12 April 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Black Swan Yard Coffee

Most of my Caffeine Chronicles reviews are about speciality coffee shops I've discovered recently. Not so with Black Swan Yard Coffee, which is one of the closest coffee shops to my home and one that I've visited even more frequently while working from home during lockdown. Somehow, though, writing about the Bermondsey coffee spot has always eluded me, even as it's changed and adapted over the months and years, so I thought it was high time for a post.

At present, Black Swan Yard is only accessible via a ground-level hatch in a handsome red-brick building at the top of buzzy Bermondsey Street. There used to be a a seating area inside the adjacent bike shop, but even in the before times, the hatch was the place to be. The photos in this post are from various visits over the past year, and although the A-boards featuring the titular black swan and one of their famous cardamom buns have been there for years, the hatch has gradually become more decorated. Physical distancing measures have also meant that there's an extra pedestrian lane next to the pavement, which is handy when there's a queue at the hatch.

The baristas are always friendly — owner Drew is often there himself, but I've enjoyed chatting with others too, crouching down towards the subterranean coffee bar. The coffee is from Margate-based roasters Curve Coffee, and is always excellent. I usually stop by for a piccolo or a flat white and the coffee is always well brewed and with great latte art. If you don't fancy an espresso-based drink, they usually have some batch-brew filter coffee going too. 

Most recently, I sampled Curve's Kenyan Thunguri AA, which had juicy, blackcurrant notes as a filter coffee. There is also a good selection of bread, pastries and baked goods from the excellent Little Bread Pedlar, which is based in Bermondsey too. I usually have a cinnamon or cardamom bun, but after a couple of recent early-morning appointments nearby, I also sampled the almond croissants. You can't really go wrong, though, if you're looking for a sweet treat. More recently, they've added a couple of covered benches on the pavement (pictured in the penultimate photo, or you can walk two minutes south along Bermondsey Street to Tanner Street Park, which is a pleasant spot to enjoy your drink.

Like many small businesses, Black Swan Yard has looked for ways to adapt during the pandemic and also sells pouches of interesting-sounding cocktails to takeaway: coconut and pandan leaf old fashioned, anyone? How about a coffee bean and fig leaf negroni?

While working from home over the past year, I've enjoyed my lunchtime walks in my local neighbourhood. There are a bunch of other food shops, cafes and eateries that have remained open, to a greater or lesser extent, throughout the various lockdowns. At a time when it isn't really possible to plan grand adventures, one of my favourite small pleasures has been strolling down Bermondsey Street in the sunshine, Black Swan Yard coffee in my hand and locally produced food items in my tote bag.

Black Swan Yard Coffee. 37 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF  (Tube: London Bridge). Twitter. Instagram.

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

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