13 February 2023

The Caffeine Chronicles: Nagare Coffee

Sometimes a new speciality coffee shop opens that just has it all: warm hospitality, beautiful design, a relaxed atmosphere and, of course, excellent coffee. Nagare Coffee, which opened in Spitalfields at the end of January, lives up to all of these, and both of my visits so far have been a pleasure.

I was disappointed when I found out that Montezuma's chocolate shop at 40 Brushfield Street had closed at the end of last year. I love their chocolate and peanut butter bites and it was the only place I could find them in London. But I'd always thought the small space with its period features was wasted as a shop filled with so many shelves of sweet treats.

Nagare makes perfect use of the space with a wooden counter taking up the space on the left-hand side, while the rest of the room houses a few small tables dotted around the fireplace and window seats. Two big windows let in a lot of light even on the greyest of winter days. There are also benches outside offering additional seating.

As for the name, Nagare is the only coffee shop I know to take its inspiration from a Bruce Lee quote — "Be water, my friend...Be formless, shapeless, like water" — for nagare is the Japanese for 'flow.' This philosophy resonates throughout Nagare, from the design choices to the coffee and ethos. Indeed, for a coffee shop that is a stone's throw from Spitalfields Market and can, thus, get rather busy, the ambience is remarkably serene — thanks, in no small part, to the calming presence of baristas Dora, Adam and Cha.

There is no coffee menu on the back wall — a conscious decision — but several clipboards on the counter that outline the espresso-based drinks menus and the hand-brewed filter coffee options of the day. If you're a coffee lover, you will probably struggle to choose among the single-origin coffees on the menu. The featured roasters were Market Lane (which I last enjoyed in Melbourne, all too long ago), Sweven (which I got to visit in Bristol last year) and Weekenders (which hadn't opened when I visited Kyoto).

On my first visit, I had to order a coffee from Market Lane, opting for a washed Ethiopian coffee from Hadeso washing station. My pourover was beautifully brewed and the coffee had floral and lime notes. Nagare serves a small, creative selection of sweet treats, that include flavours from black sesame and caramel to cardamom and pear, which are as attractive as they are tasty. I paired my coffee with a slice of lemon polenta cake. 

When I came back, I had planned to try one of the delicious-sounding coffees from Sweven but I can't resist ordering from a new-to-me roaster and ended up choosing another washed Ethiopian coffee, this one roasted by Weekenders. Brewed as a pourover, it had lovely floral, yuzu and tropical fruit flavours. The presentation was top-notch too, with a small card providing further details about the coffee.

I also ordered a cortado, which was immaculately brewed using a Colombian coffee from Curve

40 Brushfield Street might not be a literal 'sweetie shop' anymore but the fireplace and shelving unit at Nagare make it feel like candy store for coffee lovers: if you need to stock up on coffee beans for home (and, frankly, even if you don't), you will enjoy choosing among the numerous options available. They also sell a well-curated selection of coffee-brewing kit and cups — just in case you needed yet another reason to go with the flow and add Nagare Coffee to your must-visit list!

Nagare Coffee. 40 Brushfield Street, London, E1 6AG (Tube: Liverpool Street). Website. 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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