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(taken at Monocle Cafe)

            Like Lorelai Gilmore, I like coffee like I like my oxygen. A cup or mug is constantly in hand whether or not the caffeine boost is necessary (though it usually is). While I can’t claim to be any sort of bean connoisseur, I could arguably qualify as a coffee shop expert… at least going by Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule.

            An avid list maker, coffee shops are routinely on the top of my travel itineraries. This inclination often elicits eye-rolls from travel companions who will let me know in no uncertain terms that they didn’t travel all the way to whatever foreign city just to try their cafes. Despite these objections, I’ve made it to hundreds of coffee shops/cafes around the world (well, within America and Europe anyway) and feel somewhat equipped to judge each city on the merit of its best coffee shops.

The past few months in London have allowed me ample time to properly assess the British café culture. So I though I would share my top five so far. My choices are made based on location, atmosphere and, of course the actual coffee. Also I did not including cafes that have outposts abroad (and many of them are quite small and only have a single location).

18 Chiltern Street, London W1U 7QA

Even if you’ve never read through an issue of Monocle magazine, you will get a strong sense their company ethos upon entering this café. The connection might feel a bit forced as you first enter the café and are bombarded by copies of their magazine and branded tote bags for sale, and Monocle 24, Monocle’s radio station, constantly on air.  However, moving beyond this initial reaction, there is a bit of a Japo-Nordic inspiration that culminates in a space that is not only sleek and business meeting friendly, but also relaxing. 

9 Windmill Street, London W1T 2JF

Sharps Coffee Bar is particularly original in their concept of cafe/barber shop. While that phrase might scream obnoxious hipster to many, that’s not the feeling when you walk in. Since the space is primarily a barbershop the café has a pretty relaxed vibe. So you’re free to enjoy your coffee with a nice view of the parade of sharp-looking men strolling in and out at all times.  

40 Store Street, London WC1E 7DB

Store Street Espresso, just down the road from Sharps, is another great place to enjoy the afternoon. Preferably curled up in the back with a book (here, with The Master and Margarita which I just finished). And if you forget your own reading material, they have a number of novels on offer. Plus, when you finish your own book they’re happy to let you trade it in for a new one.

49 Old Street, London EC1V 9HX

Look Mum No Hands! is easily one of my favorites thanks to its hilariously festive decorations. Bikes hang on the walls and colorful streamers and party shop merchandise are always somewhere to be found. Doubling as a cafe/bar/bicycle workshop, the place is the epitome of its Shoreditch location. Although I bet it would do equally well in Williamsburg. After 5pm you can switch in that coffee cup for a glass on cheeky vino, which in my opinion is the perfect end to a productive day.


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Caroline Mason: 21. Native New Yorker (and one time North Carolinian). Assistant to Derek Blasberg. Just a girl who is OCD about all things fashion, drinks way too much coffee, and has an affinity for late night talk shows and travel books. FIT class of 2016. Previously with Karla Otto PR, Lori Goldstein and Lester Garcia.

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