The South West is a mecca for coffee fans who enjoy imbibing excellent brews in beautiful places. KATHRYN LEWIS, editor of the Independent Coffee Guide series, shares her ultimate coastal coffee road-trip itinerary for caffeinated thrills by the shore.
First stop on your way to the beach should be at Beatsworkin in the historic town of Barnstaple. Inside, owner Glenn Field curates a niche selection of streetwear, skate gear and top-notch speciality coffee. Choose between crema-rich espresso and whistle-clean filter, then take your pick out front and sip in the alfresco seating area as you watch the world go by.
Passing through Braunton on your way to the big skies of Saunton Beach, make a pit stop at 51 Degrees North Coffee Company. The little black coffee van has a permanent spot outside Tesco on Velator Way. Don’t let the unassuming setting cloud your judgement on the coffee – the house mocha, made with Islands’ single-estate Caribbean chocolate, organic milk and a double shot of espresso, is not to be missed.
Thanks to its spot on a side street just off Woolacombe’s incredible beach, Meraki Coffee Co.‘s loyal local following is supplemented by a stream of tourists who seek it out for speciality coffee by the sea. Its proximity to the shore influences its laid-back vibe: expect sandy-toed beachgoers, surfboards propped outside and dogs snoozing by the wood burner after morning walks through the dunes.
Mark your move across the border into Cornwall with something sweet and carby from the Electric Bakery counter – the Bude bakery and takeout coffee shop that has been a runaway success since it opened in an industrial unit in 2019. House espresso beans are fresh from Cornwall’s Origin Coffee Roasters and supported by a handful of rotating guest batch and cold brews from the likes of Round Hill, Hard Lines, Cuppers Choice and Square Mile. When it comes to food, the Saturday lunch offering draws crowds for specials such as miso-roasted chicken leg served with white bean and celeriac cassoulet, braised winter greens, roast garlic and chilli mayo.
A few miles further along the A39 you’ll come across anything-but-average roadside services of Hawksfield and its café Strong Adolfos. Founders John and Mathilda Friström Eldridge have created a welcoming, contemporary space where you can relax and revive, with quirky additions to the sleek decor referencing their passions for surf and motorcycle culture. Perfectly executed flat whites and lattes are complemented by an eye-widening selection of bakes, many of which are inspired by Mathilda’s Scandinavian heritage.
Amid Newquay’s bustle and bar culture, serious coffee fans will find sanctuary at Island. The second site from the team at Strong Adolfos, Island has all the trademarks of the original café, with Swedish-inspired bakes, delicious brunches and great coffee.
There are loads of good spots in Cornwall to try local roastery Yallah’s coffee, but its own harbourside café in St Ives is hands-down the best place to sample the single-origin beans. If the sun’s out, join the queue of locals and tourists picking up espresso-based coffees from the Yallah Cafe & Kiosk takeout hatch that overlooks the water.
Also in St Ives and worth a visit is The Yellow Canary Cafe. Find your appetite awakened merely by pausing at its counter which is bejewelled with cinnamon buns, almond croissants, custard tarts and equally scrumptious fare.
Tourist hot spots aren’t renowned for their quality food and drink options but Charlestown near St Austell (famed for its appearance in TV series Poldark) defies convention. A stone’s throw from the historic harbour, Short & Strong is where caffeine-seeking tourists convene to get their speciality fix.
Inside the recently refurbed space, exposed bricks and wooden beams are softened by the warm glow of rattan pendant lights, lush houseplants and quirky artwork. The focal point of this contemporary space is the brew bar’s La Marzocco, which the baristas use to create fabulous Origin-roasted coffees.
If you’re touring the South West coastal coffee scene by car, expect to share the roads with keen cyclists furiously peddling towards their next caffeine hit. Coffee and cycling cultures go hand in hand, and at Rockets & Rascals in Plymouth the two worlds collide.
The café and workshop on the Barbican is a much-loved pit stop offering bites, brews, banter and bike repairs. Collaborating with The Devon Coffee Company, the R&R team have developed a house espresso that’s as smooth and uplifting as coasting along a country lane on a summer’s day.
Prefer to ride waves instead of hills? Surfers craving quality caffeination after a sunrise surf at Wembury make tracks to Black Cat Surf Club in Plymstock to sink a locally roasted flat white and tuck into nourishing breakfast plates.
Although relatively small in size, Black Cat’s whitewashed walls, tropical plants, brightly coloured furniture and collection of retro surfboards make it feel bright and spacious. There’s also a handful of tables outside for brighter days and, despite its name, dogs are very welcome too.
Take the scenic route around Start Bay to Brixham and the next stop on your coastal coffee tour: The Larder. Speciality coffee is the main draw at this deli-meets-coffee-shop and its dexterous baristas employ myriad brewing methods to craft an impeccable range of brews. The coffee’s great, but visiting without ordering something to eat would be like opening the biscuit tin and walking away empty handed. The team use top-notch seasonal ingredients to compile tempting brunch and lunch dishes such as the delicious mushroom benny (English muffin topped with garlicky wild mushrooms and homemade hollandaise) and halloumi shawarma with tzatziki and pickled cucumber.
Continue east to the estuary town of Topsham to sample some of the county’s finest coffees at Circle. After slinging shots at Exploding Bakery in Exeter for almost a decade, co-owner Fay Clement knows a thing or two about crafting great coffee. Espresso prepared on the eco-savvy Eagle One is sourced from local roasteries including Crankhouse in Exeter and Roastworks in Willand.
First stop is Town Mill Bakery on Coombe Street for a well-rounded espresso-based coffee and a hot-from-the-oven golden pastry. If you need more sustenance to level out your caffeine intake, the café-bakery also serves a fabulous brekkie menu including the likes of Turkish eggs, Welsh rarebit, and sourdough pancakes with maple syrup.
Next on your hit list is Amid Giants & Idols, located at the top of the hill just off the main shopping street. Plump for the house blend, Coast, which is a rich and sumptuous coffee that sings with notes of chocolate and marzipan. If you love it when prepared by the baristas, you can also pick up a bag of beans to enjoy at home (the team will grind it for your preferred brew method).
Arrive hungry at your final stop in Dorset’s fossil hot-spot as flat whites are served alongside baps stuffed with hog roast and springy doughnuts at The Whole Hog Lyme Bay. As the family team set up for the day, mesmerising aromas waft promisingly through the air from their takeaway hatch: coffee brewing, pork resting, doughnuts proving and crackling reaching its crunchy best.
There’s no danger of having to endure a dodgy Spotify playlist while you sip a flat white at Riptide in Poole as the espresso bar doubles up as a record shop. Founders Sam Sheldon and Aaron Blandford ensure there’s a funky fresh soundtrack to kick back to, and crank up the volume a little louder than standard to enhance the music-forward vibe. Records for sale are stacked around the sociable cafe space, so visitors can browse the collection while sipping a perfectly pulled espresso.
Find more speciality cafes, coffee shops and roasteries in the region in the South England & South Wales Independent Coffee Guide. For coastal coffee spots across the rest of the UK, check out the Independent Coffee Guides for North, Midlands and North Wales, and Scotland.
For more ideas on where to visit for food and drink across the British coastline, read our articles here.