For lovers of beverages…

Returning to studenthood has begun a quest for perfect studying spots. I’m a great believer in getting out of the house to work (rather like those ‘job’ things other people have) and avoiding quiet libraries unless I need the books held within them.

During our bizarre heatwave, the British Library courtyard became a favourite place, but with the advent of autumn proper, that will no longer be tenable. Starbucks are ok, as are Neros, but they often lack atmosphere and life…

London is awash with independent coffee houses and in my new neighbourhood I’m discovering more and more of them. But last week’s newest discovery is a little further afield. Working on my multi-tasking ethos, I did a few chores on Oxford Street, while toting Greek notes and theology articles in my bag so I could have an impromptu study session when my feet were weary.

One of my more local ‘discoveries’ (I knew it existed, I just had to have a reason to go there) was the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, on Leather Lane in Holborn. A couple of weeks ago, its owners opened Speakeasy – an expresso bar off Carnaby Street. Finding myself weary and in the vicinity on Wednesday, I thought I’d pay a visit.

As you may know, I’m not a coffee fan, so I can’t comment upon its brews, beans and filters. However, I can tell you that these guys love their coffee and do everything in their power to do it well – and to teach you along the way. I’m a tea drinker and they do that well, so I’m happy. Teapot, tea leaves that you place in the pot & you takeout when it’s brewed sufficiently – that’s excellent tea etiquette.

In some ways I preferred Speakeasy to DCSA – it seemed lighter and more open. Plus, downstairs in the filter room are two shelves of books – books of a variety that I adore. Penguin Great Ideas series – check. Virago ‘pretty books’ – check. Persephone books – check. Orwell – check. Plenty about New Zealand – check. Actually, the quality of their book browsing section is down to the fact that my good, bibliophile friend Katie was responsible for choosing them and she did a great job. The staff are friendly and enthusiastic and the tables are an excellent height for studying. One could say it was an oasis of calm in the manic West End.

At the end of the day, it’s just nice to be somewhere without banging and shouting; where staff aren’t simply trying to get you to buy a tasteless muffin; and where the aim is to ensure that you get the best beverage and drinking experience possible.

A pot of Earl Grey is perfect accompaniment to the task of creating Greek vocab flashcards. 

I wrote this post on and off yesterday, intending to finish it off last night – but I got distracted. Kind of lucky (and really only vaguely ‘kind of’) as this morning I experienced another joyous beverage experience during a pre-work coffee. [Yes, I managed a social engagement BEFORE work – this is all kind of impressive and not at all to do with the presence of workmen in my flat at 8.15am…] 
The Espresso Room is just across the road from Great Ormond Street hospital and is exactly what it says it is – a room that serves espresso (and other coffee based drinks, plus tea and rather yummy looking pastries). It’s tiny but has wooden stools and benches out on the pavement that are perfect for perching on and watching the world go by. Its proximity to the hospital is deliberate, and the owner hopes to open similar establishments near other London hospitals, which, given what I’ve heard about hospital cafeterias is probably an excellent plan. 
On reflection, I should have had the teapot in the foreground. 
It was eminently functional, with an in-built strainer. Delightful. 


  1. Good knowledge Clutterbuck. London studenthood’s alright.

    I need to extend my map of London study spaces ranked according to

    – instrusiveness of music played
    – writeability of table surfaces
    – readability of lighting
    – quality of coffee
    – and 7am opening hours for prework dating.
    meet some of my criteria and have proved adequately studiable.

  2. Pre-work dates? Wow.

    The camera cafe sounds especially exciting as it’s not too far from church – will have to check it out!

  3. The cafe in the Globe’s education building is lovely- light, quiet and reasonably priced. Booths, big tables, pretty hardback books and innate sense of culture… Isn’t that what you’re after?

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