I never really understood exactly what a ‘hipster’ stereotype person is until I visited the Old Truman Brewery market in Brick Lane. It’s something that exists in York and other areas of the country that I have spent time in, but to really come to terms with what ‘hipster’ means you have to see a lot of them in one place. It’s a label that can only be conferred from the outside and tends to be based on an amalgam of appearance, interests and some sort of vague activism. However, seeing as it’s conferred from people that don’t know the hipster in question, it usually means judging on the basis of appearance to an inference that the hipster has a fixie. As I say, it’s not something I grasp particularly well as it new to me. I usually would not give it space in my writing, except that it struck me that I could be seen to be a hipster. But then I realised that no matter what kind of glasses I wore, I would never be as cool as that. Thank god.
The first hipster-drenched coffee shop I visited is at the Shoreditch end of Brick Lane. Kahaila. The company itself is a charitable organisation, focussing on ethical living and working, with a quasi-religious bent (ecumenical, I believe). The decor and furnishing are mainly driftwood-like, but very clean and sheened, a generally pleasant place to be. I ordered a flat white, averagely priced, to go. It was a very good cup of coffee overall. The coffee came through the milk well, without getting trapped, as flat whites can when they are poorly extracted. A good, serious cup of coffee with hints of nuttiness and strength coming through: the makings of a great cup. Kahaila also serves hot paninis and there are also events to check out.
In Spitalfields there is a myriad of coffee shops, but my instinct was to head direct to a place that had a ‘Monmouth coffee’ sign outside. A.Gold, however, is not a coffee shop, as I learnt on entering. It’s a small deli and sweetshop, designed with wonderful props to represent an olde sweet shoppe. There is a full range of sandwiches and British products, homemade scotch eggs etc. However, this is not a coffee shop, it’s a deli that sells coffee.
The last place on my list was Nude Espresso. I have heard from various sources that this is the best coffee shop in the area. But approaching it for the first time, I was told that they had lost power, and were unable to serve! Returning later, this problem had been rectified and I was able to order an espresso. It was a rather steep £2 for the little cup of coffee joy (2.80 or so for an espresso-based drink), but you forgave them rather quickly on taking a sip of the nectar. There is a board behind the till that has the percentages of the beans that have gone into making your espresso, mine was something like 50% Kenyan and 25% of two other beans. It’s a nice touch, especially if you drink there a lot. Whatever was in my cup, it was a symphony of powerful, punchy flavours, so citrussy that it tasted like hot orange juice. The syrup-like texture showed the high-quality of the beans, which are roasted just across the road, along Brick Lane. Nude Espresso provide their beans to other coffee shops around London, a surefire badge of quality for what is fantastic coffee.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of coffee in hipster-central, and there’s no doubt that, in this case, where you find hipsters, you can find some good coffee. The area was once renowned for its market, and east-end mentality, but the area has had a lot of money put into it, and there has been room for great coffee and food to spring up. An area well worth visiting, even just for the coffee.