The Electric Coffee Bean Experience

The search for kickass coffee

Espresso Joe and Canary Wharf

This post first appeared in NZ News UK 16 December, 2010.

This is when I let out a deep sigh, slump my shoulders and hope a reader has a better lead on decent coffee than I do.

Canary Wharf is chock-filled with lawyers, bankers, IT specialists and other deep-pocket workers queuing for coffee. One can choose from (by my count) 6 Pret a Manger, 6 Starbucks and a Caffe Nero. Not the most inspiring of options.

Thank goodness there is one good quality alternative to the dairy peddlars of the chain stores.

Caffe Brera is, arguably, a chain café. There are six of them dotted around London: 3 in Canary Wharf but compared to Pret and Starbucks et al, it’s an independent.

These are Italian cafes, very much in the Milan style, so it’s possible to stop by for a glass of wine and a slice of pizza or focaccia to stop-gap the hunger pangs. The mini macaroons and Milanese cookies look fantastic.

The coffee served here is good. It’s a solid B on the report card. The baristas have a reasonable skill level, don’t scald the milk for a latte and manage to get a decent crema on their espressos; all good there.

The let-down is the coffee beans.

Don’t get me wrong – compared to Starbucks, the coffee is ahead of the curve. It tastes like coffee should. Just don’t expect complexity or nuances from your cup.
At Caffe Brera you will be served an honest cup of coffee that satisfies your caffeine demon. You could easily take a coffee loving colleague here and not walk away embarrassed by a poor cup. But it’s not coffee to make the soul sing.

I guess not every cup of coffee has to be special. I certainly appreciate the special brews more for having been exposed to poor to middling coffee. Caffe Brera don’t have that X-Factor that I would travel 20 miles for. But it’s my local and a decent cup.

The Cabot Square Brera is the liveliest and most crowded of the cafes. If you want to have a conversation with someone and really want to ensure you can find a seat, cross over to the Jubilee Place shopping mall and head to the mezzanine floor. It’s also a good place to people-watch and usually where I write from. And if you don’t mind a short walk in the open air, head to the Brera at Westferry Circus – up the steps from the Canary Wharf ferry terminal.

Caffe Brera: Canary Wharf’s best coffee but it doesn’t have any quality competition. If there is a decent alternative then please let me know.

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