Melissa Hemsley, Cook and Cookbook Author
London café culture is super available. It’s not always easy to find a great grocers or butchers, but there are always good coffee shops. They are social hubs, where anyone is welcome to come and enjoy their time, even if you are spending less than four pounds. At the same time, you don’t feel uncomfortable if you go alone. I love those cafés that are open from super early until late, with a constant flow of people.
The oldest café experience I’ve had is when my friends and I were in secondary school in Kingston and we started getting free periods. We used to scrape our pennies together to afford to share a hot chocolate (in the worst café ever), and we felt so grown up and cool. That was a real coming of age moment.
London is ahead of the game with trends. Rainbow lattes still seem crazy in other cities, but I think the new trend here is anti-snobbishness. There’s no one drink that you should order; nowadays, you’ll go to cafés with your friends and all order completely different drinks. It’s becoming a lot more adventurous.
A lot of people are intolerant of caffeine, whether it’s because they are pregnant, breastfeeding or just because they can’t drink too much of it. Cafés in London are providing a brilliant choice to cope with that demand, and digestive drinks are becoming popular. There’s a big section on ginger teas and lemon infusions in my new book, Eat Happy. It’s all about having fun with herbs and spices; I particularly love chai tea.
My favourite cafés are Spiritland in Kings Cross, Kettle & Ryan at Yardarm and Arch Rivals in Leyton, as they are all set up by amazing people who do things the right way and use good produce.
Melissa Hemsley’s new book, Eat Happy, is out now.
Annaliese Dayes, Model and Radio DJ
I put my best foot forward in London cafés, because I’m often meeting with people for the first time inside them. It’s always exciting, because I’m never 100% sure of what I’m walking into or how I’m going to gel with the person I’m meeting.
The right crockery elevates the whole café experience to a whole other level. I grab coffee in a disposable cup far too often, so when I do have that moment to get comfy in a coffee space, sipping on a weighty, thick porcelain cup is everything. It’s a calming moment, and a step outside of the busyness of London.
A decent coffee inspires me to take on the world, but it’s not about one café in particular; its the people I meet with and the vibe that inspires me. It’s also all about the coffee. As a no frills black Americano drinker, I like a strong, smooth blend.
If I had to depict coffee through music, it would be garage all the way! Whenever I have a day of meetings, I always stick on an old skool garage mix. The fast pace and funky vibe puts me right in the zone and that’s what good cup on coffee tastes like; energising and upbeat.
There is no exclusivity in London cafes; everybody is welcome. They are social places, not only via face to face interaction but also through social media. Most of my meetings end the same way. I say my goodbyes, letting the other person walk away and then sit back scroll through Instagram and update my Twitter status. Done & Done.
Find Annaliese at annaliesedayes.com
Brendan Baker and Daniel Evans, Photographers
The London coffee scene is the best. No matter where you are, you can always get a decent cup of coffee. The established independents have set the bar so high over the last few years and the knock-on effect means that even the smallest local spots serve great coffee. What's more, loads of places do seriously good food, too. The variety in types and styles of coffee shops means you can pick depending on your mood.
To escape the studio and enjoy a coffee we go to Daily Goods in Camberwell. It was started by a mate of ours, Carter Donnell, as an in-store coffee counter in a Soho bike shop a few years ago before becoming a brick and mortar store. The coffee is cracking and they've got a range of their own blends, too. The initial 'quick coffee' inevitably turns into a whole afternoon planning collaborations.
The best design spot for a coffee is The Monocle Cafe in Marylebone. It's remarkably light inside, even on an archetypal grey London day, and the wooden slatted counter has a distinct Swedish sauna vibe to it... In a good way.
On long shoot days we’ll drink countless coffees. We have a hefty cafetiere at the studio that's always on the go, so it's tricky to keep count. More often than not the coffee is one of the Daily Goods blends.
If we could go for a coffee cocktail with one photography legend it would be…
[Danny] Irving Penn. I'd order us both espresso martinis, but drop the vodka for a good whisky.
