07 September 2020

The Caffeine Chronicles: Saint Nine Coffee

If you were looking for good coffee while in Bankside, you used to have to head to Borough, but the arrival of branches of Caravan and Origin Coffee has filled in a few Southwark speciality coffee gaps. And the latest addition, Saint Nine Coffee, is rather special too.

Located on Southwark Street, a short walk from the Tate Modern and the South Bank, Saint Nine occupies the ground floor of a wedge-shaped building at the junction with Lavington Street. It's small inside with just eight seats, perched at the windows, and very elegant seats they are too. 

But in all likelihood, it will be the stunning mural that runs up the back wall, wrapping up onto the ceiling that you notice first. The artist, Gabe Sapienza, is a friend of owner Laith Toukan and features as one of the subjects. It's actually printed on fabric and installing it was no mean feat, but the result is impressive, and I'm sure that leaning backwards to capture the 'full scroll' will become a rite of passage for first-time customers.

The rest of the design is beautiful too, with a curving, matte black counter — currently with panels in place to facilitate physical distancing — and the Saint Nine logo itself. The name calls back to Laith's Toronto coffee shop 9 Bars — itself a reference to the ideal pressure for brewing espresso — and its St Clair Avenue location. There's also another origin story too, but you'll have to stop by and ask Laith about that. The cafe's saintly nature is also subtly highlighted by the large 'halo' that hangs behind the counter.

I popped in while running some errands last week and met Laith and barista Zoe, and we chatted about coffee, London and the challenges of opening a coffee shop in 2020 of all years. I went back after my run on Saturday morning, and met the other team member, Ashley, with whom I traded coffee travel stories. They are currently serving coffee from Assembly and Round Hill, although there's likely to be a Canadian 'house' roaster in the future, as well as various guests.

There are espresso-based drinks, filter coffee, tea and hot chocolate on the menu. On my first visit, I had an excellent cortado made with a single-origin El Salvador coffee roasted by Assembly. When I returned, I was just in time for a freshly brewed Colombian filter coffee from Round Hill, which was pleasantly fruity and perked me up after my run. I also took some banana bread away to eat at home, and it was delicious with a perfectly moist but springy texture.

It's a pleasure to have a coffee shop like Saint Nine in the area: not only because of the quality of the coffee, but also because Laith and his team are so genuinely lovely, offering a little pocket of Canada right in the heart of London.

Saint Nine Coffee. 67 Southwark Street, London, SE1 0HX (Tube: Southwark or Borough). WebsiteInstagram.

For 120+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, please check out my London speciality coffee guide.

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