My Favourite Local Coffee Community -The Italian Coffee Club
It was quite a peculiar story really. It was a Saturday, I woke up early, grabbed my book and went for a coffee hunt as I usually would. When I arrived this cozy and dainty coffee shop, the Italian Coffee Club, located inside Shepherd's Bush market, “what a strange location for such a decent coffee house”, I thought. It was so nicely decorated, the atmosphere so warming and calm, that I felt like this is one of those upscale coffee shops you’d find in places like Chelsea or Notting Hill. Yet nope, it resides in a busy market, selling very affordable coffee (I mean, £2.50 for a latte, in a place so close to central London).
So I walked in, ordered a cup of caffe latte as I usually would, enjoyed it, while I do my usual 'Instagram thing' and morning readings. The shop owner, Valy, was very kind and offered me to try one of their homemade, clean lemon cake that's so fluffy and delicious.
And that was how the conversation began. Valy shared his story and the history of this cute little coffee house. Valy, the shop owner, also the barista, was born in Romania, but he spent quite some time in Italy, the home to amazing Italian coffee. He has always loved coffee, even back then when coffee has yet to become his career. Working in the marketing industry, Valy’s life was surrounded by endless techs and gadgets. Smartphones, laptops, tablets... He has told me how he felt about the people he sees on the tube in the morning, where people no longer speak to each other like how they used to in the old days. Instead, they all just focus on their smartphones with no sign of pleasure on their face.
And then there was the day of destiny. Valy visited a seaside town called Viareggio in Lucca, Italy with his lovely wife. In this small and beautiful town, they came across one of these small, local coffee hubs, where people enjoy good coffee, buy their daily supply of coffee beans, meet people and connect with the community. Inspired by the experience, Valy thought “this is it! This is exactly what I want to do, to build a community and bring people good, authentic Italian coffee“. That was how he decided to quit his job and start his own coffee business in London.
At first, it was just a online business where they sell Nespresso compatible capsules. Shortly after that, they started selling coffee in a convertible van across London's shopping malls and markets. As their journey goes on, they brought in bags after bags of different coffee beans and blends, and now they finally could confidently say that they understand the palate of us Londoners, and have found just the perfect blend to suit our tastes.
1 year ago, it came to the day where they finally decided to set up a physical shop in west London. They chose to open the Italian Coffee Club at Shepherd‘s Bush instead of other “fancy” or “upscale” areas in London because they wanted to serve the local community where people and enjoy life and have a good time, instead of having people coming in for their early caffeine fix in the morning hustle and bustle with a lifeless face. Valy wanted to build his dream career in a place where he could talk to and get to know people.
It's been three years since this coffee shop of dream has came to be. The Italian Coffee Club has now became a local’s favourite and a secret garden within the neighbourhood. I was there the whole morning, and I have seen how people came and go with bright smile on their faces and how they greet each other like old friends. Some came in for a grab and go, while some came in looking for good quality coffee beans. You know the coffee is going to be good when the barista could tell you the face and story behind every single bean in the store. Valy knew who grew the beans, he blended the beans himself and he knows his coffee so well that even if you’re just coming for a quick coffee, he’d ask you the kind of flavour profile you like and he’ll customise it for you. When people came in looking for a bean, the first question Valy asks is always “how do you like to prepare your coffee?”. According to the answer, he would recommend the best blend or beans he has for that particular method of preparation. Sounds like a premier service and yet the price of the coffee was so reasonable and affordable, to a point where I ask myself why do people, including myself, even buy coffee off a shelf in the grocery store.
This place has amazing coffee indeed, but what I admire really is the passion behind that good cup of coffee. I think it was that passion and endless love and care that has made the coffee here so special. It’s the passion towards coffee, the passion to build a community that has made all these happen. \
He said and I quote: “we all talk about how we’re going to make our dreams come true someday, but when is that someday? That someday would never become today, if we don’t dedicate ourselves and start building something.“ I cannot agree more. Some said that the best tip to success is to do what you love, and Valy has led an example.
You know they meant serious business when they talk about “community” just by looking at the finest details inside the store. All the packaging are biodegradable and recyclable, from cups and lids, to napkins and paper bags. Valy told me that they used to sell capsules in the past. He stopped doing it, despite the opposition from everyone around him, simply because he thinks it is the right thing to do, for the community and for Mother Earth. I have great respect towards Valy, for he has the courage to chase after his dream regardless of the cost; let alone his passion, pride and professionalism towards his art of coffee.
The coffee here is great, of course. But it's so much more than that. Great attention is paid not only to the beverages but also the food. Valy insist that only the best food shall be served. They're always of high quality and clean. The lemon cake for example, was made from a handful of ingredients and contains absolutely no additives. Their croissants were imported directly from France frozen, and are baked fresh every morning in store. They are honestly some of the best I've ever tasted (and I am super picky). The vegan blueberry croissant I was offered to try was made with wholemeal flour, multigrain seeds and a high quality blueberry filling which isn't loaded with tons of sugar. It's so delicious and so clean, I honestly don't know how he managed to sell them for just £2.
It was one morning at the Italian Coffee Club, and Valy has taught me so much about coffee; such as the right way to drink an espresso, and the best way to prepare filtered coffee (like seriously it was unlike anything else I’ve tried). He also showed me, by example, the secret behind a successful business. He has brought the real Italian coffee experience to London, and for that I'm grateful (because to be honest a lot of London's coffee sucks). Next time when you're in West London, pay this lovely coffee shop a visit. You would enjoy the coffee, the food, the environment, as well as the conversation you would experience there.
25 April 2020 update:
The Italian Coffee Club has now been renamed to Caroline's Coffee and has a new owner. Valy still supplies their coffee beans and their coffee is just as good. They also now provides funnel cakes if you're up for a special treat!
The Italian Coffee Club
Located in: Shepherd's Bush Market
Address: 4/5 Shepherd's Bush Market Uxbridge Road Entrance, London W12 8DG
Phone: 020 7175 5035
Special Coffee to Try
Although I love every single item on their menu, if you are looking for something special, here are some of my recommendation:
1. Ginseng Coffee:
Despite the hype for ginseng in recent years, it is in fact something I grew up loathing because of its bitter aftertaste. I don't know what kind of magic they have put into this cup of coffee, but they managed to add this amazing super-food into their coffee without leaving any trace of unpleasant after taste to it. Just having one cup of this makes me feel healthier already.
2. White chocolate mocha
Made with real, shaved white chocolate flakes, this white chocolate mocha is truly amazing. The best in London for sure, probably the best in the world as well. It's rich and creamy, sweet but not overly sweet, just perfectly on point. I usually despise white chocolate but this is so good even I can’t say no. #perfection.