Coffee culture: Hackney's quirky cafes

From launderettes to farm shops, here's a round up of Hackney's most unusual cafes

DO you remember when coffee in London meant a 50p polystyrene cup of UHT and Nescafe? It came in two varieties: tepid or scalding, and you could personalise your beverage by choosing three sugars or six.

Those days are long gone. There are now over 1,500 chain coffee shops in London, almost one third of the national total. One in three Londoners visit coffee shops on a daily basis compared with just 16 per cent nationally, and London now has more branches of Starbucks than any EU country, let alone city.

Only one of them, however, is in Hackney. Instead, independent cafes and coffee shops are thriving in the borough. Here’s our pick of the quirkiest, offering everything from board games to revolutionary philosophy. But no Nescafe. Sorry.


Trew Era Cafe

Russell Brand turned his sights from comedy to coffee in March, opening his own cafe in Hoxton. It’s aimed at 'people in abstinence-based recovery; but 'nutters and revolutionaries are especially welcome'. And, presumably, those hoping for a peek at a celebrity with their cappuccino or organic salad.  


'Everything is free, except the time you spend there'. The unusual pricing strategy at Ziferblat, Old Street, means customers must pick up an alarm clock on arrival and tot up their total according to a flat fee of five pence per minute. Guests then serve themselves from the coffee machine or kettle, and help themselves to complementary snacks (fruit and biscuits), the piano, record player and Wi-Fi. Proving you can, in fact, put a price on your time.   


Draughts (below) opened last year under a railway arch in Haggerston with a dream of 'spreading the joy of board gaming to everyone.' A £5 cover charge gives you access to their library of over 500 board games and entitles you to play as many as you want. Staff can teach you techniques, as well as serving up snacks with your snakes and ladders and craft beers with your checkers. 

CycleLab and Juice Bar

The CycleLab can be found on Pitfield Street, Hoxton, serving Square Mile's Red Brick coffee from their award-winning coffee roasting facility in East London. The cafe also offers a range of smoothies, breakfast bowls, cycling gear and bike repairs.  

Black Cat Cafe

The Black Cat, in Clapton, is one hundred per cent vegan, not for profit and co-operatively run. Their aim is to promote an ethical lifestyle, yet still be tasty and fairly priced. Furthermore, Wi-Fi is free ... it would almost be a sin not to indulge.



Once a derelict shop, 20 Dalston Lane is now, in its own words, 'the world's first urban farming hub - a workspace, cafe and events venue packed to the rafters with living and breathing food - literally a farm in a shop.' Across just 14 square metres of indoor and 12 square metres of outdoor space, they farm 80 Tilapia fish, raise two chickens, and grow their own lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and edible flowers. Sit amid the aqua and hydroponic systems (above) and eat some of the freshest sarnies in London.

Chatsworth Launderette

Claiming to be the first laundromat in London also serving freshly brewed coffee, The Lauderette is the very latest of Hackney’s quirky cafés, having opened just a week ago. Retro machines have been ‘upcycled’ into a bar while others remain fully functioning, so you can literally ‘air your dirty laundry in public’ while having a coffee and a natter.