Maybe it’s a Millennial thing, but growing up watching Friends, has left a generation in search of a Central Perk café to call their own. For many, the epitome of successful “adulting” was being able to roll up to a friendly second home and be greeted by staff who always remembered their order before heading to a sofa to hang out with mates for hours on end.
Whilst adulthood turned out to require more working than Ross, Rachel and the gang led many of us to believe, the coffee shop trend that kicked off in the 90s is still going strong (fuelled by the flexible working culture which has seen increasing numbers of cafes turn into mini workspaces).
Here in Croydon, there are a wealth of independent coffee spots to call on when in need of a caffeine fix, a change of scene or just a friendly familiar face.
On a grey, early morning on the High Street, Crushed Bean is a beacon of light for early starters.
As the day rolls on, a smiling Pam welcomes a who’s who of local Creatives. The sub-terranean space on the lower ground floor provides an informal meet up spot to chat ideas.
While sipping on Clifton Coffee cappuccinos and flicking through newspapers, you might overhear (ok, listen in on) conversations between exuberant stylists and slightly more restrained marketeers in a tug of war over style versus budget. Or you might come across “content creators” updating their Instagram feeds with coffee and croissant flat lays.
On our last visit we watched a woman in leggings and rolled-up yoga mat under her arm, order avocado on toast while a beanie wearing bearded man purchased a flat white. The world may have been through unprecedented change, but it was comforting to see a certain demographic still embracing their stereotypes.
81 High St, Croydon CR0 1QE
If you’re not watching the clock (see what we did there) then Clocktower Café is an excellent place to while away some time.
The vaulted glass ceiling enables an impressive amount of light to pour into the space – the ideal atmosphere in which to admire the large collection of artworks hanging from the walls.
Certain corners provide the perfect suntrap so you can enjoy some vitamin D alongside your caffeine fix.
Housed within the arts and museum complex on Katherine Street, the café also serves up a small à la carte hot menu every day. So, if you need some time out, head to the Clocktower for coffee and contemplation.
9 Katharine St, Croydon CR9 1ET
Mr Tinto aka Francisco marches to the beat of his own (Colombian) drum. And we’re happy to dance along to it.
When he started his business (selling coffee from a bike outside of East Croydon Station) he wanted to pay homage to the community that raised him and taught him that coffee was more than just an energising drink.
His desire to shed light on traditions that are passed from generation to generation, on farmers who hand pick beans to support their families and on the impact of mass production (including pollution, wasteful packaging, rainforest destruction, and human exploitation) is what continues to drive him today. The Mr Tinto ethos ensures there’s no bitter taste left after purchase (both literally and metaphorically).
In addition to his roastery, Mr Tinto now serves up coffee at three locations (Caithness Walk by East Croydon station, West Croydon Interchange, The Little Coffee Shop in South Croydon).
Caithness Walk, Croydon CR0 9XF
If you’re looking for a change of scene to get your head down and laptop up, Earthy Coffee is a great spot.
It’s a café of two halves (or rather, two levels). Upstairs, the high stool seating is ideal for those who just want a quick place to perch and enjoy their Allpress Espresso. But for those in work mode, downstairs is a better bet. The spacious room comfortably accommodates a range of table sizes (with a six-seater at the front often commandeered for informal meetings).
Despite WFH being the new normal and many venues now actively encouraging laptoppers (with plug sockets, wi-fi and free refills) we still harbour a mild sense of guilt when working in cafes. But downstairs, a solid distance from the main counter, the pressure to order another coffee the moment the final drop is gone is removed.
Away from the squealing of milk frothers, this independent café offers a calm and down to earth(y) workspace.
31 George St, Croydon CR0 1LB
Having first set up in the aftermath of the 2012 riots as a place to foster community, Matthew’s Yard is a much-loved local institution.
Originally located on the cobblestoned Mathew’s Yard just off Surrey Street, the business has gone through several iterations over the last decade including a move to (and subsequent return from) West Croydon.
Saif and the team are now back home in the heart of “Croydon Old Town” and well underway with Matthews Yard 3.0. The tweaked concept runs as both an affordable members co-working space (complete with soft play area) and a cafe that is open to all.
Like many of the ideas that have been born within Matthews Yard, it’s a creative and innovative one. We hope it works.
Unit 1, 6 Scarbrook Rd, Croydon CR0 1UH