Algerian Coffee Stores, London (Soho)

Wake up and smell the Maragogype Elephant Beans

The Italian and I stood for quite some time with our noses pressed to the window peering in at all the different samples of coffee beans and tea leaves displayed in little bowls. We marvelled at their weird and wonderful names, Guatemala Huehuetenango, Maragogype Elephant Beans and Nicaragua La Illusion SC20, Russian Caravan, Puerh Bird Nests and Kenya Bop, which sounded like the title of one of my ‘70s African funk albums.

The Algerian Coffee Stores on Soho’s Old Compton Street is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave for lovers of coffee and tea. It first opened its doors in 1887. When we visited, 123 years later, they were still busy. There was a constant stream of people entering and leaving the place, we had to edge our way in.

Algerian Coffee StoresInside the cramped shop, along with a delicious smell, we found a lot of the original features; the wooden shelves along the walls, the original wooden counter and display cases. The staff were busy helping customers choose from over 80 coffees and 120 teas from around the world, as well as their amazing selection of confectionery – figgy, fruity things, marzipan, chocolate-covered coffee beans, confectionery from South America, six different kinds of Turkish Delight from the Middle East, liquorice, mints and chocolate as well as hot chocolate, cocoa…

The Algerian Coffee Store also sells an impressive range of coffee grinders and coffee making machines. I always use beans when I make coffee, I like to grind the beans myself, I love the whole ritual. And the smell that’s released when coffee beans are ground is just fantastic, it gets my nostrils all of a quiver and shouting ‘Yessss, let’s party!’ – in my humble opinion it’s up there with the smell of onions frying and Miss Dior.

Coffee makers & machinesI was tempted by one of the manual grinders; my electric one goes just too fast for life in the slow lane and makes way too much noise first thing in the morning. It’s just not manual enough. Had I been in the market for a cafetiere, a Napoletana, a Russian copper Ibrick or a Turkish coffee pot they would have been able to oblige me. In the end I settled for a replacement rubber seal for my well-used traditional Italian Moka aluminium coffee maker, not an easy thing to find, I’d been hunting one down for a long time.

If you visit there, sample a cup of their coffee, just as long as you don’t mind drinking it whilst standing in the shop. Or, if you prefer, you can take it away. You’ll never go to Starbucks ever again.

Algerian Coffee Stores, Soho, London

52 Old Compton Street

Tel: 020 7437 2480

We'd love to know what you think