[Brendan] A mid-morning espresso and a Fernet Branca with Wolfgang Tillmans. That would be a decent start to the day.
Find Baker & Evans at bbde.co.uk
Celeste Wong, Barista and influencer
The London coffee scene is ever growing and dynamic, innovative and creative. Coming from New Zealand, it's great to be a part of it.
My oldest memory of a cafe subconsciously influenced my career. I was drinking a "mochaccino" as a young teenager late one night with my much older siblings and their university friends. The cafe was called "Ruby in the Dust" and was a cool, dark dive-bar where you could order thick-cut sweet potato wedges with sour cream at any time of day or night with your coffee. I remember sitting around a table, lit with a dripping candle, listening to their conversations over a muffled punk band playing downstairs, and thinking how cool and grown up I was.
The greatest idea I had in a café was starting my interview/coffee series a few years ago (it was on Youtube and on the Air New Zealand in-flight entertainment). It was a unique and innovative concept that rang true to who I am.
To be a good barista, I look for someone who is consistent, concentrates and is knowledgeable when making coffee, but isn't so wrapped up in it that it affects their service. Some reputable places in London are Origin Coffee Roasters, Workshop Coffee, Climpson & Sons, The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, Allpress, Notes Cafe. I like to champion indie cafés, too.
If I could only drink one coffee for the rest of my life it would be impossible. I’d have to choose two: a black filter coffee and a proper flat white.
Find Celeste at thegirlinthecafe.co.uk
Sam Way, Model and Musician
The London coffee scene is booming and shows no sign of slowing down. I love some of the micro-roasters around my area in Bethnal Green. The café culture at large has contributed so much to the city, providing interesting spaces to meet, hang, and savour the taste of great coffee.
I pencilled the lyrics to my latest song, You and all your things, in The Commons, a cafe on Old Bethnal Green Road. I had said goodbye to the person who this song is about, and the café was the nearest place. I sat in the corner with a macchiato and words came pouring out. That night I sat at my piano and put all the pieces together.
My go-to coffee spot for inspiration is my local, Second Shot. It’s a tiny place on Bethnal Green Road that serves great coffee and supports the local homeless community, too. Julius, who runs the place, is a lovely man, and he takes great pride in his coffee. I’m always working in there.
The most memorable experience I’ve had in a café is funny. I was playing a show in a cafe-bookstore on tour a couple of years ago. The audience was dead silent and somebody's phone went off in the middle of my song…turns out it was mine and I had to answer it in the middle of the set.
I’d love to drink espresso martinis all night with The Prodigy. They were the soundtrack to my teens, and they must have some amazing stories to tell after a couple of drinks.
Sam Way is a signed model with Models 1, and his new single is out now.
Roisin Dubh Alkemiya, Scent Artist
The London coffee scene is huge, and it seems to be growing and getting more and more creative. New café's are integrating more into the overall sensory experience when it comes to indulging in a cup of coffee, and I notice it all living in the heart of London.
Cafes are sensory places. From decor, to ambiance, to the feel of the cup you’re drinking from. Being a scent artist, I find my inspiration from everything and anything around me, down to the smallest details. It's a time when I can note down my thoughts or decipher a scent that's just come into my mind.
My favourite London café is a tiny new place called 'Spring Taste' on Malden Road. It’s run by Ram, a half Sicilian and half Albanian gentleman. I love working from here; we talk about our travels to Sicily, food, culture and coffee.
If I had to depict it through scent, it would be infused with scents of Oregano, Sicilian Bergamot and Sea Grass. I smell Sicily just being there; the decor is clean and fresh with hints of sea green, so it transports me back to the good times.
The last great idea I had in a café was starting to decipher how I am going to structure my new scent workshop, Fragrant Journey, so that it can be integrated into hospitality businesses to create a positive feeling for staff and customers.
My go-to person to drink coffee with is my Brand Ambassador Aysha Khan. A coffee meeting with Aysha is like a shopping trip; a good catch up and productive planning for upcoming projects and collaborations.
Find Roisin at roisindubhalkemiya.com/