Since the emergence of the coffeehouse in the 16th century Ottoman empire, drinking a cup of coffee has been a social and not merely culinary experience. Like their modern day counterparts, coffeehouse denizens went to see friends and hear the latest gossip just as much as they went to get a cup coffee. With the invention of wifi, cafes have been further transformed into study and office spaces.
But at Sensory Lab, London’s latest go-to coffee shop, it’s just about the coffee.
Seating is limited at Sensory Lab- so limited there’s not a seat that’s too far away to chat with a barista. The result is that it’s hard for a dine-in customer to not learn something about the coffee they’re drinking, whether it be an espresso roasted by St. Ali or a filter coffee by Square Mile or Hasbean. I grabbed a seat at the slow bar and followed my typical tasting routine: espresso, cappuccino, filter coffee.
The espresso, the current blend from their sister shop St. Ali, was the best shot I had in London. Unfortunately I didn’t have a pen handy to take tasting notes- but it was tasty. It also was really good in milk and I was glad to finally get a proper cappuccino – not just a flat white. (Admittedly, the difference between Sensory’s caps and flat whites are tulips and rosettas respectively.)
Next I had a pour-over of the El Salvador La Ilusion from Hasbean coffee. Even though it was set up for Chemex with a Kone filter, one of the baristas, Tom, took the time to dial it in on V60 (because 500ml is a lot for one person). On the third try the extraction was perfect and I could taste why this coffee was used by the current World Barista Champion. It was incredibly sweet with a lot of fruit notes balanced by a mild acidity. It would not be hyperbolic to say it’s one of the better cups of coffee I’ve ever had.
So if you’re in London and you’re looking for great coffee (and not much else) Sensory Lab is the place to go. You’ll meet some skilled baristas who like to talk shop and are making great coffee from the UK’s best roasters with some of the best equipment on the market. If it’s not the best cup of coffee you’ve had- it will be close.