12 April 2024

The Caffeine Chronicles: Nostos Coffee, St James's Park

My favourite London coffee opening of 2021 was Nostos Coffee's original Battersea cafe. Nostos lives up to its name (from the Greek for 'homecoming') — I felt at home there from my first visit. Their coffee is impressive too. Nostos's second coffee shop goes even further, with an experience bar, where you can enjoy unique coffees and brewing techniques.

Nostos is based at Orchard Place, a sleek development near St James's Park and Victoria. Outside, two olive trees offer another nod to its Greek heritage. On my way in, I bumped into owner Edison, who extended a characteristically warm welcome, remembering my usual coffee order and asking about my football team, Wolves. While we chatted, I went into sensory overload as I took in the wonderful sights, sounds and aromas.

The coffee shop occupies a bright high-ceilinged space. There's a large seating area at the front and two coffee bars on opposite sides at the back. At the main counter, you can order standard espresso-based drinks, batch brew filter coffee and a few non-coffee drinks. By 'standard', I still mean very well brewed and delicious. They were roasting their own coffee on site, but now have a space in Brixton.

You can tell from a glance that the 'experience bar' is more experimental. There's some serious brewing equipment, including a Slayer espresso machine, pourover stations and a set of glass dropper bottles bottles. The extensive menu features special coffees and unusual brewing techniques — for filter and espresso. And that's Edison's vision for Nostos: creating experiences beyond a cup of coffee. No matter how far down the speciality coffee rabbit hole you are, you can try something different every time you visit.

After placing my order, I sat at the long communal table. Light was streaming through the windows and even painting rainbows on the floor. There are more seats by the wall and in the pedestrianised area out front. While I waited, I enjoyed a filter coffee sample and eyed up the sweetie-shop-like array of retail coffee beans on the shelves near the door.

Before long, my pourover from the brew bar frozen menu arrived. They brew the coffee using their own water recipe. With Lotus Coffee's system of concentrated mineral waters, they customise the water to the specific coffee and brew method. That's what was in the glass bottles! Edison let me try some of the brewing water neat. After years of drinking London tap water, I found the taste a little strange. But I could see how it would make the perfect backdrop to allow the flavours of the coffee to shine.

There were six coffees to choose from — three for the Origami Dripper and three for the Aeropress. It was hard to choose but I went for a Colombian double washed Gesha from the Dutch roaster A Matter of Concrete, brewed through the Origami Dripper. The coffee's floral and fizzy orange flavours came through beautifully. 

Then, it was espresso time. Nostos's signature offering is the freeze-distilled flat white. Freeze distillation involves freezing milk for 17 hours and removing ice crystals as they form. This reduces the water content and results in an incredibly sweet and creamy milk. The freeze-distilled milk tasted delightful on its own and it added a new dimension to the espresso. As for the espresso, it's brewed over a Nucleus Paragon. This small, metallic sphere helps the espresso to retain more volatile compounds.

I chose a Colombian thermal shock washed coffee from Dak, partly to contrast with my filter coffee. Edison kindly split the shot so I could try the coffee as an espresso too. The result? A delicious deconstructed latte. The vanilla and honey notes of the coffee tasted great as both an espresso and a mini flat white.

Occasionally, I hear people say that it's hard to find exciting and innovative speciality coffee openings in London these days. Those people should head to Nostos's experience bar to well and truly challenge those expectations! It's clear that Edison has put so much passion into Nostos. The attention to detail to every element is impressive, from the coffee menu and the brewing to the design and the customer service. My return journey to Nostos was as enjoyable as all my previous visits. And perhaps even more so.

Nostos Coffee. 6 Orchard Place, London, SW1H 0BF (Tube: St James's Park). Instagram.

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

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