It’s one of life’s simple pleasures — catching up with an old friend over coffee. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, and I decided to throw an added bonus into the mix and visit some of London’s finest social enterprise cafes. Here are a few places I can recommend if you’re looking for a mix of social impact and caffeine:
84b Lamb’s Conduit St WC1N 3LR (Russell Square)
- They roast specialty coffee at Aylesbury Prison, where they train young offenders in professional roasting and competition-level barista skills.
- Their coffee shop is on Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, just a couple of doors down from The People’s Supermarket. When I visited, they had empanadas, chickpea salads and grilled cheese toasties on offer to accompany the coffee. They also stock Belu Water, Karma Cola and Redemption Roasters t-shirts.
Social Pantry Café
170A Lavender Hill, SW11 5TG (Clapham Common, Wandsworth Road)
- Social Pantry serves up good coffee and great salad lunches from their café on Lavender Hill, right next to Battersea Arts Centre. The café is also available for private hire.
- They offer full-time and part-time employment positions and work tasters for young men on their first few weeks of release from prison.
Paper & Cup
18 Calvert Avenue, E2 7JP (Shoreditch High Street, Old Street)
- Think small and cosy rather than a place to meet a big group of friends. This café in the heart of Shoreditch was created by the Spitalfields Crypt Trust, an organisation that’s been helping the homeless in London for over 30 years. As well as a coffee, you can get soup, a sandwich or a cake.
- You can also browse their selection of second-hand books
Trew Era Café
34 Whitmore Road, N1 5QA (Haggerston)
- Trew Era Café on the New Era housing estate in Haggerston was opened by Russell Brand
- The café is now affiliated with Forward Trust and provides paid employment to people looking to break the often interlinked cycles of addiction or crime to move forward with their lives
Brixton Pound Cafe
77 Atlantic Road, SW9 8PU (Brixton)
- A pay-what-you-can café which also acts as a community hub with event space available for hire.
- The café uses surplus ingredients which would otherwise go to waste in its vegan and vegetarian meals
- As the name suggests it is also the headquarters for the Brixton Pound, a local currency which encourages local traders and customers to support each other. But don’t worry — they accept pounds sterling as well as Brixton pounds.
- All profits go towards the Brixon Fund, which makes small grants to support local grassroots causes.
A few other places to check out
I haven’t been to the following places lately (or ever) but they are certainly on my radar and should be on yours too.
139 Tooley Street, SE1 2HZ (London Bridge)
- A restaurant that also has an area for coffee/drinks
Café from Crisis
64 Commercial Street, E1 6LT (Aldgate East, Liverpool Street)
- A great place to get a bite to eat as well
Unity Kitchen Timber Lodge Cafe
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 1A Honour Lea Avenue E20 1DY (Stratford)
- Ideal for spring/summer with its outdoor tables and views but open all year round as far as I know
A final point
A final point. A blog is all well and good, but I’d love to see an app that makes it easier to find consumer-facing social enterprises. At this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum, Ben Gleisner of Conscious Consumers introduced CoGo, an app that is free to sign up to and helps you find businesses that share the same values as you. It is active in New Zealand and Ben wants to roll it out in the UK. Could that be the answer? Visit cogo.co to check it out.