I love the tiny specialist shops in London that have been here for years, selling to generations of customers beneath the same shop sign. They're getting harder to find, so I got very excited when I discovered The Camden Coffee Shop yesterday.
I'd noticed the gorgeous original shopfront a couple of times but presumed it was a hipster coffee bar as it's on Delancey Street, right in the thick of Camden Town. But no, as I ventured closer I started to get excited. It looked like a dusty old coffee merchants.
Opening the shonky old door, the first thing I noticed were the old roasters. Do they actually roast the coffee in the tiny shop? The thickly coffee scented air confirmed that hale yes, they do.
My tiny brain went into excitement overdrive as I noticed George the shopkeeper in his grocer's coat, filling up paper packages of coffee behind his scales. I asked if I could take photos and he gave me a smiley nod.
The customer in front of me noticed I had my camera out and also started taking pictures. He was a regular, buying coffee to take home to his parents in Iran and wanted to show them where he bought the coffee he was always rambling on about. George tipped the scales to give him a little bit extra.
When it was my turn, I asked George what I should get. He asked how I liked my coffee and when I said strong he asked, 'Strong-strong or medium-strong?' I imagined he probably wouldn't be messing around in terms of strong-strong so I opted for medium-strong. He said, 'Let's see how you get on with this and we can decide again next time'. He gave me Costa Rican beans, straight out of the roasting tray.
I asked how he chose which coffee to sell in the shop and he looked at me as though I was mad and said, 'I just sell the best.' There are sacks of coffee along one side of the shop and six or seven tubs in front of the scales. You can blend the beans, if you are fancy like that.
The coffee roaster is 85 years old, George's family have run the shop for 50 years and he has worked there for 27 years, six days a week. These are some good stats to have behind your morning cup of coffee. George drinks at least 6 cups of coffee per day. He wouldn't be drawn on what the maximum number of cups he might drink is. But here are his coffee drinking tips: never drink on an empty stomach and always have a glass of water with it, as it is a strong diuretic.
I am a slave to coffee and can't wait to try my beans but it's the newspaper strewn, old-fashioned balance book and weighing-scales charm of the place that has me smitten. Camden Coffee Shop is another place to add to my list of places that I worry might one day close. I know George and I have only just met but would it be weird if I asked if I could take his shop over when he retires? I wouldn't change a thing.
The Camden Coffee Shop, 11 Delancey Street, NW1. Call 020 7387 4080.