I was at colonna and smalls, london – From Coffee With Love


Birthday coffee

I cannot finish 2023, without mentioning one of the most exciting coffee experiences in a coffee shop I had this year – the opening of Colonna and Smalls on Leather Lane in London. In fact this trip was made even more exciting for me, as they opened the day after I arrived in London for a trip and I visited on my birthday too – what a wonderful coffee experience for a birthday.

Owned by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, a former UK barista champion several years ago, Maxwell has always been one to push the boundaries on all things coffee. When I first visited his first cafe in Bath I had the opportunity to meet with him and quiz him about his coffee philosophy. After all, not only was he UK barista champion twice, but he has won several awards like best UK cappuccino and more. It was also at his cafe back in 2017 that I saw the Mod Bar for the first time. He also grinds all his coffee beans whether for espresso or filter, on a Mahlkonig EK43. His London shop is no exception.

Ready to brew

I digress a bit for the techies, but the debate advocated by Maxwell is that by using the EK43 (not built for grinding for espresso but ideally for spices and perhaps for filter coffee) you not only minimise waste because you grind per cup but that the EK43 grinds very evenly with little differentiation in grind size – this means that you can even lower the amount of coffee you use – they use about 16.5g as opposed to the industry average of 18-20g.

His London branch is his second shop and I must confess I was curious as to why he opened another coffee shop – this time on probably London’ most famous coffee street for the best coffee – Prufrock is a few shops down, as well as the Attendant.

Espresso brew bar

Upon entering the narrow shop, the brew bar is on the right hand side and display of coffee and merchandise to sell is on your left. The menu for both espresso base and filter coffee are on a placard on the exposed brick wall, with the filter options ready to be used. If you walk further back, there’s more sitting. I noticed that most people there were keen coffee drinkers, asking all sorts of coffee nerdy questions.

Aeropress brew bar

However, they have another specific menu for rare filter coffees too. As it was my birthday, I opted for a Panama Geisha from the famous coffee estate, Hacienda Esmeralda. Indeed it was sublime, tea like with hints of jasmine. I gave my wife a taste and she retorted, this taste like tea. I recall that the first time I had this very special coffee was way back in 2011 when I had my cafe in Cape Town – my roaster gave me a small bag, which I brewed on an aeropress.

As its was my birthday I didn’t just have one coffee. In fact I started with a flat white, using Peruvian coffee beans, brewed on their Two Group La Marzocco espresso machine by the head baristi.

Flat white

Prior to my trip I had contacted Maxwell on LinkedIn and mentioned that I would be visiting but upon entering the shop he wasn’t there. However, to my pleasant surprise, I recognised his voice during my first cup of coffee and went over to chat for about 20 minutes about coffee and more. One lesson I got from him this time was about water quality and how it mattered more for filter than espresso – I took notes and will investigate how to manage this at home in Dubai. However, before we left, I spotted Maxwell brewing an espresso for a flat white and captured this on film, asking him if he still had it in him to pour great latte art – of course he did, as I’m sure his DNA is labelled with coffee.

I highly recommend when you visit London that you visit Colonna and Smalls on 96A Leather Lane, Clerkenwell – closest tube station is Chancery Lane.

Here’s wishing you a blessed 2024 and lots of wonderful coffee adventures.

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