The impossible question…
What’s your favourite coffee shop in London? This is a question that I regularly receive and just as often pose. Unexpected and diverse answers are common, speaking volumes for the speciality coffee scene in the capital.
London has it all and depending on what you value most, there’s a coffee shop out there for you. Are you looking for the best quality coffee? Perhaps you like delicious food to accompany your brew. Maybe it’s a slick aesthetic to boost your Instagram appeal. You may even be looking for a coffee shop that is environmentally friendly and conscious. Vegan options? Design lover? All about the location? Customer service? Aspirational brand?
What if I told you that I may have found a coffee shop that ticks all the above boxes while curating a greatest hits catalogue of global coffee culture? A place that after scrutinising and poking and prodding, displays all the strength and might of its namesake. Read on to find out why Kiss The Hippo has to be one of the top coffee shops in London.
So, Kiss The Hippo?
Whilst talking to Alex, the General Manager, I discover how the name came about. Kiss The Hippo is an ode to the environment and the natural world. He explains how the brand is focused on organic food and coffee, how the impressive coffee roaster is the most environmentally friendly in its class and how everything down to degradable cups and straws is thought out and considered with detail.
As he tells me this I can’t help but feel assured by the now busy coffee shop- only weeks old but accommodating all of your typical coffee shop customers. A man with a flat white types on his laptop. Two girls enjoying lunch laugh together. A lone gentleman sits by the window with an espresso. There’s an important-looking meeting going on behind me. An elderly couple are speaking with the owner Can, about the coffee shop. It occurs to me that there’s a friendly and community driven heart to this polished and refined coffee shop; it’s already a stalwart.
Coffee & Muffins.
This is no exaggeration: the food here is the best I have ever seen and tasted in a coffee shop. For word count reasons, I can’t tell you all of the detail and care that is put into the food but believe me, it’s just amazing. The ingredients are of the highest quality and all of the food is freshly prepared on site. It looks and tastes incredible! I was made aware of shortcuts that were avoided and corners that were refused to be cut. The food, while of course consisting of sweet treats and light lunches, is what you would expect from Michelin starred restaurants but for very reasonable prices. There are also Vegan and gluten free options!
I sip a Japanese Iced Coffee followed by a Oat flat white. Both are fantastic. It’s worth pointing out the variety of coffee on offer here: Nitro cold brew, all of your espresso based drinks, iced filters and lattes, filter coffees brewed with Ceramic Kalita Waves on the brew bar.
Attention to detail.
Kintsugi is a Japanese philosophy, which treats breakage and repair as a treasured part of an object’s history, rather than something to disguise and shame. A rather beautiful ideology which provides our increasing culture of consumerism and tendency to throw broken items away and buy new, with some perspective.
This philosophy is spectacularly realised in the coffee shop’s roastery at the back of the store. Lengthy cracks which sprawl across the grey concrete floor of this room in a root-like nature are painted gold, forming an elegant contrast. This classy yet subtle nod to Japanese art and culture is just one of many accomplished design features.
Alex tells me I’m sitting on design award winning Scandinavian chairs, which are beneath a skylight that gives the rear of the shop an unusual, yet welcome amount of natural light. The monochromatic colour scheme is punctuated by orange lighting which frames the edge of the wall and ceiling. Hand potted Yuccas are strategically placed, aiding a calming and tranquil environment which is well matched with the town of Richmond. It’s sophisticated, mature and salubrious without being sterile.
I sample a delicious and refreshing Nitro cold brew, as I’m given a tour upstairs.
Tour & Training.
Upstairs, the first thing you see is a museum-style display of home brew equipment in a glass display. Being a keen coffee brewer, I appreciated this touch and was glad to find brewing equipment available to buy, such as Kalita cones and filter papers, hand grinders, electric grinders, a Chemex, Acaia scales and more.
Further on, a glass door and petition separate the coffee shop from the workshop, which is soon to be a SCA Premier Training Campus; one of the very few in London. This is a very exciting prospect and a great way to future proof the brand, as well as placing it right on the very frontline of innovation and development.
Out the window, I look down at the familiar high street of Richmond. It occurs to me that a town so bereft of great coffee for many years is having a real moment. I speculate on how Kiss The Hippo, Coffeeology and the microcosmic coffee culture of Richmond could be significant in the development of London’s coffee scene.
I’ve had enough coffee to warrant raised eyebrows from just about anyone and luckily for me, mixing coffee based drinks doesn’t carry the same risk as mixing alcohol. I shake hands with Can and Alex and thank them for quite remarkable hospitality, given how busy it’s been this afternoon.
As I leave, I cross the road behind a stunning white Bentley which got me thinking. This coffee shop is a bit like a Bentley… or no- It’s like any car you’d ever want that you see at the showroom. It has all the extras, all the trimmings that ultimately push it beyond your price range. Only this time, all of the add-ons and extras come as standard. This coffee shop gives you everything you thought wasn’t possible in one place such as the top quality food, amazing coffee, a clear conscience, reasonable pricing, first rate service- all without a catch.
Yet for me, the most admirable thing about Kiss The Hippo is the amount of care that can be found in the smallest of details which could easily go unnoticed. I found a fascinating stubbornness in doing things the right way and going beyond what is expected by the customer, without bragging about it. There’s a reassurance in knowing that behind the scenes, things are being meticulously considered and taken care of. Along with everything else, I feel it’s this ethos which will hold them in good stead for many years to come.
I look forward to the exciting future of Kiss The Hippo, and I’d like to thank them again for having me today, I’ll be back soon. If I had to make a complaint… It will be even harder now to answer those that ask me for my favourite coffee shop in London.