the finest espresso in the land?
The quest for a great coffee is, like the hunt for the Golden Fleece, never ending and full of adventure. Today I happened upon a place I had been wanting to visit for a long time, and the results did not disappoint.
Taking a day off to transport the folks to a tea party at Buck House, I found myself at leisure in London for the afternoon. So, given the skin-peeling sunshine and the air of a noxious quality, I wandered and eventually found myself in Covent Garden. Wandering rather aimlessly, I recalled a column by Buffalo Bill of Moving Target (the courier website) wherein he commented that the finest coffee in London was to be had at a place called the Monmouth Coffee Company, on Monmouth Street. My rather rudimentary sense of London geography told me this was in the vicinity in which I now found myself, and suddenly, after a slightly uncomfortable detour down a street bedecked with rainbow flags, I saw a small sign proclaiming the start of Monmouth Street.
An unassuming shop about half way down the street advertised itself as the Monmouth Coffee Company. Excitedly, I went inside and was immediately aware that this was a very special place indeed. On the left, a vast array of beans of different heritage were displayed, whilst up some steps in front of me were the Baristas and their machinery. I immediately ordered an espresso, and was advised that a double was the same price. None of the meanness of the big corporate coffee chains here. It arrived, and whilst I opted for a cup ‘to go’, I could have squeezed onto one of the rough, battered wooden benches and sat at a table with some fellow coffee addicts had I been inclined. That espresso – it was extraordinary. A significant crema adorned the surface, and the first taste – thick, oily, hot and loaded with an understated strength. The tasting notes – yes, there are tasting notes – I’ll get to them later – describe it as ‘toasted almonds with smooth body and balanced, fruity acidity, with cocoa notes’.
I was moved enough to buy a small bag of espresso beans on the spot, which, at a fiver, is not cheap, but these people know and love their coffee. If my Gaggia can crank out an espresso tomorrow morning which is even a quarter as good as that one, I’ll be a happy cyclist.
Now, those tasting notes. You can get the by clicking here. Never, outside perhaps the world of high brow wine and now possibly olive oil, have I come across such fastidiousness and dedication to the cause of good coffee. The people who run MCC have two other shops, both in Borough. One of them is also the location in which they roast the beans they purchase directly from the farmers who harvest it. Originally, (they started in the late 70’s), the company roasted the beans in the basement of the shop in Monmouth Street. However as business, grew, they were moved to take on a specialist site in Maltby Street, which is now home to the processing side of the business.
It is said that you can also buy Neal’s Yard dairy products from the Borough shop, thus giving you the potential ability to stock up on beans, fine cheese and bread, all whilst buzzing on a superb double espresso. Sounds like the life to me.
And yes, there is a handly lamp post outside to which you can chain your de rigeur single speed bike, as one or two cutting-edge ‘fakengers‘ did whilst I sat on the alfresco bench finishing my coffee.
So, i’ll report on my efforts once I’ve got the machine purring away.