Coffee Island - London
Well what a surprise this turned out to be.... a franchise shop that makes the grade.
The Coffee Island coffee shop is a franchise yes, but I didn't know it before hand (would not have likely gone if I did) and I didn't know when I got there. As usual I discovered it during my recon of London coffee and it had a lot of good reviews, was close to my hotel, and I was in need.
The key point is this place had it all going on, just what you would expect from a boutique coffee shop and none of what I come to expect from the franchise or chain approach. It started as a coffee shop in Greece, grew to roasting and manufacturing and franchised. But they have managed to keep hold of that original coffee shop philosophy and can reproduce it in the franchise model.
Unlike a chain set up or other franchises I have experienced, this one hits you in the face as soon as you walk in. The respect for coffee oozes from the bean choice, the brew choice, the accessory shelves and lastly the baristas who great and serve you. Something the chan set up is unable to match is the conversation with a true barista who can discuss the bean and the brew method to advise you on a great coffee option...For me it was a single origin from Brazil in the shape of a growing fav of min - the macchiato
It was enough for me to return two more times in my trip (I try to limit returns to force myself to try other places). Coffee flavour comes firstly from the choice of bean, the origin and the roast ... I like it if they roast themselves on site but understand its not always an option. Next it comes from the brew and the pour, the expertise needed in these critical components are oh so ignored and often lead to the disappointment of a poor coffee. This place 'made' coffee well, it was flavoursome and on point. You could add a light meal with it but, as it should, the coffee came first.