recently, i had the pleasure to begin my saturday at penny university in shoreditch with my fellow coffee-loving friend, matt. i enjoyed the experience and thought i’d tell you about it.
the name of this coffee bar comes from the old term for coffeehouses in london; a “penny university” was a coffeehouse where patrons paid 1 penny to enter instead of paying for their drinks. the 2010 version opened just over a month ago, and it is run by london’s square mile coffee roasters, which has quickly become my coffee of choice at home (and wherever else i can find it).
what i really like about penny university is that they serve only brewed coffees, and there is no espresso machine to be found. for those of you living in the U.S., this is really no big deal. but upon my arrival in london last year, i immediately noticed the severe lack of good brewed coffee, which i could find in NYC and brooklyn very easily. in london (and throughout europe, i think), good coffee = espresso-based drinks only. i like espresso drinks, and i drink them often … but i really prefer a good filtered or brewed coffee. it is very hard to find that in london (aside from monmouth, which is out of my way) and so i usually drink most of my coffee at home, using a ceramic filter or a french press.
but penny university has changed that. as this article will tell you, it’s a brave decision for square mile. and i think they have nailed it. there are 6 seats at the coffee bar, and they obsessively brew only 3 coffees at a time (the coffees change periodically). each coffee is brewed using a particular method that is suited to the coffee type. matt and i decided to do their tasting flight (you need 2 people for this, given the amount of coffee you will drink). this way, we got to taste all 3 coffees, each paired with william curley chocolates. the pairings were spot-on. and the coffee was superior … they painstakingly monitor little things like temperature, brew time, and the volume of coffee grounds used. we were lucky to have the guru james hoffman brewing our coffee – he was excellent. he told us about the various beans, where they are from and how they are selected, and then explained the technicalities of the brew method, advising us to wait to enjoy a particular cup until it had cooled for the best flavor. it’s a fun, interactive experience and we both learned a lot. i certainly can’t wait to make this a regular stop.
you can also buy square mile beans and lots of very cool brewing equipment to use at home. i’ve got my eye on an aeropress.
thank you, penny university, for fulfilling my wish to see more brewed coffee in london. let’s hope this trend catches on!