Thinking of English stereotypes, Americans often jump to England’s love for tea. Working with that stereotype in the months before I got here, I tried to transition from a coffee person to a tea person (like that was ever going to happen), assuming good coffee would sort of take a back seat to tea here.
That assumption, it turns out, was (mercifully) quite far from the truth.
Obviously, having been here for all of 18 days, I’ve barely dipped my toes into the local food and coffee scenes, but I’ve already got some strong contenders for my favorite UK coffee shop. The list is sure to expand over the next few months, but here are some first impressions:
- Cafe Coho – This place struck me as one of the more posh-seeming coffee places in Brighton. It’s well-decorated, with a lovely upstairs seating area including window seats with a pretty great view of the Lanes. The coffee was great, if slightly more expensive than other places I’ve been, and there’s a full brunch-y menu (I’m going back soon to try their Eggs Royal).
- Tic Toc Cafe – This is the most home-y place I’ve been. The background music seems to just come from the whims of an employee’s iPod, and the decor adds to the coziness, with lots of cute vintage clocks around to play on the name and loads of books (including a full Encyclopædia Britannica set in the “loo”). In addition to good coffee, they have a solid breakfast and lunch menu… and milkshakes!
- Small Batch Coffee Roasters – First impression: the most hipster of the bunch. The music is a pretty great indie mix, the decor is a sort of modern industrial chic look, and the employees were some of the best-dressed I’ve seen outside New York’s Stumptown (forever envious of those baristas’ hats). And of course, the coffee’s great.
Aside from these, I should also mention Smugglers – it’s definitely not a coffee shop (when we were there, it was dominated by some football/daydrinking enthusiasts), but it does serve up a good Bailey’s latte.
One last point: I’ve got to acknowledge that UK-based chains like Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee are better choices than Starbucks here if you can’t find a seat in one of the local coffee places. I’m as much of a Starbucks enthusiast as the next latte-sipping elitist liberal, but the prices here are just painful. I made the mistake of paying with my gold card, which is of course calculated in USD, and it turned out that my vanilla spice latte was almost $5. For. A. Tall. I almost cried.