Colombian Coffee Company – Avoiding the Chains in London – Part 1

London in 2019 is not the city of my youth. Like so many other cities, there are countless chains selling food and drink. The advantage of dining at a chain is that you know exactly what you will get. The disadvantage of dining at chain is that you know exactly what you will get.  However, even in a city full of McDonalds, Pret a Manger, and Starbucks; there are alternatives. You can avoid the chain restaurants. Moreover, based on my experiences on a recent visit to London, you should do so.

This is the first of three articles that look at non-chain alternatives.


That great and oft quoted sage, Anonymous said: “Here’s to all the people who remain unharmed because I have coffee and a sense of humour” . I cannot start my day without coffee. Despite that fundamental need, I care about the flavour of the coffee I drink. I will, in extermis drink any coffee (other than Folgers). However, I appreciate the complexity of coffee – my default prepeartion is black and unsweetened. If milk is added, it should be a splash – unless I need to drown poorly roasted beans. 

In the UK, there are two other ubiquitous chains as well as the Seattle behemoth. They are Caffè Nero and Costa Coffee. The former is the least bland of the trio. In Southwark, is a place that offers a superior alternative.

Colombian Coffee Company

The Colombian Coffee Company has its roastery at Arch 34, Union Street. The Arch address refers to it sitting in an arch under a railway line. The shop is long and narrow, with the espresso machine, the grinder, and the till at the front. The roaster sits at the back, with a few tables filling the meager space between. 

Their website bears the slogan: “Beyond Fairtrade”. Etched on the door is the legend: “Ethical Caffeine”. These slogans translate into action. They purchase single origin beans and pay above market price. If knowing that paying enough for your coffee to ensure that the growers can earn a living wage is not motivation enough, there is more. 

The board behind the barista has two columns. One lists Columbian styles of coffee, the other the more familiar Italian styles. On the counter sit labelled jars of coffee beans. On my first visit, I asked for the Colombian style  closest to the Machiatto. I wanted a short drink with just a splash of milk. The barista’s suggestion was a Pintado. This word means “painted” in Spanish; while macchiato is Italian for marked.  She then asked which bean I wanted. She provided a quick description of the flavour profiles. I went with Typica which has a honey and caramel aftertaste. The resulting drink was complex; a beverage to sip and savour.


The cost of a cup from the Colombian Coffee Company is higher than from the chains. Those extra pennies are easy to justify spending. Not only are you supporting the farmers who grow the product, but you are drinking a superior beverage. If you are in the UK, you can have beans delivered to you. 

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