30 November 2020

The Caffeine Chronicles: Paradox Design + Coffee

With a week of locked-down annual leave in London earlier this month, I took the opportunity to get on my bike and visit a few of the coffee shops that I'd been meaning to visit. Among these was Paradox Design + Coffee, based in the spot Terrone once occupied in London Fields' Netil Market.

As the name suggests, Paradox's Zain and Katherine don't just do coffee — although they do coffee very well indeed — but also provide consultation and design services; Zain is also the creator of the simple but oh-so-elegant latte art dice. Those adjectives could also describe their diminutive coffee bar, which occupies a glass-walled, shipping-container-like space near the entrance of Netil Market, just along Westgate Street from Broadway Market. 

In normal times, there are a couple of stools at the window for drinking your coffee in, but Paradox is currently takeaway only, with protective transparent screens set up in front of the counter as a measure to minimise risk of COVID-19 transmission. I visited twice during London's second lockdown, once on a quiet weekday lunchtime, and again on a busier Saturday. During the latter visit, there were measures in place to limit the numbers of visitors to the small food market market at one time, so it didn't feel too busy.

As much care goes into the coffee selection and preparation as the design. They choose coffees from a range of roasters, some from mainland European roasters but with an increasing focus on roasters closer to home during these difficult economic times. On my first visit, they were showcasing some great coffees from Dutch roaster Friedhats and from London-based Kiss the Hippo. Always tempted by jazzy naturally processed coffees, or coffees with atypical processing, I of course ordered a pourover with a coffee from Jaime Catota's Miramar farm in the Palo Campana region of El Salvador, which underwent a 120-hour anaerobic fermentation before roasting by Friedhats. The result was a delicious and unusual brew, with bold fruity flavours (the tasting notes include 'overripe banana'!) and a sweet, chocolatey finish.

After dining on a couple of bao from Bao, I returned for a piccolo chaser, expertly brewed with a Kiss the Hippo coffee. Returning a couple of weeks later, I was able to try a different Kiss the Hippo coffee, a rather special Panama Gesha from Hacienda La Esmeralda, a farm not short on awards for the quality of its coffees. Brewed as a pourover, the peach notes jumped right out my Fellow mug, especially as it cooled while I ate my Bagel Guys bagel in nearby London Fields. If you're not in a Gesha frame of mind, they also have some lovely coffees roasted by Edinburgh-based Obadiah at the moment, including bags of retail beans.

You can also be sure of a warm welcome when you visit Paradox, even when it's a bit busy. I really enjoyed chatting to Kat about the coffees, and I look forward to returning and trying some more coffees from Paradox's very well curated selection.

Paradox Design + Coffee. 13–23 Westgate Street, Netil Market, London, E8 3RL (London Fields 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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