I was pleased to hear when TAP — the speciality coffee company formerly known as Tapped & Packed — opened a fourth location across the road from verdant Russell Square late last summer. It’s relatively close to my office in King’s Cross — definitely doable on a lunch break — but it took me until last week to visit. The second TAP, a small, quirky coffee bar at the northern end of Tottenham Court Road, was an early favourite of mine as both London and I began to discover speciality coffee. It didn’t quite make my first London coffee guide, but I did include it in the second version in 2012.
Aesthetically, the Russell Square branch is very similar to Tottenham Court Road, albeit on a larger scale. The spacious café has a long wooden table with stool seating that cuts the space roughly in half, and there is further seating along the far wall. The lovely pendant lighting and other design features — the COFFEE sign, vintage teaspoons and repurposed Lyle’s black treacle tins, for example — will be familiar to anyone who has visited any of the other TAPs (including the Wardour Street branch).
It was late in the afternoon on a cold, grey Thursday so it wasn’t too busy and I was in the mood for a pourover. There were three single-origin coffees on offer and I was about to ask the barista for advice, but then interrupted myself to order the Ethiopian Shakiso (£3.75; more expensive than both the Guatemalan and Rwandan varieties on the menu). I couldn’t resist the sound of the sloe gin and blueberry flavour notes in the Ethiopian coffee.
As I poured myself a glass of water using the rustic-looking tap by the brew bar, the smell of the freshly roasted Shakiso reached my nose and I could tell that it was going to be a really good cup of coffee. The coffee arrived promptly, complete with a cute Llangollen teaspoon. The sugar was also available in its Lyle’s tin holder, but I just used it as a prop and did not, of course, add any to my coffee. The coffee was indeed excellent. The barista had prepared it very well and the flavours came through very nicely, particularly after the coffee had cooled slightly in its Acme cup.
My coffee was so nice that I almost bought the last remaining bag of Shakiso beans (£10) but I still had a lot of coffee to use up at home, so I decided to hold off for the time being. It was great to see a veritable rainbow of retail bags of TAP coffee beans available for sale, the prices ranging between £8.50 and £10. The usual espresso-based drinks are on offer too, as well as various teas, cakes and sandwiches.
I heard from Brian of Brian’s Coffee Spot (who visited in November) that TAP Coffee is now owned by the Department of Coffee — I was surprised to hear this as there was no evidence of this inside the Russell Square café; however, this newest location is listed on the Department of Coffee website but not on the TAP website. For now, at least, the Russell Square location seems to be retaining its more rustic, quirky TAP identity.
For many more London speciality coffee recommendations, check out my London speciality coffee guide.