23 November 2020

The Caffeine Chronicles: NOLA, Peckham

Without doubt, 2020 has been an exceptionally challenging year for independent coffee shops and other small businesses in the hospitality industry, but the COVID-19 pandemic was one of factors that drove the opening of NOLA, a new speciality coffee shop on Rye Lane in Peckham. Owners Josephine and Anthony also form the band Oh Wonder. They created NOLA as a neighbourhood coffee shop that brings together things they love about coffee shops they've visited around the world, and that offers much-needed calm, respite and great coffee to the local community in uncertain times.

And the care they've taken with their new release is clear; from the design to the warm, friendly service and, of course, the coffee, the attention to detail is impressive. While London is in lockdown, NOLA is only open for takeaway, but the minimalist d├ęcor — light wood, accent lights and carefully chosen greenery — mean it will be lovely place to sit in while enjoying a coffee and sweet treat once that's permitted. The shop is slender, with a handful of small tables on the wall opposite the counter, while there's a little more seating at the back. The light is beautiful too, especially if you visit when the sun is streaming in through the front windows, creating lovely shadows on the wall. 

NOLA only opened last week but I've already visited three times, sampling different coffees and baked goods. Each time, there was a queue outside — it's clear that the coffee shop has been very well received by the local community — and each time, the staff were all very welcoming. On my first visit, I was rather distracted by the ceramics that are available for sale — I've already posted my holiday gift guide, but these would make a very nice addition — and the retail bags of their own coffee.

First time around, I ordered a hand-brewed filter coffee, featuring a fruity washed Rwandan variety. To my surprise, the brew method employed was one even I'd never come across before: the Rattleware cupping brewer. As its name suggests, this is usually used for cupping coffee without needing a spoon, and it involves a glass flask shaped to allow coffee grounds to sink to the bottom where they remain when the coffee is poured into a cup for serving after several minutes. For a cleaner taste, you can then then pour the coffee through a paper filter in a V60-style brewer, which is what they do at NOLA. The result was a delicious coffee with juicy blackcurrant and citrus notes. My Huskee Cup and I approved!

On my other visits, I tried the espresso, as both a piccolo and a flat white. There was a Colombian single-origin coffee in the hopper, which worked very well with milk, brewed expertly on the Mavam espresso machine. I'm sure the coffee will taste even better in those ceramic cups!

As for the baked goods, they'd run out of their already-famous cinnamon buns the first time I visited, and I enjoyed an oat chocolate cookie instead. When I was able to try the cinnamon bun, it was worth the wait: sticky, sweet and well-layered. In fact it was so delicious that I only just managed to save mine from a dog that sprinted all the way across Peckham Rye Common to steal it when I was taking a photograph. Be warned!

 'Coffee for everyone' the sign outside reads. Amen to that.

NOLA. 224 Rye Lane, London, SE15 4NL (Peckham Rye Overground). Website. Instagram.

For 130+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, please check out my London speciality coffee guide.

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