11 October 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Kapihan

UPDATE (April 2022). Unfortunately, this location of Kapihan has now closed permanently. But they are planning to reopen soon in Vauxhall.

Two of the recurring themes in my London coffee shop write-ups during this year-and-a-half of COVID have been: the power of coffee shops to connect people amid the loneliness of lockdown, and the ability of coffee shops to transport you and allow you to experience a taste of other places and cultures even when travelling is impossible or, at least, much harder than it once was. Both of these rang true at Kapihan, a Filipino coffee shop and bakery close to Battersea Park, which I visited again at the weekend.

I say 'visited again' because it was the third time I've been: the first for a very quick espresso to go when I was running late for a meeting and the second when I forgot to check the bank holiday opening hours after a trip to Nostos and found Kapihan closed. The third time was the charm on Sunday, even if the heavens opened just after I hopped off the bus on Battersea Park Road. The rain hadn't stopped play and most of the seats inside the small coffee shop were full. But the welcome from the staff was very warm, with many of the customers being greeted by name.

A little overwhelmed by the extensive coffee menu, which features sweet coffee treats like the Palawan Honey Latte as well as the latte, the flat white and their brethren, I ordered a cortado and the only remaining savoury baked good left from in the delicious-looking selection on the counter. I took the only remaining seat at the window and before long my coffee and pandesal arrived.

Kapihan's house espresso blend combines a washed coffee from Sitio Belis in the Philippines and a naturally processed coffee from Myanmar, which is roasted in Battersea. In my cortado, it tasted smooth and chocolatey. There was also a Costa Rican guest espresso from NOMAD in Barcelona on offer. Pandesal (which is also spelled pan de sal, 'salt bread') is a sweet, soft, brioche-like Filipino bread roll, and Kapihan's savoury variety featured pesto made from malunggay (a plant also known as malunggay), caramelised onions and gruy√®re. Served warm, the sweet and umami flavours combined perfectly, and it was a very satisfying treat.

But I wasn't done yet! After having more time to peruse the menu more carefully, I also ordered a barako coffee and a sweet brioche to take away. Barako is a type of coffee grown in the Philippines, belonging to the species Coffea liberica. I don't think I've ever tried it before, but served as a strong, black filter coffee, it had a low acidity and a wonderful sweetness, especially as it cooled. It paired nicely with the pan de coco, a pandan brioche (hence the vibrant green colour) with macapuno (young coconut) and sweet cream inside. I can see why other customers were ordering four or more of the baked goods to take home with them!

I finished my trip to Battersea with a stroll through Battersea Park, taking in the autumn leaves before walking home, via a visit to the riverside development at Battersea Power Station. There's still a lot of construction going on in the area but there are more reasons to visit by the week, and the welcoming atmosphere and delicious coffee and baked goods make Kapihan one of the best.

Kapihan. 13A Parkgate Road, London, SW11 4NL (Tube: Battersea Power Station, or Battersea Park rail station). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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

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