We will defeat their prejudices about Croydon – one artisanal coffee at a time

By - Friday 12th June, 2015

Jonny Rose smells change in the air around Croydon’s independent coffee shops

Chez and Michael, owners of Crushed Bean.
Photo by Helen Alexander of Sharking For Chips And Drink, used with permission.

There is no better telltale sign of an area on the up than the arrival of a cool, independent coffee shop; the sort of place where students can be found sketching furiously in moleskin journals and freelancers set up their laptop work stations for the day.

Coffee as a lifestyle

Coffee helps us. It gets us out of bed, it raises our productivity and promotes creativity, it’s the driving force of conversations and the fuel for writers and coders.

But coffee is not just providing people with energy. It also ‘helps’ the city. Coffee culture has grown rapidly over the past decade and has become a major catalyst for urban development. This is not a revival of the ‘coffee houses’ that first emerged in Europe in the early 1600s, but rather it is a more complex phenomenon in which society and the economy coalesce with a strong connection to spatial dynamics.

The boundaries between social and professional life are fading. Business meetings are sometimes hard to distinguish from just hanging out or catching up, especially for smaller and more flexible businesses such as start-ups or ‘one man bands’. The fusion of professional and personal lives is the result of businesses and individuals becoming increasingly footloose within the confines of their city, making so-called ‘third places’ (places other than the house or the office) integral for both work and social purposes.

Coffee also has a status value: we are willing to pay more for fancy-named, exotically flavoured or artisan brewed coffee, partly because we like the product, but also because we like to relate ourselves – our identity – to the product or the experience.

Forget Starbucks, Costa and Caffè Nero

Several years ago, the hip thing to consume was Starbucks. Now, there is a noticeable shift towards more artisan coffees, strict brewing rituals and freshly baked cookies and cakes in small-scale and cozy coffee bars with vintage and ingenious interiors.

Croydon’s independent coffee shops aren’t just a pleasant amenity – they are a statement of intent that says that Croydon can and will be better

These new types of coffee bars are generally situated in places away from the high street – they cannot afford high-end rents as they are often start-ups run by young people whose clientele is the type that intentionally eschews the offerings of the identikit British high street. Whatever the exact composition of the clientele may be, many like living in neighbourhoods in transition or cannot afford to live in ‘better’ neighbourhoods. Exactly the gamut of lived experience that can be found in a rapidly changing Croydon.

Join the resistance – support your local independent coffee shop

A new coffee shop has just opened in Croydon – it’s called Crushed Bean. It’s opposite Black Sheep Bar, right in front of Davis House. Every morning the owners Chezlov and Michael leave their homes in East London at 5:30am for a 7am start. Crushed Bean closes at 7pm. Their commitment to the area shows that they’re serious about coffee and that they’re serious about Croydon’s potential.

Committed to Croydon.
Photo by Helen Alexander of Sharking For Chips And Drink, used with permission.

They’re not the only ones: Croydon is increasingly becoming home to a myriad of hip, self-aware coffee shops that are importing and serving the best quality beans, with care and panache.

From Yeha Noha to Matthews Yard to Cafe Adagio to Smooth Bean: Croydon’s independent coffee shops aren’t just a pleasant amenity – they are a statement of intent. The presence of these coffee shops say that Croydon can and will be better. So: join the resistance – support your local independent coffee shop with your custom. Zealously encourage other people to use them, too. Good things only happen and stay in Croydon if you support them.

When trying to gauge the direction of a city’s growth, simply follow the aroma of coffee. Wake up and smell the coffee: Croydon is on the up.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Anne Giles

    I must try that one. I just hope their single espressos are not just a couple of teaspoons of coffee in a cup. I have no idea where Davis House or the Black Sheep Bar are, but will Google those.

  • Noz

    Crystal Palace is part Croydon, part Bromley, part Lambeth, part independent state and we have a serious coffee habit going on!

  • Abhi T

    And the gentrification begins!

    • Stephen Giles

      Good news!

