22 July 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Kiss the Hippo, Richmond

After visiting north-east London last week, this week's Caffeine Chronicles post is about a speciality coffee shop and roastery on the opposite side of London: Kiss the Hippo, in Richmond, to be more exact.

As I am rarely in Richmond, I was pleased when Kiss the Hippo opened a second coffee shop in central London two years ago. The Fitzrovia cafe, a few blocks north of Oxford Circus on Margaret Street, is a regular coffee stop for me when I'm shopping or giving blood at the donor centre across the street. But it was about time I paid a visit to the original location, and it made an excellent coffee break before my trip to Kew Gardens.

With the distinctive red hippo adorning its retail bags of beans, Kiss the Hippo's packaging also underscores the roaster's sustainability credentials: on their website, they explain how they have become a carbon-negative coffee company and why that matters. This point was hammered home by the extreme heat of the day, especially standing in line in front of the big, south-facing front windows.

The interiors are very similar to the Fitzrovia cafe, from the dove grey shopfront to the long, light wooden counter and the hippo design in pride of place on the custom Kees van der Westen espresso machine. As you enter there are two stools at the front windows on each side, with the counter straight ahead. At the back is the roastery, although you might be distracted on the way by the cute Kiss the Hippo merch.

The coffee menu features two espressos — the George Street blend, named for the Richmond cafe — and a single origin (an Ethiopian Sasaba when I was there), with two different single-origin coffees available as hand-brewed filter coffee. I realised too late that given the weather, a Japanese-style iced coffee — my favourite brew method for cold coffee — would have been a more appropriate order, but that's OK. Instead, I doubled down and ordered both a piccolo with the George Street espresso and a filter coffee with a coffee from Urbano, Peru (the other option was from Kirundo, Burundi, which sounded great too).

I took one of the free seats at the window, soaking up the sunshine while I waited for my coffees to arrive. The barista made my filter coffee first, and it was superb, with juicy, raspberry and caramel flavours. The sunlight also highlighted the gorgeous, almost amber colour of the coffee. My piccolo was good too, and I commend the baristas for producing consistently good coffees even as the coffee shop suddenly became extremely busy.

As for the coffee accompaniments, there is a selection of pastries and sweet treats. I bought a slice of chocolate chip banana bread, which I saved for my picnic in Kew later on. I already had a lot of coffee beans at home, but if I'd been looking to buy some, I would have gone for the coffee from the Diaz family in El Salvador, with its apricot, elderflower and lemon flavour notes — perfect for a hot summer's day.

Kiss the Hippo. 50 George Street, Richmond, TW9 1HJ (Tube: Richmond). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

For 140+ more of my favourite coffee shops in London, check out my London speciality coffee guide

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