When a café counts a national barista champion among its team, it’s worth paying attention. But Kiss the Hippo, a speciality coffee shop and roastery in southwest London, opened last year by entrepreneur Can Eren, has three.
Overlooking Richmond high street, the minimalist café has a Scandi feel: concrete floors, whitewashed walls, birch-plywood counters and grey suede benches. Seating is spread over two floors, with a bar counter and roastery on the ground floor and a workshop room above.
“Head of Coffee” Joshua Tarlo buys green coffee from the world’s best lots each season, rigorously tasting hundreds of cups of coffee brewed according to SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) standards in a practice known as “cupping”. Its goal is to find interesting coffees that showcase the flavours and aromas of their region of origin.
The green coffee is roasted onsite using different roasting profiles, each one unique to the specific lot. Think of it as baking a cake: a master baker will test a recipe several times before deciding on the ideal oven temperature and baking time. Kiss the Hippo uses a Loring S15, one of the most environmentally friendly machines on the market. Light roasting of the beans emphasises (rather than hides) the quality and distinctive characteristics of each terroir.
Part of a barista’s job is to help find the best style of coffee to suit the drinker. Perhaps it’s an espresso with tasting notes of chocolate cookie, butterscotch and strawberry, like Kiss the Hippo’s house blend George Street; or a vibrant and aromatic pour over like a natural Gesha (a rare and expensive coffee variety) from Auromar in Panama. The latter was used by Kiss the Hippo’s wholesale manager Paul Ross to win the 2019 UK Barista Championship, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
I attended a home-brewing workshop hosted by Tarlo to learn techniques for brewing coffee with a V60, a Chemex and a cafetière. I thought I already knew how to brew a good cup of coffee, but by the end of the two-hour workshop, my skills had massively improved. Later this year the shop will also provide barista training programmes for coffee professionals, certified by the SCA.
While not as exciting to me as the coffee, the food offering is nonetheless worth a mention. An all-day menu by head chef Jenny Parker ranges from pastries and cakes baked in-house to fresh salads and hot breakfast dishes. Kiss the Hippo has been one of my favourite coffee experiences in London to date – lucky is the Richmond dweller who can call this place their local.
Giulia Mulè is a food and travel writer based in London who is passionate about sharing food photography on her Instagram feed (@mondomulia) and blog Mondomulia (mondomulia.com). Originally from Rome, Mulè has spent over a decade living in London and travelling the world. In her spare time, she organises brunch meet-ups with @IGBrunchClub and fundraising events with @CreatingForGood – a collective of Instagrammers who share their creative skills to raise money for selected charities.