12 November 2020

The Caffeine Chronicles: Black Box, Covent Garden

Keeping an independent coffee shop afloat in central London is no mean feat at best of times, let alone opening one, and especially in 2020. But Black Box in Covent Garden is hardly barista and owner Ant's first speciality coffee rodeo; it's not even Ant's first Black Box, although it was the now-defunct Black Chapel in Wandsworth, beloved by my fellow bloggers at BeanThere.at among many others, that was the one that got away from me.

I had the chance to make up for this shortcoming more recently by paying two visits to Black Box in its home inside Orbital Comics on Great Newport Street. At the time of both visits, London was in a second lockdown, and so Black Box was only open for takeaway. The coffee shop is zero waste so if you're visiting during lockdown, bring your own reusable cup — I managed to forget mine on the first visit, but brought my Huskee Cup when I returned.

Orbital Comics houses several separate businesses, and Black Box is closest to the entrance as you walk in from Great Newport Street, past the Black Box coffee bike (there's got to be some kind of Ride on Time joke there). There's a rotating selection of artwork on the walls, and a few tables in front of the coffee bar, for times when it's possible to eat/drink in. On the counter is a rather gorgeous vintage Faema lever espresso machine, which sits underneath a sign reminding customers to trust their barista.

If your barista is Ant, you most certainly should, and I asked for recommendations before scanning the menu. I didn't get to try Black Box beans, which you can buy online, on either of my visits, instead enjoying a Guatemalan espresso from Ozone and Dark Arts' Lost Highway, respectively. The coffee and food offering is fully vegan, and I ordered a phat wife — a flat white with Minor Figures oat milk — both times, and both were beautifully brewed. In fact, on my first visit, Ant wasn't happy with the first shot and made me another one.

As Saturday was that kind of day, I also ordered a dessert: the brownie, made with four types of chocolate, beer and dates, and served with peanut butter ice cream and coffee flowers. It looks even better when served on a plate, but was just as decadent in a takeaway cup. While Ant made my dessert, we chatted about Black Box, coffee and the London coffee scene. It's hard not to get caught up in and share Ant's passion and enthusiasm for the industry and all things coffee. So, if you're in the West End and looking for some top-quality coffee, dessert or perhaps an R2D2 KeepCup, you know where to go (hint: details are below).

Black Box. 8b Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JA (Tube: Covent Garden). Website. Instagram.

For 125+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, please check out my London speciality coffee guide.

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