The first time I tried to find good coffee in Canterbury I looked online. Relying on the web in the middle of a city meant I was hardly giving the reviews I read the scrutiny that all reviews deserve. In this case I really dropped the ball. The review in question was in response to the question (on Yahoo answers or some such) ‘Where can I find good coffee in Canterbury?’ I scrolled down on my phone, and read the responses before I found one that seemed perfect: ‘[questionable ‘coffee shop’] is in the centre of Canterbury. We’re not a fancy, destination coffee shop, but we do have great coffee!’ It seemed perfect. What could go wrong?
In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have paid attention to a review that was clearly (and unveiled) written by the owner. Upon arriving on this ‘coffee shop’, I found a small room which could barely seat a romantic evening for two. The famous ‘great coffee’ was very reasonably priced. However, it was also poured from a DeLonghi filter machine (something I happen to own myself, for when I’m up early, and because it’s preferable to Nescafe). The place had the ambience of a school cafeteria. Or it would have, if there had been anyone there.
Drinking as much of the coffee I as I could bear, I binned the rest and continued with my day. Next to a cycle shop I had been snooping in I found what has become one of my favourite coffee shops in the South East. A real hidden secret of Canterbury, hidden down Stour Street and attached to the Punting tours: Browns Coffeehouse.
I was at Browns again yesterday. It hadn’t lost any of its charm. Comfortably furnished: cosy but open. This is definitely a place to meet people, and every time I’ve been, any time of day, the place has had people visiting it; despite its secretive nature. Though no matter how good the milieu, and how friendly the staff, the thing that would make this place my preference in Canterbury is the coffee. I tried the Nicaraguan Zeledon from the regularly changing specials board. The coffee is provided by Origin, and served in Latte, Cap, all the favourites. What is really special though are the guest filter coffees that are drip fed using paper filter, straight into the cup. Not something for the time conscious: the process take 4 minutes. But, together with a tremendously fresh and complex bean, it produces absolutely fantastic coffee.
The Nicaraguan Zeledon itself was smoky but sweet, not as powerful and bold as some I’ve tried there, but can hold its own for individuality of flavour and tone. The coffee is served without milk, though you can fetch it if you want to water it down (personally I do enjoy my filter with milk, but it seems like the suggested presentation is bidoon haleeb). Don’t miss the cakes either: homemade and imbued with quality, and a touch of ruggedness. The whole place has a touch of aborigine.
The place ain’t cheap, but if you’re committed to great coffee then it doesn’t really matter. The standard menu is about the same as most coffee places but the specials are exceptionally priced. But then they are exceptional quality.