None of that instant muck here, just pure espresso goodness
I once wrote that the relationship with your local curry house is a possessive, personal affair, and I stand by that statement. I’d say that coffee evokes similar emotions, although it’s often less about locality and more about the actual product – that rich, warm, liquid drug without which so many of us simply wouldn’t function.
To be honest, if it’s early and I’m in need, you can have a sentient rat serve me in a sewer as long as the coffee’s good (in fact, if you’re a proper coffee nerd, I’ll stop you now. This article is not for you). But Leeds has managed to collect a few shops with actual walls and hygiene standards and, well, stuff. And that’s just great – but the following is specifically a list of my favourite coffees. No sumac on toast. No weird seeds and grains. No feng shui. Just coffee. Mine’s a flat white or a cortado, depending on my hangover.
Got it? Good. Here is our guide to the best coffee in Leeds right now:
If you like your coffee with a side of one-percent-chance-you-see-John-Malkovitch, then Archive is the place to go. Owned by Prime Studios’ Ben Hepworth, there’s also a ridiculously huge venue behind the shop for drinking and events, so you might find yourself there for non-coffee reasons at some point. But I’m telling you now – and I’m willing to fight you – that Sophie* makes the best coffee in Leeds.
*Other baristas also available, writer is not responsible for absence of Sophie
Archive 94 Kirkstall Rd, Leeds LS3 1HD
Coffee on the Crescent
Warning. Incoming cricket puns alert. May cause blindness. I’ll just say right off the bat, that owner Tim Linley has bowled me over with some delicious flat whites over the last few years. He really knows his coffee (that’s right, nothing stumps him) and has let that passion spill over into an excellent selection for your morning hit. So, if you find yourself caught out around the boundary of Leeds city centre, run down to Hyde Park and swing by Coffee on the Crescent. It’ll have you bouncer-ing off the walls. May or may not serve duck.
Coffee on the Crescent 2 The Crescent, Woodhouse, Leeds LS6 2NW
La Bottega Milanese
I mean, if you want an espresso, it’s got to be Italian, right? And as they say at La Bottega, "If it’s not from Italy, it’s from Yorkshire." Arabica. Piping hot. Knocks your socks off. The service is suitably stern, of course, but the coffee is damn good. It wouldn’t have survived for 12 years if it wasn’t. A must-visit.
La Bottega Milanese 2, Bond Court LS1 2JZ
10 years of serving scores of commuters en route to their mechanised travel boxes of hell has given Laynes a level of customer understanding that few can match. The place is always absolutely rammed full of eaters, browsers, loud talkers, tourists, and meet-ups. Basically, there’s something for everyone. But crucially, despite the impressive rotation of roasts and the multiple style options that threaten to overwhelm, they also understand that some people just want "A normal cup of coffee. Immediately." I respect that.
Laynes Espresso 16 New Station St, Leeds LS1 5DL
As an American-Canadian café, I expect to get simultaneously punched in the face and apologised to as soon as I walk in the building. You’ll have to go yourself to find out if that actually happens. What I will tell you for certain, though, is that if you’re in one of those moods where only an obscene bucket of Americano will sort you out, you need to get your arse down here. Plus, if you’re ever in Manchester or Liverpool, you’ll find more Mooses (meece?) there to caffeinate you out of the perpetual misery of life.
Moose Coffee Bond Court, Wine St, Leeds LS1 2JZ
Yet another coffee shop that’s been around for so long it’s part of the Leeds furniture, Mrs Atha’s is cosy (if drinking coffee is an all-day pastime for you, this is probably the place to do it), friendly, and wins the award for the city’s most uninformative website. The coffee comes from, among other places, Maude Coffee Roasters, who are not only based down the road, but also their sister company. It’s also probably my favourite-tasting flat white.
Mrs Atha’s 18 Central Rd, Leeds LS1 6DE
They’ve got a fancy environmentally-friendly smart roaster, don’t you know? Seriously though, chances are you’ll have had a North Star coffee somewhere, at some point. But where better than their very own café at Clarence Dock? Their roastery has since moved to a larger spot in Armley, but the coffee still flies out of the doors down near the Royal Armouries. You can’t get fresher.
North Star Cafe Unit 32 The Blvd, Leeds LS10 1PZ
Or, to give it its full name, Stage Espresso and Brewbar. Anyway, Matt and Martyn provide perhaps the best welcome on this list, and their regular rotation of coffee is banging. It’s all single estate, apparently – I have no idea what that means, but it sounds tasty and it always seems to be rich on the nose, but without an overly bitter aftertaste. I’m bitter enough, love. Oh, plus, there’s a dog. Everything’s better when there’s a dog.
Stage Espresso & Brewbar 41 Great George St, Leeds LS1 3BB
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