After spending the year flying around our fabulous network, I decided to do my Christmas shopping in my home city of London, and set off for lively Oxford Street with a plan to hit up a few favourite coffee stops along the way. If you’ve ever been here you’ll know that navigating Europe’s busiest shopping street is extremely thirsty work, so here’s a handful of my go-to java joints for when the pavement pounding gets a little too much…
Like coffee beans roasting on an open fire…
Within the maze-like streets of Mayfair sits H.R. Higgins; a specialist tea and coffee merchant run by the same family since the 1940s. Bond Street baubles light the way to this cosy basement cafe, and the best thing to try at this time of year is the Christmas Blend, which gets its gentle, warming fruitiness from candied figs. The blend is made up of beans from Costa Rica, and offers a mellow silken finish to suit most if not all coffee lovers. Pair with a slice of their fruity loaf packed with apricots and pistachios – alongside your coffee, this buttery modern take on the trusty Christmas cake is like putting a giant bow on a treasured gift.
H R Higgins, 79 Duke Street, London W1K 5AS
Sipping in Soho ho ho
Just south of Oxford Street, the vibrant streets of London’s Soho can rival the Soho of New York for contemporary and artisanal coffee shops. The streetlights were dimly lit and I made a beeline for TAP Coffee on Wardour street, whose festive flat whites are always high on my list. My bags and feet had a well earned rest as I sipped a flat white made using Rwandan Nyaruzina coffee with notes of citrusy lemon and intensely creamy shortbread. I ordered their vegan coffee cake too, and I can assure you the ‘cream’ was as inviting as the softened layer of sponge beneath.
TAP Coffee, 193 Wardour Street, London W1 8ZF
Another day and another coffee. As I wandered back through Soho’s merry streets, the faint scent of Christmas trees wafted on the breeze. This time I was heading to Flat White – the original home of the flat white in London – set among the fabulous foodie traders and vinyl stores of Berwick Street Market. As I approached I could hear the faint sound of milk steaming, but my choice for today was a macchiato and a delectable sticky ginger caramel bite which I consumed at a seat outside – sheer bliss. The subtle notes of tart cranberry in my macchiato were superb. The espresso is made from beans called ‘Keep on Truckin’ by Dark Arts Coffee, which is roasted exclusively for Flat White.
Flat White, 17 Berwick St, London W1 0PT
If you think of the West End as a Christmas tree, Carnaby Street is the branch that somehow ended up with an overabundance of candy canes and chocolate coins. But it’s easy enough to escape all the craziness, because tucked away down a less than busy side street is Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. I love escaping to this haven of a cafe and getting away from the chill and the chaos of London at Christmas time. Not only will I be served a wonderfully crafted cup, I also know that my patronage helps to fuel their commendable charitable and humanitarian work, both here in the UK and abroad.
Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, 3 Lowndes Court, London W1 7HD
Covent Garden faves
Inevitably, I’ll always find myself in Covent Garden at some point, in pursuit of the perfect Christmas gift. Wandering among the cast of theatreland, I decided to pay a visit to TY Seven Dials, and with my shopping pretty much done there was time for an After Eight festive brownie and some quiet reflection over a latte. Other Covent Garden favourites include Monmouth Coffee, also on Seven Dials, where I normally opt for a creamy latte and an intensely rich chocolate truffle. The Guatemalan Catalina espresso served here has notes of silky smooth milk chocolate and orange, and would make a fantastic coffee gift.
Finally, another of my treasured sipping spots is the cozy, inn-like Jacob the Angel in Neal’s Yard, where I highly recommend a cortado made with seasonal Red Brick beans from renowned British roasters Square Mile, preferably with a Christmas gingerbread biscuit alongside.
TY, 7 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9DL / Monmouth Coffee Company, 27 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 9EU / Jacob the Angel, 16A Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP
Find the perfect handcrafted coffee in our other destinations with more of Andrea’s coffee guides.
All images © Andrea Burton