It seems that my coffee drink of choice – the cortado or piccolo – is becoming increasingly popular in UK as our coffee tastes are heading towards less milky, shorter coffees. Long gone are the days of Starbucks’ Venti Lattes?
The trend was explained in an article that appeared on the London’s Evening Standard yesterday. “The best coffee is short, strong and easy on the milk”, says ES Comment Editor Andrew Neather. I certainly agree!
Rather than shorter coffees becoming more popular, I would say that GOOD coffee is becoming more popular. When you are a customer who has chosen to drink at a specialty coffee shop (usually paying more for it) you obviously expect the beans to be of the highest quality. You want to be able to taste the coffee, not dilute it with a dozen ounces of milk. However according to Edy Piro of Terrone Coffee Co., “the London coffee scene is, on average, still predominantly oriented towards a latte”.
In my opinion this “new” trend falls within a bigger movement towards specialty coffee: sourced from the best single estate farms, light-roasted in small batches, tasted during cupping sessions to control its quality and brewed by trained and skilled baristas.
What’s great for me is reading about cortado on a mainstream newspaper, as so many people in UK and Europe have no idea what it is.
A cortado (or piccolo) is a double espresso with a small amount of steamed milk (the ratio of milk to coffee is between 1:1 and 1:2).
The cortado can be served in a small ceramic cup, but is more often presented in a glass filled with steamed milk, usually with latte art. It’s basically like a small flat white: at 4oz instead of 6oz, there’s the same amount of coffee but less milk.
It’s the perfect hot drink for me since I can’t have too much milk and, to be honest, I don’t understand why anyone would want to add 12 ounces (or more) of milk to their coffee! At Terrone Coffee in Netil Market and Kingly Court, the largest drink available is 8oz, which is smaller than the regular latte in coffee chains. Perhaps London coffee shops will be heading towards more simple menus like I’ve seen them in Australia: black (espresso) or white (espresso with milk)?
At the moment I can only order a “piccolo” if I’m in a specialty coffee shop in London, because anywhere else (for example in a restaurant or in a coffee chain) the baristas wouldn’t have a clue of what I’m asking for. As I was reading this Instagrammers guide to the best coffee in London, it gave me the idea to compile my own guide of favourite specialty coffee shops to drink the cortado.
Workshop Coffee, Fitzrovia
If I’m in central London to meet clients or friends, I always suggest meeting up in Fitzrovia. This area is comprised between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road, away from the hustle of Oxford Street, and it’s quickly becoming my favourite destination to drink specialty coffee in London.
My favourite coffee shop in London to drink cortado (or any other coffee) is Workshop Coffee. I’ve been a regular customer ever since they opened their first (sadly, now closed) café in Clerkenwell around 2011.
About this shop I love the coffee, of course, but also the original Victorian façade and the eclectic interior design (granite coffee counter, golden table details, Azulejo-style hand-painted tiles and antique mirrors).
Another place I used to visit regularly for my #dailycortado when I worked in Clerkenwell was Timberyard in Old Street. This shop has now closed, but Timberyard has got beautiful branches in Covent Garden and Soho.
The coffee house brand focuses primarily on offering a space for freelancers to work and meet. They have created the perfect environment for creative people who need to work on the go (free wifi, meeting space, iPads) but they also satisfy all your coffee and food needs. The staff is well trained and they will be able to make you a piccolo (even though it’s not listed on the menu)!
Fields is the sister café to the amazing Milk in Balham. The espresso at Fields is great, made with beans roasted by The Barn in Berlin . The coffee menu is simple (Aussie-style): espresso with 2.5oz, or 6oz or 7.5oz of milk. For filter coffee they use beans from Koppi Roasters, but unfortunately it is only available as batch-brew (using FETCO machines). I hope they will offer different brewing methods in the future. Until then, I will stick to ordering my favourite cortado.
Update: Fields is closed for good, but Milk and Milk Teeth are still open in Balham and Tooting respectively. They are both amazing places to go for coffee, cakes and brunch!
If I have the time to venturing a bit further out from home and into Battersea, then I love to drink my cortado at Birdhouse on St John’s Hill. It’s been one of my favourite London coffee shops for years: I love the yellow and grey Scandi-style decor and their cakes (whoopie pies are the best). Their brunch is also one of the best I’ve had in London.
Birdhouse may well lay claim to the best flat white in SW London. This is one of the most attractively designed cafes in London, and if you’re local, there’s no reason to go elsewhere. [London’s Best Coffee]
Terrone Coffee Co.
Terrone Coffee is the only Italian speciality coffee producer in the UK to roast his own beans in Italy. The coffee is batch-roasted near Bologna in a vintage 10kg Vittoria roaster from the 1950s, and shipped directly to London weekly to ensure maximum freshness. The Ciclista espresso blend is light to bring out subtle nuances in flavour (fruity and sweet). They have a flagship shipping container in Netil Market and also a kiosk in Kingly Court, Carnaby Street.
Kaffeine, an independently owned coffee bar that many credit for kick-starting the Third Wave coffee movement in UK, is a coffee institution in London. The original shop on Great Titchfield Street is great but tiny. If you are looking for more space, head over to the second Kaffeine site on Eastcastle Street.
I wanted to end my list with a new entry to our coffee scene: London Grind in London Bridge. Part of the Grind & Co. group, London Grind opened in last month in the iconic building at N. 2 London Bridge. I visited for a quick breakfast last week and loved the space: a raised room with high windows for the sun-light to shine through and a white marble counter that’s just perfect for Instagram! I am already planning another visit for a weekend brunch!
There are many other coffee shops that I love in London and more will keep opening up, no doubt about it.
Trends come and go, but whether the latest coffee hit is a flat white, or a cold brew, or an Aeropress filter coffee, or a cortado, it doesn’t matter. Good quality coffee is what we must care about and look for.