WHEN it comes to caffeine, it turns out Coffee Cult is a raging capitalist. It is a realisation that has come as a bit of a shock, having for years eschewed corporate monoliths seemingly churning out great vats of black liquid to clamouring masses. Besides the bitter coffee, it may also have been because it always seems to be served up by pimply teenagers droning ‘double shot cap’ with the same level of enthusiasm as displayed by Posh Spice at the Viva Forever musical premiere.
Except for the odd caramel frappuccino from Starbucks (hey, they’re delicious, and the sugar rush plus caffeine hit is a potent combination), and the road-stop/airport/high street visit prompted by pure desperation and/or the need to keep shopping, chain store coffee is something Coffee Cult has tried, fervently, to avoid. Despite friends muttering ‘pretentious w*nker’ under their breath with increasing regularity as we drag them further and further afield in the search for a decent cup, it is an aversion which has only increased on arrival in London.
And yet, Coffee Cult now finds itself in a paroxysm of self-doubt, questioning the very beliefs at the core of their being. The dilemma — this week I went to a coffee chain, and liked it.
Taylor St Baristas have been on the Coffee Cult radar for a while now — it’s hard to write a column about Australian owned coffee shops in London without being frequently told to visit any one of the nine branches owned by Australian siblings Nick, Andrew and Laura Tolley under the ‘Taylor St’ brand.
However, given the controversy recently earned by the trio selling 49 per cent of their new coffee chain concept, Harris and Hoole, to Tescos, I was intending to visit accompanied by a protest placard bearing anti-capitalist slogans. I probably would be sipping on a takeaway cappuccino and scoffing a pastry whilst marching up and down, but at least I’d be sticking to my principles.
Principles be damned I thought, when finally standing in front of Taylor St’s Mayfair branch. The placard was discarded and I joined the suited throngs making their way into the warm wooded comfort of the just bigger than hole-in-the-wall café. With photographers’ wares for sale on the wall, vases of bright flowers and a chalkboard for ‘Super Frequent Coffee Freaks’, it definitely has more of a local than global conglomerate feel to it. Mismatching wooden chairs and pews of dark distressed wood complete the look.
With a menu which seems to be consistent across all branches, the focus is on quick and easy dining ‘al desko’ options — ham & cheese croissants, toasted sandwiches, and a plethora of pastries. The thick slice of banana bread rivals that from back home — soft segments of banana, crunchy walnuts and perfectly toasted.
The coffee is more expensive than your standard Starbucks, or even your independent local — priced at £3 for a flat white/latte. However, with a frequent users card that gives you a free coffee for every four purchased, the emphasis seems to be on building up a loyal following through good quality coffee. I may just be a convert.
Let’s just say, when it comes to coffee my principles are flexible. If it looks like a local independent, serves coffee like a local independent and has the friendly staff of one — then, Coffee Cult has officially sold out.
Taylor St Baristas
22 Brooks Mews
Mayfair W1K 4DY
By Alex Ivett