Chancery Coffee, Chancery Lane

August 20, 2013

The Chancery Lane area is old. It’s really very old. In fact, as a former medievalist, I get quite excited thinking about things like Chancery English, which was, in some ways, the beginnings of standard orthography and grammar. I know, right? But I digress.

How arty is this shot?

How arty is this shot?

The Lane itself takes its name from the Chancery, the body that for hundreds of years ran the rule over laws of equity, trusts, guardianship and other various exciting matters. The area still has a deep and established bond with the legal profession, and its architecture bespeaks the grandeur of that august employment (and, perhaps it’s fair to say, its tendency towards the self-regarding). It is also a border area between the City of London and London London, essentially the London Borough of Camden, and the change undergone while walking down it is still tangible, moving from the helter-skelter of the Holborn area to the more sedate but serious feeling of the legal part of the City.

But there is, among the oldness, something new and exciting and even, but whisper it, modern, on Chancery Lane and that is Chancery Coffee.

The house blend. Couldn't fit the other's name on the grinder.

The house blend. Couldn’t fit the other’s name on the grinder.

Part of the Coffeesmiths Collective, this vibrant and snug café is tucked into a building two thirds of the way down the Lane towards the City, a sort of blink and you’ll miss it size, but if you do, you will be missing a treat. The coffee is excellent. I first had a Hasbean single origin, the rather wordy El Salvador Finca Argentina Fincona 2 Tablon Pulped Natural Bourbon, or just the El Salvador Orange and White, to use its less cumbersome soubriquet. It is a zesty, citrusy burst of fun and works superbly as an espresso, though I suspect it would be even better as a short black. The shot was beautifully made too and all in all, it was a total treat. I then had a piccolo made with the Coffeesmiths house blend, a mixture of Ethiopian Sidamo, Brazilian Daterra, and Kenyan AA, and enjoyed it almost as much (no reflection on the blend – I just thought the Hasbean was super fly). The piccolo was creamy and cocoa-y and made very well indeed. I also learned that you can have the feature espresso, or guest espresso, “both ways”, which is not an engagingly flirtatious invitation but a brilliant tasting device/deal: you get it as a single shot and a piccolo, thereby showing that it’s not only me who thinks that combination is the truest way to discern a coffee’s quality.

The sign. It's very red.

The sign. It’s very red.

The café itself is small, but it is as full of life as the Hasbean single origin. There is a strong red theme and bright, bold logos adorn the sign outside. There is, of course, a preponderance of exposed brick and drop lighting, but I’ve long since given up holding that against places and in fairness to Chancery, they don’t have much space to work with. There isn’t a loo, which could be mildly annoying, but my guess is that they cater mostly for on-rushing legal types and so that probably doesn’t matter greatly to most of their customers.

What I really loved though, and it’s something upon which I have been harping for a while now, was the ambience and, most importantly to me, the customer service. I think, in fact, customer service is a rather stale term for it, because when it manifests itself best, as it did at Chancery Coffee, it’s too good a thing to carry such a banal moniker. When the baristas had made coffee for customers, drink in or take away, they bounded round the edge of the bar to hand them over, always managing to say something other than “Um here’s your coffee”. The barista who made my coffees, and was generally lovely, chatted to me about the featured espresso, told me about the “both ways” thing, and generally exuded an interest in and enjoyment of what she was doing that spoke volumes. And this was not the fake, may-I-write-your-name-on-a-cup bollocks, but a genuine passion for making and talking about good coffee.

The Hasbean has been, and gone. Now, the piccolo...

The Hasbean has been, and gone. Now, the piccolo…

I’ve written recently, and indeed not so recently, about how coffee is a drink of interaction, and here it served, even briefly, as a medium for contact between the two baristas and me, and between them and other customers. Even if the coffee had been watery ash, and it most assuredly was not, I still would have left feeling energised by being the experience as much as by the caffeine. In an increasingly busy and dissociated world, I firmly believe that having an excitable chat about a cup of coffee, or a book or a band or whatever, with someone you’ve never met before can be one of the most rewarding and bridging experiences. It’s something that is impossible to fake and when you find it, it can make a simple cup of coffee so much better. So go out and find it. You could do a lot worse than starting down Chancery Lane.

Chancery Coffee, 90 Chancery Lane, WC2A 1DT

Website with details

Also on Twitter: @ChanceryCoffee

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8 Responses to “Chancery Coffee, Chancery Lane”

  1. duncan Says:

    I’ve only visited here a couple of times. Last time I nipped in for a takeaway latte, and noticed how exuberantly friendly the staff were. Good write-up!


  2. I’ve walked past a couple of times, but have not had the chance to stop. Clearly something I shall have to rectify!

  3. Yahooey Says:

    The place and the coffee sounds nice though it sounds like taking my time to enjoy it may be difficult. A place serving a diuretic without a loo is a problem for me.


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