Coffee’s place in our lives it hard to overstate. It's everywhere from memes to t-shirts to cards to cushions to just about every shop and street corner. It arms us against the tide of work and responsibility and comforts us after sleepless nights. We are taught to socialise over it, and with the line between social coffees and work meetings becoming more and more blurred, often it is over coffee that important decisions in our lives and our careers are made.
It has also become an important battleground on which debates around fairtrade supply chains, organic produce, environmentalism and independent business vs. multinationals are waged. How we take our coffee and where we buy it from has become a way for us to position ourselves within these debates, to demand quality and equality at the same time. It’s also - let’s face it - a lifestyle, coffee has become an accessory, an indicator of success, productivity and style. Believe it or not this is actually a relatively new thing. In the 60s and 70s, coffee was a bland, indistinct drink whose popularity was plunging, no one knew much about its origins or supply chains or different roasts and varietals. It was particularly unpopular with young people, who saw it as old fashioned and associated it with their parents and grandparents. People were also unwilling to pay more for the good stuff, as they didn’t understand the costs behind it and why some cups might be more expensive than others.
What was needed was a re-branding in the changing face of consumerism. People were increasingly individualistic, and were purchasing and consuming things they saw as aligning with their lifestyles. It was therefore realised that coffee would fare better if it was marketed individualistically, different kinds of coffee to suit different kinds of lifestyles, along with a more general drive to educate people about the processes and costs behind coffee. Seen in this context, the proliferation of small roasters and independent coffee shops was perfect - people knew more about where their coffee was coming from, they trusted the people making it and they were willing to pay a little more for better quality.
For many locals, the rise of the independent coffee shop in Croydon has signalled that change is afoot in the area - good change. So with that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the best independent spots to get your caffeine buzz on.
- 81 High St, Croydon CR0 1QE
Chezlov and Michael leave their homes in East London at 5:30am to open Coffee Bean, with its sweet dusky blue shop front and large windows perfect for sipping a coffee and watching the world go by, in Croydon at 7:30. They are seriously committed to the coffee mission in the area, proudly serving seasonal and guests blend from small in-house roasters Clifton Coffee. They also serve up sourdough and rye with a blackboard full of options - from the mandatory avo toast to vegan tuna with capers and pickled onions. Use your South London Club card for 10% off.
- Antenna Studios, 19 Haynes Ln, London SE19 3AN
Café Thing at Antenna Studios in Crystal Palace is bringing that ‘thing’, that je ne sais quoi basically bringing the cool to the Croydon café scene. Its calendar is packed full with vintage vinyl, funk and soul nights but by day they are bringing the mellow coffee shop vibes in abundance.
The ethos behind the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs is that the business’ commercial success should be measured equally to their social impact and, true to form, they have a yearly social impact report readily available on their website for you to peruse. Members of their team are involved in charitable initiatives both in the UK and abroad, including: UK Charity Pump Aid which provides safe clean water to over 1.35 million of the poorest people in Sub-Saharan Africa; The Afri-CAN Children's Charity; Team Up, which trains volunteer undergrad students to tutor disadvantaged children in private lessons in attaining essential GSCEs and more. So it’s much, much more than just a catchy (?) name. They also stock their own roasts, including Colombian, Ugandan, Ethiopian and Kenyan varieties and offer courses in ‘The Craft & Science of the Espresso’. You’ll find their Croydon branch at Box Park, be sure to take along your South London Club card for 10% off.
- 147B Brighton Rd, Coulsdon CR5 2NJ
Coulsdon’s Urban Fuse is the perfect stop for a caffeine hit or a health kick - with their impressive array of hot drinks including matcha lattes and their health blends packed with plant power. These guys go all out and are constantly coming up with fresh ideas for their homemade food menu, definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in those ends.
- 2-3 Dingwall Rd, Croydon CR0 2NA
Smoothbean! Is an independent coffee shop and they aren’t afraid to say it. Totally committed to providing the community with the very best artisanal coffee, they source it from Brixton roasters Volcano Coffee Works, whose 100% organic coffee beans are 100% ethically traded in Peru and serve it in purpose made acme cups. Additionally their selection of vegan buddha bowls changes on a weekly basis. Find them next to East Croydon station, perfect for coffee on the go.
- 231 Lower Addiscombe Rd, Croydon CR0 6RD
An independent café opposite Addiscombe tram stop this is another rush hour winner, but if you’ve a little longer to spare, the creative food menu is well worth a visit. Coffee is done properly in a Brasilia machine and they have soy milk as a dairy alternative.
- 107 Sanderstead Rd, South Croydon CR2 0PJ
The Little Coffee shop might look cute, but their coffee packs a serious punch. With a dedicated local following (they even have their own caricature series), their coffee is made with skillfully and consciously - their cups are green, and they are another Volcano Coffee outlet.
- Whitgift Centre, 21 N End, Croydon CR0 1XB
Camden Coffee Houses are all about the coffee lifestyle - they preach appreciation and quality in every cup. Their coffee is from Has Bean roastery, the UK’s leading independent microroasters committed to sourcing and producing the best specialty coffees. The coffee is only served up to five days after roasting, so you know what you’re getting is the freshest of the fresh. Expect light to medium blends that change seasonally, about every 10 weeks or so.
- 4-5 Selsdon Rd, Croydon, South Croydon CR2 6PW
La Spezia is an eclectic Italian deli-cum-café offering an impressive wine selection, charcuterie and Italian groceries as well as communal dining and killer coffee.
- 135 Croydon Rd, Beckenham BR3 3RB
Take a break from the artisanal espresso blends for a moment, head over to Maiden’s Coffee who offer authentic Turkish coffee alongside authentic Turkish pastries - both sweet and savoury. Short and strong, Turkish coffee allows the sediment to settle at the bottom of the cup, giving it an ever so slightly granular texture, and is slowly sipped alongside a glass of water. They do offer regular brews too, with an assortment of non-dairy milks.
- 227 Lower Addiscombe Road, Addiscombe, Croydon CR0 6RB
Adagio, the musical term, denotes a slow and leisurely tempo, which is exactly what the owners had in mind when they set up this suburban musical haunt. With its dark red colour scheme and low-lit interior, it’s the epitome of cool and is all about luxuriating in good coffee, good music and good vibes.
- Stanley Halls, 12A S Norwood Hill, London SE25 6AB
Pick up a cup of Volcano Coffee or stick around for one of Coffee Craft’s ‘Crafternoon Teas’ - from garter making for hen parties to bunting making for baby showers, the afternoon can be crafted to suit your needs.