There are few names in London’s speciality coffee scene that mean as much as Association. Hidden away in the heart of the city of London, Association is a true bastion of great coffee in the middle of big business, finance and fast food outlets. The inside is studded with suited characters, and the occasional big beard, flannel shirt. The huge bar should eat into the rest of the room, but the space is so large and economically used that there is large amounts of seating, and it feels uncluttered. This is good, because Association fills up fast, especially with the delicious food selection tempting on the bar.
The staff at Association can only be described as elite. The focus is entirely on the coffee with the equipment needed to get the best out of the coffee. The overall atmosphere is one of quiet reverence: the staff are unpretentious, but industrious. The food is an aside, ancillary to the main purpose, but this doesn’t diminish from the quality of it. The sandwiches change regularly and are made from quality ingredients: and they aren’t small either. One of these should easily set you for lunch.
The coffee is provided by Square Mile, but I know that they regularly have guest roasters on their roster. Aeropress is available for filter, but the coffees are switching round regularly. In addition, a Synesso is set up to pull the espresso: this machine isn’t a guarantee of quality, but it is always a good sign, and looks gorgeous too. My double espresso was delightfully sweet and flavourful: the Dummerso single origin espresso from Square Mile is something unbelievably special. It’s rare that an espresso reaches such a clarity of flavour, but this is a mix of strawberries and a floral bergamot flavour. This gives it an almost earl grey-like aftertaste. I tentatively claim that the Dummerso, brewed by Association is an espresso even non-coffee drinkers could enjoy.
I also had the Monte De Oro Ladera, Red Catuai. This is one of two coffees that Association were brewing for Aeropress: the other was the Monte De Oro Ledera, Yellow Catuai. The two coffees are both Square Mile and from the same farm in Guatemala. The sole difference is the variety of coffee used, so you can, if you choose, try them next to one another. I just went for the Red Catuai variation and was impressed by the flavours that they brought out. The coffee had a sweet, nutty body, like almonds. It was followed by a long drawn out grapefruit aftertaste.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Association, and it’s surprising it took me so long to get down to it. However, it was worth the wait, and I was not disappointed by either coffee served. It stays close to the speciality coffee roots, without closing its doors to the commercial world that surrounds it. This has led to a unique convergence of cultures inside the walls, all brought together by a want for good coffee.