Welcome to Steak And Teeth’s first coffee shop review! In modern Britain, there are three items that are near impossible to come by: Good steak, good coffee, and a politician with a good soul. There are only really three ways to obtain great coffee – learn how to brew fresh coffee yourself at home, invest in a good coffee machine, or visit a top-notch coffee shop with top-notch baristas who know how to make coffee better than they know how to breathe. And by top-notch, I don’t mean Starbucks or Costa. Whilst they make great frappes and coffee-based drinks, their coffees are mediocre at best. As for instant coffee, well that’s about as authentic coffee as Pot Noodles is authentic East Asian cuisine.
This is where independent coffee shops come in. Given how ridiculously expensive coffee is at both independent and chain coffee shops, (I mean, you can buy an entire bag of grounds for the price of one or two cups), you might as well pay the same amount of money for a good, quality brew. Taylor Street Baristas, one of the many independent coffee shops with many branches dotted around London, is one such venue for good coffee.
After an excruciatingly stressful afternoon in the Paediatrics department, and graced with the good news that the first half of our clinic at Canary Wharf had been cancelled, I decided I would kick back and flood my system with some bittersweet nectar the next morning. Walking into the Canary Wharf branch in the late hours of the morning (around half 9), I was greeted by the sight of a mind boggling queue that snaked right around the store and almost to the door.
Luckily, I managed to grab a seat (of which there are very few) right after I made my first order – a standard issue cappuccino with a pot of granola and yoghurt as my post-gym breakfast. Normally I go for an almond crossaint at coffee shops, (I have quite a soft spot for them. The soft spot being the spot below my ribcage where abs should be), but alas, they had already run out.
The cappuccino was well-balanced in it’s constituent elements, with a good ratio of espresso to milk and foam, although it seemed to bear a greater resemblance to a flat white in its construction. The creamy layer of foam was soft, smooth and thick, and possessed a sharp, yet delicate bitterness. The main body of the cappuccino possessed a subtle background bitterness, which seeped through and swelled as a pleasantly delicate aftertaste with each sip. Had it been a little stronger, it would’ve perfected it completely. Nonetheless, it was a good cappuccino with a soothing, smooth balance.
Two hours of reading, blogging and enjoying my own company later (someone has to), I decided to really spoil myself by ordering one of their signature espressos. Lo and behold, on a blackboard right in front of me, stood a diagrammatic promotion of their “elixir espresso”, and my heart was set.
The elixir espresso consists of a blend of Ethiopian, Costa Rican, and Columbian beans, and Taylor Street Baristas describe the espresso as having a blend of flavours which include “lime”, “blueberry” and “cream”. As soon as I brought the cup of dark goodness up to my face, I was greeted by a beautiful aroma which I can only describe as caramelised and fruity in nature. The espresso delivered a powerful, citrus tang with each sip. The flavours burst instantaneously as soon as it hit the tongue, and was followed by a strong, smooth bitterness that left me in a caffeine-induced ecstasy for the rest of the day. If I had one more coffee that day I could probably have produced my very own remake of Afroman’s “Because I got high”.
Last Friday marked our final placement at the outreach clinic in Canary Wharf. It’s been a year of mixed clinical experience at the unique polyclinic that stands a step away from the elegant toy-town of Canary Wharf, and none of us were quite sure whether we were sad or glad to be leaving – mainly because its replacement is an outreach clinic in Southend – a journey none of us are happy to have to begin making. Regardless, as we handed over our keycards, bid farewell and left the clinic in the hands of our junior third years, Mrs. Bean, Shimmy and I headed over to Cabot square to grab a well-deserved hot drink. Whilst they were eager for a chai-latte from Costa, my anti-chain-coffee-snobbery led me to Taylor Street, where I picked up a quick flat white to go. I promptly infiltrated Costa with my illicit, smuggled brew, and rejoined my friends for a quick Friday evening chat. Whilst I had ventured to Taylor Street in the hope of avoiding a mediocre coffee in Costa, the flat white I had ordered was unfortunately weak, with the espresso woefully unbalanced against the steamed milk. Whilst the flavour of the espresso was still somewhat retained within the brew, it was a disappointing end to my Friday. Perhaps my barista was simply off-form after a long day, but either way, consistency is key, and thus, coffee, value for money, and overall scores have been reduced from a 4 to a 3.5/5 until further notice.
Taylor Street serves a range of croissants, yoghurts, cakes and cookies, as well as breakfast and lunch items, all of which look great. For the time being, their food score will have to be formulated from their granola alone, but will no doubt be updated as soon as I return. The fruit granola contained high quality yoghurt which was thick and smooth in consistency. The fruit, granola and yoghurt combined well to produce a contrast of textures, and a pleasant combination of sharp and smooth sweetness. It was probably no healthier than a bowl of Frosties, but an important part of eating clean is pretending that you are.
My small cappuccino cost £2.80, whilst my elixir espresso cost £2.20. Coffees, teas and hot chocolates in general cost between £2-£3.50 for small to large drinks, which is more or less in keeping with what you’d expect at any coffee shop. Meanwhile, the granola cost around £4-£5, which is slightly on the high side, but considering the location, (and the fact it was very filling), I’d say the price was fair. The quality of the coffee at Taylor Street Baristas is high, and well worth paying for when you consider the fact that chains charge more or less the same price for their cups of mediocrity.
The Canary Wharf branch employs a blended rustic and modern look, with a handful of wooden tables, chairs, and stools and benches, with a number of decorative paintings dotted around. It’s quite a small shop that gets incredibly busy, and there’s not much opportunity to grab a seat. It’s a shame there aren’t more seats, or at least more comfortable seats. Wood isn’t great for long sit-ins. Then again, perhaps they chose wooden benches for that very reason. Nobody likes having Bankers around for too long. (Or Dentists for that matter). The shop itself is a quick five minute walk from the jubilee line section of Canary Wharf station.
Staff are incredibly friendly and fairly efficient. The cafe is almost always busy with just a few periods of relative peace, at least during the morning shift. There are plenty of personnel manning the tills, and when it does get busy, a staff member quickly picks up an iPad and works their way around the queue to take orders. Even when it’s rammed, you should have your coffee in around 10 minutes, so don’t be too put off if you see what looks like a lost-baggage queue at a Ryannair counter.
I spent the best part of two and a half hours in Taylor Street. Despite the fact it’s almost always full to the brim, it’s quite easy to enjoy the surroundings if you’ve been lucky enough to grab a seat. The bustling hubbub can add to the atmosphere, which is otherwise loud and busy, yet relaxed.
Armed with skilled Baristas capable of crafting great coffee, and even greater espresso, Taylor Street Baristas is more than worthy of a visit for all ranks of caffeine-lovers – from the softer-tongued latte drinkers, to the battle-hardened espresso drinkers who are at the brink of needing an intervention. As someone who is very pedantic and particular with their coffee, I can say with confidence that Taylor Street Baristas can rustle up a decent brew, and they have certainly done well enough to reel me in for a second visit in the near future.
Originally published: 16/06/15
Taylor Street Baristas
Address: 8 South Colonnade,
London, Canary Wharf