Biggsy Travels

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Only “independent” coffee shops for a month?

For the whole of September I only bought coffee from small independents. So no Starbucks, no Costa Coffee and no Neros … and so on! The initial idea for this came when my girlfriend Claire and I had a delicious ‘flat white’ from Campervan Coffee Company in the garden of Hitchin’s Vic pub back in the Spring, but it took me until September to go fully “independent” once I’d stumbled across an Instagram image bigging up visiting small businesses rather than lining the pockets of another multi millionaire CEO.

The Midweek Mercury Newspaper Article

The Midweek Mercury Newspaper Article

My hometown of Hitchin is a delightful little market town in the UK with many independent coffee outlets so there was plenty to choose from there. More about Hertfordshire’s Hitchin from Hornblower Travels. A few tweets even caught the attention of the local Hertfordshire Midweek Mercury newspaper with my exploits making it to the top of page 12.

The Inspirational Instagram Sign

The Inspirational Instagram Sign

During the week I work in Clerkenwell, which has the biggest concentration of design agencies in the world, meaning I was spoilt for choice there too. Within 100 metres was Workshop, Timberyard and my favourite lunchtime haunt Look Mum No Hands. However within 30 metres are Costa, Pret and Starbucks which is where 95% of the office dive in to … as do I …. usually.

Look Mum No Hands Bike Cafe

The Look Mum No Hands Bike Cafe

So what can you learn after a month of avoiding the tax avoiders? 😉

  1. You get to sample so many more flavours from the many different bean varieties stocked by the independent traders.
  2. It feels good when you support a small business and it gives you a warm feeling inside: in this case literally.
  3. You’re tasting “proper” coffee.
  4. Sometimes you may want “some coffee with your coffee” with cup sizes being on the small size compared to a sizeable grandé from Starbucks! But then that’s the great thing about having the choice. When you fancy a large coffee just grab that grandé Starbucks instead.
  5. Value for money isn’t necessarily about the amount of coffee you receive though. One establishment worked out to be 3x more expensive than a Starbucks latté per ml but if you’re getting over 3x the enjoyment in nicer surroundings then it’s money well spent.
  6. Purposely grabbing a coffee most days for the month turned into an expensive little exercise but it gave me a much better idea of what I like and where my favourite places are.
  7. After a while I had to walk further and further to find new places so at that point I simply ended up going back to a few shops repeatedly, but then that’s how you become a regular somewhere.
  8. Oh and “independents” pay their taxes of course!
HandleBar Coffee Shop

HandleBar Coffee Shop

So favourite coffees in my little experiment? Well to be honest I enjoy coffee so I loved all of them. However I did like the flat whites from ‘The Handlebar’ in Kinetic Cycles (Hitchin), ‘Campervan Coffee Co‘ (Hitchin) and ‘Look Mum No Hands‘ (London) as they’re the ones I just happen to go to most frequently.

What next? I might keep it going and do my best to grab an “independent” coffee when I have the choice. The coffees I sampled certainly tasted better and were often served better too … and that’s all part of the caffeine experience!

The coffee shops visited as part of this little “independent” exercise were:


  1. I love this idea! I don’t drink coffee but I do a similar thing with hot chocolate, especially when the weather gets colder! I often find the independents are a lot richer and creamier and although they might not have the selection, the quality is often a lot better and the surroundings have more personality which is something I really like! Hopefully you found some new favourite places 🙂

  2. Hey Steve,

    I found this post through your twitter, and I was super curious. The outcome, for a big city of London, is not that surprising actually, but surely it takes a lot of effort to find those places!
    Is this Instagram quote about local shopping from you? I’d love to share this one on my blog!

    All the best,

    • Hi Matt – not sure where that Instagram quote first came from but it’s been used in a lot of places since. I love the idea that it helps buys some niceties for a family somewhere 🙂

  3. You need to include Cornish Hearts in your next Hitchin coffee taste test. Good coffee, but ask for ‘what Anthony has’ – if Shen (the owner) is in, and you’ll probably find it’s the best in town….

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