20 May 2016

At Second Shot Coffee, Cafe Meets Society

UPDATE (April 2022). Sadly, Second Shot's original cafe has now permanently closed, but you can still find them in Marylebone.

This weekend sees the opening of a new coffee shop, a generous stone's throw from Bethnal Green Tube station. Second Shot Coffee will serve a range of espresso-based and filter coffees and a selection of locally sourced cakes and sweet treats. So far, so standard, but Julius Ibrahim, Second Shot's founder, has a broader vision that focuses as much on social enterprise as on the quality of its food and drink.

I stopped by during a pre-launch event for press and bloggers and Second Shot was already in great shape a week ahead of the launch. The compact cafe is located on Bethnal Green Road and has just a few small tables, as well as a fold-down perching table; eventually, the plan is to have a bench on the pavement outside. The art, which hadn't quite made it onto the walls during the launch, is sourced from art sessions run by local homeless organisations, with all of the proceeds going to support the artists.

In fact, Second Shot's ambitions to provide support, training, skills and a sense of community to homeless individuals are at the core of what they do and I think the cafe's name captures this philosophy perfectly. Second Shot is partnering with various organisations to hire and train formerly homeless individuals to work in the cafe, and after hours, Ibrahim plans to re-open as a community hub for homelessness.

They aren't the first cafe to offer a pay-it-forward system — whereby a customer can pay £1 for a drink and add the purchase to the pay-it-forward wall for someone else to take later, free of charge. But they are the first that I've seen to allow customers to pay £1 and receive three stamps on a loyalty card that they can hand over to a person in need. You can also 'pay forward' a cake (£2) or a meal (£4).

It was important for Ibrahim, who cut his teeth at Bleecker St Burger, among other places, to ensure that the food and coffee were up to scratch too, though. I tried several drinks: a very fine macchiato and a great flat white, brewed by Head of Coffee, Emilio Rodriguez, using the chocolatey Eden espresso blend from Cast Iron.

They also had five or six different filter coffee varieties on offer, from roasters based in London and further afield. I was intrigued to see a coffee from a Hungarian roaster, but we sampled an Ethiopian variety from Amsterdam-based Sweet Cup. Rodriguez brewed it through the Chemex, which really brought out the subtle strawberry notes. They will serve a continually changing selection of filter coffees, which can be brewed with a V60, Aeropress or Chemex; perfect for filter-heads like me.

Although I wasn't particularly hungry, by the time I'd left, barista Ephy Beckford had persuaded me to try almost all of the cakes they were serving. (OK, I didn't need much persuading!) The individual banana bread loaf (served with its own banana chip garnish) was particularly good — perfectly moist — but I also enjoyed the carrot cake and the brownie. The sweet treats come from Rise Bakery and Luminary Bakery, and the grilled-cheese sarnies will have bread sourced from The Dusty Knuckle.

Second Shot is a small cafe with big ambitions, although the coffee alone is worth the trip to Bethnal Green. Today is their soft launch, ahead of their launch tomorrow, Saturday 21 May, so if you are in the neighbourhood (and even if you aren't), you should consider stopping by.

Second Shot Coffee. 475 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 9QH (Tube: Bethnal Green). Website. Twitter. Open: 7–6 (M–F) and 9–7 (S–S).

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