You can't go more than four strides down a British street without passing a coffee shop, usually one of the mega chains that will sell you some coffee-adjacent muck in a big bucket. But where are the best places to go for not just a great cup of coffee but a great room too?
This is our list of the coolest coffee shops in the UK. Might not want to try them all in one day, unless you plan on being awake until next January.
There's a storm a-brewin' in Sheffield, and newly opened Steam Yard is at the heart of this recent cafe culture boom. Housed in an an old silver works, the grade II listed building has exposed walls and concrete floors and steel framed leather booths, creating a classic and welcoming interior with a nod to vintage america. But great décor isn't really what makes it a must-visit (though do, ahem, pore over the Instagram account) their coffee is arguably the best in the north with their house and a weekly guest blends coming from the UK’s top roasters. Just make sure you try one of their salted caramel doughnuts too. A treat.
QUARTER HORSE COFFEE
Birmingham is experiencing a glut of quality indie coffee houses which combine to give a welcome collective middle finger to the vanilla-infused chains. Urban Coffee, Yorks, The Faculty, Cafephilia and Six/Eight Kafe all deserve a mention, but right now the city is going potty for new kid on the block: Quarter Horse Coffee. The slightly out of the way but worth the journey joint is the only coffee house in Brum to roast their own beans, with a colossal machine on site reminiscent of the evil computer from Superman III. Run by caffeine heads, for caffeine heads, this is serious coffee territory which means you should be brave enough to plum for no frills espresso and let the beans do the talking.
The ever-changing collection of gubbins on the wall of includes a looming shark and a 3D Jack Nicholson in The Shining psycho mode. So even if your coffee companion is a bit dull there’s always something to talk about.
Everyone knows that everything Scandinavian is cool, from their lights to their murder mystery TV to, well, their weather. The Scandinavian theming of this Manchester cafe isn't entirely clearly drawn - not sure a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich is traditionally Scandinavian - but the laidback interior is very Scandi, as is the giant map of Iceland on the wall. Wear a heavily patterned jumper if you want to hammer home the theme.
It's practically a restaurant, serving everything from lasagne to freshly made pastries to an array of cakes that would take weeks to work your way through, but really it's a cafe, just a very extravagant one. If you leave without trying the ham and cheese rustici then you'd better come back quickly.
The Ship of Adventures
It’s styled as the inside of a pirate ship. We really have nothing further to discuss here.
Coffee is taken rather seriously at this popular spot on Leather Lane, which isn't that surprising considering one of its owners, Gwilym Davies, was World Barista Champion in 2009. So he is really good at coffee. But the store is also beautiful and the takeaway coffee comes in the best-decorated cups you'll find in London. Not that it changes the taste in the slightest, but still.
With two branches in Leeds city centre this mini-chain offers some of the finest brews in the north. The larger branch in Belgrave Music Hall has a roof terrace, so you can enjoy your morning coffee in the sunshine when the weather permits.
Colonna & Smalls
Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood - who is one of the owners of the cafe, not a cad from a Jane Austen novel - was the UK barista champion this year so he knows his beans. That does mean you might get asked a few more questions than, "small or large" as they take their varieties and seasons of beans (yes, there are seasons for beans) seriously. You get your coffee and you learn a little something.
Attached to a well-reviewed restaurant in the quaint town of Hitchin, this place offers a great cup of coffee in a beautiful old building. You can pop in for a flat white from 7am but you'll have to wait until a bit later to eat in the restaurant.
There are eight branches of this chain in London and just the one in Brighton. Brighton isn't short on interesting coffee places but this is one of the most popular and as one of the first companies to push coffee toward being better, it's been much imitated.
Tina, We Salute You
That name is a reference to a popular kitsch painting from the 1960s, and that should tell you a lot about this place. It's a bit silly, it's quite artsy (there are micro exhibitions by local artists) and ever so slighly fartsy (you'll pass a lot of creative types on the way to get your hot drink). But it's more fun than most coffee shops and doesn't treat making a latte like it's a matter of world importance.
Bold Street Coffee
One of Liverpool's most liked coffee venues has a very friendly atmosphere and a personality much bigger than the tiny space. A changing selection of artwork lines the wall and the approach to making coffee is to give you something that tastes great rather than banging on with great reverence about crema and precise milk temperature.
The Black Douglas Coffee House
If the coffee doesn't wake you up, the sea air will. The Black Douglas is a stone's throw from the sea but offers a much better cup of coffee than you get in your usual disappointing seaside cafe. It's positioned right next to a charming old bookshop too. It's not like any of the sleek operations elsewhere on this list but achingly modern isn't the only way to do things.
If the word 'tea' in the name is confusing you, that's fair enough. This award-winning cafe is primarily focused on many, many different types of tea, but it applies the same exacting standards to its coffee. The food isn't bad at all either.
East Beach Cafe
Deserves a place on the list even if only because it's the coolest building here. You might not be surprised to learn it's designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the genius behind the London Olympic cauldron and the new London bus. It's more than just a coffee shop, serving proper meals at lunch, but we're keeping it on here because it looks so cool that it would be absurd not to. Ok?
North Tea Power
A cracking cup of coffee, a great name and serves alcohol too (but not first thing in the morning). What more could you want?
The coolest of all of London's coffee shops. There are three but the one on Monmouth Street is the best. It's a tiny space, which means that if you want to sit down you need to be prepared to share one of the little tables at the back, but there's nothing wrong with meeting new people, is there? Don't be put off it there's a big queue stretching out the door. It's partly because there's no room to queue inside and it moves very quickly anyway. Practically a landmark now.
Flat Caps Coffee
Get it? Because of flat whites and cappuccinos and because northerners traditionally wear flat caps. It's more than a clever-clever name though. This is one of Newcastle's best cafes with a number of accolades to its name. It also claims to serve the "best hot chocolate ever" but you'll have to be the judge of that.
There are three Artisan Roast branches spread around Edinburgh and all are equally popular. It fancies itself as a bit more than just a place to pick up a delicious Americano on the way to work. Additional activities offered include a surf club and...er...meditation sessions. Best have your coffee after that then.