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The Cult Of Monmouth Coffee

Queues that wrap around the block for a coffee?

Published on June 10th 2011.

The Cult Of Monmouth Coffee

MONMOUTH Coffee Company has a reputation that precedes its name. Tourists are advised to go there before they even step foot in the country whilst locals will happily queue down the street for a cup of coffee.

The queue outside the Monmouth Street shop on a dreary Wednesday afternoon says it all.

But why? The coffee isn’t fair-trade, nor is the company part of a multinational chain. What is special about the company is its high ethical values, organic coffee and finely sourced beans.

Founded in 1978 by Anita Le Roy, the company has grown from a basement in Covent Garden to have the original shop expanded. Another in Borough is open every day of the week and a roasting outlet opened in Bermondsey in 2007 also sells coffee at the weekly Maltby Street market.

It’s not a massive expansion for 33 years of business, but the queue outside the Monmouth Street shop on a dreary Wednesday afternoon says it all.

Monmouthcup.jpgWith three people waiting in line outside the shop and another dozen inside, the queue moves quickly. Once a foot is inside the door, visitors are greeted with a smile and asked for their order. Adorning one wall is a hanging blackboard with the different varieties of coffee and their prices.

It’s not scarily expensive, nor do customers feel pressured into buying anything else. Saying that, if they do, there are plenty of fine pastries and cakes to choose from. Sweet and savoury treats sit alongside each other on the counter whilst behind the waitresses are the beans. Distributed into bins, they add to the atmosphere whilst also allowing for beans to be bought by the bag.

On the bench outside, a city banker sits alongside a local shopkeeper. Asked why they choose Monmouth over competitors they reply in unison: “It’s just such a good quality”.

They’re not wrong either.

Monmouth staff travel around the globe visiting existing suppliers and sourcing new growers. With beans currently coming from Asia, Africa and Central and South America, they’ve certainly searched around. They’ve even gone to the extent to write a 100-odd word description of why each grower is so impressive in their newsletter.

Sourcing from single farms, estates and cooperatives, the team seek to establish a relationship between the grower and supplier to ensure everyone from the bean pickers to the shop customer is fully satisfied.

“It’s made me appreciate coffee more”, says Anna, an animator. She continues, “Since discovering the Borough shop on my cycle route I’ve gone out and bought beans and a grinder to make my own”.

Her view on the queues? “It depends. Normally it’s worth it, but the queues at Borough are getting ridiculous so I’ve simply learned to go earlier.”

Another regular is Judith. A teacher who works locally, she cycles for five minutes to get to the Covent Garden shop. Today she is trying the day’s speciality bean as a filter coffee. When asked if it’s the best in London she replies confidently with a smile “I don’t go anywhere else”.

That says it all really.



London locations:

Covent Garden

27 Monmouth Street
London WC2H 9EU


The Borough

2 Park Street
London SE1 9AB



34 Maltby Street
London SE1 3PA

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