Coffee Coalition: Coffee Retail

Courtesy of Penny University

Coffee bars are popping up in retail environments and creating new experiences surrounding coffee. Companies are looking for new ways to create consumer focused retail experiences which live up to and go beyond the expectations of todays informed customer. This new focus on the in-store experience brings about the collaboration of like-minded brands into one store by combining with complementary services to enhance the customer experience.

Prufrock Coffee at Present

140 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JE

Prufrock Coffee is a small coffee concession within a menswear store called Present, located on Shoreditch High Street. A strange combination, but an appealing one when the coffee being served is of the best quality and the clothes are on-trend.

Prufrock is the brainchild of Gwilym Davies who is one of the reigning world barista champions. The coffee bar serving Square Mile coffee, is one of the best suppliers of coffee and equipment. The store is all about the coffee, the clothes and its quality. The store doesn’t have seats as it isn’t a café but you can sit on the bench outside the shop if you’re looking to relax.

The collaboration of clothes store and coffee shop means that this venture is perfect for customers looking for on trend menswear which you will find at Present, and some of the best coffee in East London. Prufrock brings in the customers equally to the clothes on offer. This augmentation of the core offer from Present creates a one-stop convenience store, with the coffee bar adding value to the shopping experience and so creating store loyalty.  An interesting feature of the coffee store is a ‘dis-loyalty’ card, where you will obtain stamps for drinking at other east end coffee institutions in return receiving a free coffee from Prufrock.

Penny University

4 Redchurch Street, E2 7DJ

Penny University is a venture from Square Mile Coffee and James Hoffmann. The title refers to the eighteenth century London coffee houses,which were alternative centres of learning and they served nothing but filter coffee. Penny University calls itself a retail outlet. It acts as an education store for customers wanting to find out what really good coffee is about and have the opportunity to buy the equipment and coffee to make it.

Inside the store is a reclaimed wood counter with just six stools, and there is no takeaway. The menu always consists of three changing coffee varieties and a suggestion of what chocolates from William Curley will complement each one.

Brewing methods are listed with technical information – ‘TCA-2 syphon, 230ml’. Using a bespoke Marco grinder and boiled water which is served at accuracy to a tenth of a degree, electronic scales and a stopwatch are used for every cup. All coffee is served black with no option of milk or sugar to taint the specific brews of coffee served.

The enthusiasm and precision of the staff which is observed at the Penny University, as they brew and pour every cup of coffee with unique expertise is definitely the new coffee experience. You can follow Penny University on twitter to keep up to date with which coffee they have brewing for you each day.


Located in central Hackney is a café that opened in 2009 and has developed quite a following.  Wilton’s is a creative place housing exhibitions from local artists which fill the walls whilst the booth in the corner houses London Fields Radio, adding a unique experience and quirky dimension to this coffee shop. Hosting shows from Rough Trade and Nina Smetek.

Wilton’s is an innovative space mixing new and vintage furniture and materials. A corrugated steel bar proudly houses their La Marzocco, whilst reclaimed crates have been customised with wheels for use as movable tables or seats. Low hung lights create a bright ambiance along with the large sash windows.

The coffee is provided by expert baristas using locally roasted beans courtesy of Climpson and Sons. They also use produce from some of the best artisan suppliers such as Neals Yard Dairy, Brindisa and Ginger Pig.


5 responses to “Coffee Coalition: Coffee Retail

  1. I tried to get a coffee at Penny University with a friend a couple of Sundays ago. Five of the six stools were occupied, and the staff whimpered helplessly in the face of this difficulty – no suggestion we might wait, no effort to find another seat or offer that one of us might stand. The staff weren’t actively unhelpful; just not at all helpful. We went elsewhere.

    I can understand that projecting an air of exclusivity is good for business; excluding paying customers – not so much.

    By the way, I’m extremely fussy about my coffee, but that doesn’t stop me preferring it with milk.

  2. PS I believe Gwilym Davies’s reign as world barista champion ended a month ago. But he still makes good coffee.

  3. Robert, that’s unfortunate that you didn’t get to try it. It was a concept store to educate people about coffee, not necessarily a money making venture. The people serving in the top pic, James Hoffman World Barista Champ 2007, and Tim Styles all-round guru, are under the pump as far as the brewing methods, the quality of the coffee used, and the skill they require to get the best result. Knowing them, they are super nice guys. I believe that photo was taken by 2006 World champ Klaus Thompson. Incidentally, the asian guy there is me, and my mate Chris next to me.

    On a side; to put milk with the coffees presented here in the way they are prepared would be a sin, no if’s or but’s.

  4. We Are Your Studio .com

    We thought it was an absolute experience to witness the Barista’s at Penny University. Such a shame that you did not get the opportunity to have a talk with them Robert. It was as if we were at a fine wine tasting experience, for the Barista talked us through everything from where the beans were picked to how long a perfect cup of coffee should stand for it to reach the ideal temperature.

  5. We Are Your Studio .com

    PS Because we had been there before and could not be seated, James was so kind as to invite us all for a free cup of coffee the next time we popped by.

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