12 October 2020

The Caffeine Chronicles: BUSI

UPDATE. I was very sad to hear that as of spring 2022, BUSI has closed. They do hope to return in some form in another location in the not-too-distant future.

If anything was going to cut through the gloom of another grey and rainy Saturday in London, the pastel-hued design and thoughtful speciality coffee offering of BUSI stood a very good chance. The high-concept speciality coffee shop opened up in the summer — I heard about it thanks to Amelia's beautiful photos — on Great Portland Street, just north of Oxford Circus, and combines the respective passions for design and coffee of owners Anna and Emil. The name BUSI is the couple's term of endearment for each other, and in a 2020 world where joy can sometimes feel in short supply, it's hard not to warm to this philosophy.

BUSI's lavender exteriors stand out from the other shopfronts on the street, as does the colourful and rather baroque window display. There's a small step up from the pavement into the cafe, where there's a smaller seating area with a couple of tables next to the counter, and then a larger room at the back, including some Instagram-ready swing seats next to a BUSI sign. The lavender and pale pink colour palette remains throughout, from the tables to the gorgeous purple Synesso espresso machine that sits on the bar, with some particularly beautiful cups stacked on top.

It was busy when I arrived on Saturday afternoon but I only had to wait a few minutes for the table, perusing the menu (accessed via QR code, as is often the case these days) while I waited. As well as more standard espresso-based drinks, BUSI also serves a whole host of special coffee- and matcha-based drinks, and mocktails. I'm not usually tempted by these, but I am a sucker for all things lavender and did come close to ordering a lavender latte (£6.90). I'd had a big mug of coffee at home, however, and wanted to try the filter coffee, so I decided to save this experience for another visit. 

The espresso-based drinks are currently brewed using an espresso from Danish roaster April. April also featured as one of the two single-origin Gesha coffees available as hand-brewed filter coffee (£7 each). Although the Costa Rican Volcan Azul from April sounded great, I went for the other, a natural Colombian coffee roasted by Amsterdam-based Friedhats. BUSI felt like a 'funky natural' kind of place.

I also treated myself to a raspberry honey cake (£5.90), which came beautifully presented on a green plate. I managed to restrain myself by waiting until after I'd tried the coffee before sampling it, but the cake was moist and springy, the raspberry adding just the right amount of tartness. A more extensive food menu is coming soon.

As for the coffee, the beans were in a little vacuum pouch — the card indicated that they'd been roasted in late June and frozen soon afterwards, and that 16 grams would go in with a 225 gram output. As soon as I took the lid off the Kruve server, I could smell that it was going to be a good brew, and I wasn't disappointed. It was just the kind of jazzy natural that tastes so good when roasted and brewed well, with the flavours continuing to come out nicely as it cooled.

The prices at BUSI are on the higher side — although the likes of Queens of Mayfair (which made the headlines recently) and Le CafĂ© Alain Ducasse have shown that there is an appetite for higher-end speciality coffee shops. The quality has to be there too, of course, from the selection of beans to the brewing, and my first visit to BUSI didn't disappoint. And in an industry that has sometimes been accused of taking itself too seriously, BUSI also offers something fun, cheerful and a little different.

BUSI. 42–48 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 7NB (Tube: Oxford Circus). Instagram.

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

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