  • Stephen Giles

    “The boundaries between social and professional life are fading” – not at all in the Accountancy profession, I must say. Whether the end product be a set of accounts, tax return or simply avoiding as much tax as possible for our clients, it involves good old fashioned slog – which I should imagine could be totally alien to the coffee swilling trendies!!!

  • Andrew Dickinson

    Good article Jonny. Pretty soon I hope to be collecting up all that extra waste coffee grounds and growing delicious, healthy Cr’Oyster mushrooms on it.

  • NeilB

    Have Chezlov and Michael thought of moving to Croydon. Even with all that coffee a 5:30 start must be hard.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      Hi Neil,

      Yes, they have – they’re just finding it hard to find a flatshare. Every time they spot one, it gets snapped up quickly!

      Apparently, Croydon is a popular place to move to now – perhaps because of coffee shops like this ;)

    • Reena

      I was going to say the same. Nothing support more the local economy than living here (and not going back to Hackney or wherever at the end of the day)

  • MrsBTejon

    Waitrose, a thriving surrey street market, now coffee shops. yay.

  • Reena

    I have seen this shop when passing by but for some reason I never get myself to go in. It looks a bit sad :/
    Smoothbean is great though! the best flat white I have had in Croydon (sorry Bobsky)

  • John Cartwright

    You write “opposite Black Sheep Bar, right in front of Davis House” as if you think I know where that is. If you want me to “support it with my custom” (translation: go and buy something), it might help if you told us where it is. Incidentally, I didn’t know that coffee “gets us out of bed”; I thought we had to get out of bed first in order to get the coffee from the cupboard. Or, in this case, from a shop. Anyway, I am a bourgeois… a littérateur… a flâneur… a saloniste… there is no word in English. I might even try it, just in case. If I can find it.

  • Bridge 2 Hospitality

    A Solid Social Grounding in Coffee
    Good coffee and where to find it in Croydon is the flavour of the summer this year – and rightly so because we do have a great number of independent coffee shops across the borough.

    It is true that the ‘boundaries between social and professional life are fading’ and there is a fusion between our personal and professional lives. But there is also the fusion between the professional and social in the emergence of social enterprises using and selling coffee for good – and I am not just talking about buying Fairtrade coffee.

    We Walk The Line CIC based in Hackney http://wewalktheline.org help NEETs, the homeless and ex-offenders start their own business through coaching them to become qualified baristas and give them use of their own pedal powered coffee stall.

    Second Shot http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/introducing-the-coffee-shop-that-hopes-to-give-homeless-people-a-second-shot–WyZ8Sg0b3Mg, a new social enterprise cafe venture by a final year UCL student aims to help the homeless off the street and train them to become baristas and have a better way of life. They also plan to have additional street based services to help the homeless as well as a pay it forward system where you can pay for a coffee for someone less fortunate.

    Well Grounded @WellGroundedHQ is a social enterprise providing barista training to young people and is currently training their first cohort.

    Moving a bit closer to home, in the Croydon borough stretching up to Crystal Palace, the social enterprise Living Water Satisfies http://www.livingwatersatisfies.org.uk/cafe runs a cafe serving various coffees and food (including a delicious curried goat) to help empower and support victims of domestic abuse.

    From their unit in Keeley Road and the newly opened Wandle Park cafe, social enterprise Mum’s the Chef http://www.mumsthechef.com serves a variety of coffees and fare to local park users, office workers and joggers through training and employing minority ethnic women as chefs.

    And with all these coffee shops springing up, if you were starting to worry about all the used up coffee grounds going to fill up the waste system, there is social enterprise Green Croydon http://greencroydon.co.uk who collect used coffee grounds to grow their own crops of oyster mushrooms which they then sell to local restaurants and cafes.

    So if Croydon is likely to follow in the footsteps of East London ‘gentrification’ through its coffee and independent cafe culture, we also have the opportunity and choice to satisfy our need for a caffeine fix – even a latte has some caffeine – by helping our own local social entrepreneurs help our local community.

    Surely that is a product or experience that we would like to relate and associate ourselves with.