dose of imagination) to them while I drink the coffee. -Mark Youd
Last week, I wrote about the grand opening of the DunneFrankowski pop-up coffee bar in London. In an effort to foster conversation around the culture of coffee shops and the habits of customers, they are charting and sharing all of their coffee sales as they happen. This transparent tally will keep track of a daily and continuing sum of all the drinks ordered by customers during their time at Protein.
It will be interesting to see if certain beverages (like filter coffee) become more popular as customers begin to learn more about the coffees being served and have the opportunity to try new things. This is a cool experiment I look forward to following.
One of the newest shops in London is ST.ALi, which carries the same name and a bit of inspiration from a shop in Melbourne, Australia. What I love most about ST. ALi is that they’ve successfully combined a roastery and café bar, with a full menu restaurant. There are very few places I’ve been to around the world that can offer a solid brekkie, brunch or any other meal and compliment it with proper coffee—ST.ALi can.
After a week of experiencing the Costa Rica, Zamorana at Coffee Common, it was nice to also try the espresso blend they use in their shop. Which I found more balanced and enjoyable than the Zamorana alone. The coffee wasn’t the best I had in the city, but the program is young and moving fast, already creating a new venue for people in London to experience well-prepared, progressive coffee. Tim Williams, a fellow co-founder of Coffee Common, has been leading the growth and refinement of the coffee program with help from Baptiste Kreyder, who participated in Coffee Common at TEDGlobal.
The space itself is beautiful with two floors and two coffee bars. The downstairs is outfitted with a lovely Slayer, while a Synesso graces the bar upstairs. The back of the restaurant opens up to a ceiling of skylights high above—which keeps the living wall well fed and the roasting area well lit during the day. The environment is a great way to get everyday customers—coming in for food—to be introduced to coffee in a great new way.
If you’re in London or going soon, your coffee tour wouldn’t be complete without ST.Ali. I would highly recommend planning your trip around a meal as well.
I really enjoy this animation chronicling the childhood and life of a coffee bean, set to the tune “Java Jave”—the 1940′s hit by The Ink Spots. The animation was illustrated and produced by Kristyna Baczynski, an artist from Leeds, UK. It also won the Digital Media Award in 2008 at the Northern Design Competition.
Kristyna’s whimsical, but refined illustration style reminds me of Ren & Stimpy with a more refreshing color palate, I love her unique take on comics and sequential art. Check out more of her work, shop her Etsy, or read a nice interview with her at Pika Land.