Association’s baristas produce exquisitely crafted coffee - easily ranking amongst the capital’s best. Their skill and dedication to quality is apparent in each cup. Serving beans from Square Mile, Workshop and guest roasters on a Synesso or along the impressive brew bar, the staff attracts an interesting mix of coffee connoisseurs. Indeed, Association is perhaps unusual in that both buttoned-up bankers and trendy East Londoners find themselves at home. Regardless of their interests, visitors find themselves admiring the remarkable latte art and impressive interior design.
The cafe design - by Melbourne-based Herbert & Mason - is one of London’s most striking. The unusual dark olive rubber surface of the bar retreats into subdued lighting, creating a spartan atmosphere which is neatly parallelled by the baristas’ no-nonsense approach to coffee. The designers of the cafe sought to respond to both the original character of The Old Tea Warehouse, which houses Association, and the ever-shifting City surrounding it. The exposed brick and steel frame of the warehouse is thus juxtaposed with the aforementioned rubber surfaces alongside geometrically designed furniture and table tops. The design, despite its allure, manages to support rather than distract from the coffee experience.
In the morning, the cafe serves a simple yet tasty breakfast menu along with a variety of pastries and treats throughout the day from artisan bakers such as Bittersweet, Little Bread Peddler and St John Bakery. Sandwiches are freshly produced for lunch with meats from the Food Collective and cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy. As the quality of the suppliers suggest, everything is thoughtfully produced and delicious.
The arrival of The Association: City of London Coffee Project marked a turning point in London’s cafe scene. The level of quality displayed here firmly places specialty coffee in the upper echelons of London’s now world renowned food culture. Association has in many respects raised the bar but more importantly it has offered a new vision of an independent coffee shop - one in which quality is utterly uncompromised.
Review by Derek Lamberton, photo by Jeffrey Long.Tweet