A few years ago I finally made it to Flat White in Soho. Flat White is credited with being one of the UK’s first Australian/Kiwi style coffee shops that have now become popular, even ubiquitous in some cities. Opening in 2005, Flat White marked the coming to these shores of artisan, independent coffee shops that we now know as ‘third wave’ coffee shops. This meant that it was worth a visit for a coffee-fiend such as I during a mooch around Soho one afternoon.
More than this, I was interested in the Anitpodean connection between this unassuming coffee shop and the rise of independent coffee shops in the UK. Legend has it that the Lord of The Rings trilogy hooverd up lots of visual effects artists for several years, living in and around New Zealand and learning to love the artisanal, independent coffee shops they visitied during production. Following the completion of The Return of the King in 2003 the visual effects artists moved on to other projects, with many moving to the visual effects studios in London that were clustered around Shaftesbury Avenue. Studios like Double Negative were working on the Harry Potter and Batman film series around the time that Flat White opended just round the corner in Soho. These visual effects artists who’d developed a taste for atisanal coffee whilst working on Lord of the Rings in New Zealand were a match made in heaven for one the UK’s first antipodean, artisanal coffee shops.
I have no idea if this legend is 100% accurate or 100% false. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. What interested me most was that coffee shops can often have a real sense of ‘place’ at a particular point in time. Flat White marks the beginning of ‘third wave’ coffee becoming popular in the UK, and its success was tied to all sorts of things going on in Soho, and London more broadly, at the time. I’ve decided to explore some of the coffee shops that I’ve enjoyed drinking at over the years and the places they’ve served, in a series of posts called ‘Coffee Places’. First up will be Prufrock in Shoreditch.