In a nutshell:
-a new company taking coffee incredibly seriously: home to UK Barista Champions and a roastery right inside
-a force for good: ethical, sustainable, creating change for good throughout the world
-perfect for a day out: come here for coffee/brunch/lunch whilst strolling through Richmond
A good coffee in Richmond is easy to find these days, with the high street boasting two perfectly placed independent coffee shops within a stone’s throw of the station. But it is Kiss the Hippo that has really got the locals talking. Not only is it the trendiest place in town, offering some of the best coffee in London, but it has also become a pioneering force in its global responsibilities and in its sustainable approaches – oh, and did I mention it has its very own roastery right inside…
Opening its doors in June 2018, Kiss the Hippo is still enjoying its heyday period, with excited whispers being thrown around – ‘have you been to Kiss the Hippo?’ – in a conspiratorial tone that seems to suggest locals desperately want it to remain their little secret, but also eager to spreads the news. Not that it needs spreading. Having been featured in Conde Nast Traveller, GQ and Elle, its quick success and popularity echoes that of Bould Brothers in Cambridge, which has gone from strength to strength since opening in 2017.
“Beyond what you see, cogs of goodwill are gently chugging in the background”
Inside is like a hub of goodness. The lighting is warm, the interiors are simple and exotic plants dance about the room. Behind the glass screen at the back is the roastery. Nearly every single bag of Kiss the Hippo coffee is roasted in this small room, bagged up and sealed, ready to be sent off – or delivered just next door to the baristas.
Beyond what you see, cogs of goodwill are gently chugging in the background. They have a zero waste policy, using the company Karma to give unsold food to local charities; they are the UK’s first carbon neutral roastery using 100% renewable energy; and all their straws, lids, takeaway cups, takeaway boxes and cutlery are 100% compostable. Added to that, they have all sorts of partnerships around the world including safeguarding the Amazon rainforest; providing Kenyan students with clean water; and giving all their old coffee sacks got London zoo to be used as toys and bedding for primates. I could write more about this (check out their website for more info), but I fear my time is up: it’s time to talk about the coffee.
“It came as no surprise that Kiss the Hippo is weaved by the hands of a crack team of coffee gods”
The coffee is outstanding. Beautifully balanced, top notch latte art, and a blend so complex and drinkable, I could have been drinking from any of the great roasteries in the UK. And this is where I was stumped:
How can such a relatively young business create such good coffee and one of the best coffee shop experiences I’ve ever had?
It came as no surprise then that Kiss the Hippo is weaved by the hands of a crack team of coffee gods. The head of coffee used to be the head of coffee at Origin Roasters, and the wholesale manager, Paul Ross, has won the UK barista championships for the last two years. The year before that, it was won by another of the team. I couldn’t help but fantasise about the barista training here, as if it would have been coffee’s equivalent of SAS training. It is fair to say that when you get a coffee here, you are getting a drink that has been put together by some of the best talent in the UK.
As you order the head roaster, Marcus, might from pop up from the roastery and talk with a fellow barista about the notes in their latest blend he is working on. The excitement is palpable. The wait to try the coffee is thrilling.
If you’re after a coffee alternative, their hot chocolate from Land Chocolate in Hackney is superb.
The breakfast and lunch menu is vast and is flexible enough to provide vegetarian/gluten free/vegan options for a good range of meals. Choose from your standard avocado on toast (vegan option available), to smoked salmon and cream cheese on toast, to their seasonal soup, to more unusual offerings like their hazelnut porridge or liege waffles. Food is available from 7am-2pm on weekdays and 9am-3pm on weekends. Sandwiches are also available to go. Plus there is a brilliant range of fresh cakes and pastries, again with a good amount of gluten free and vegan options.
All in all:
“It really begs belief that coffee shops are style over substance when it comes to creating change for good”
I really couldn’t recommend this place enough. At the very end of the district line/overground, or just a 15 minute train from Waterloo, it is worth every minute of travel to get out from the mayhem of central London. The place itself is unfussy and even when you see little notes or signs, it’s not rules or ‘we kindly ask you…’; it’s to raise awareness about the Australian bush fires, or to advertise two carefully selected books on how to stop using plastic. Combine that with the experience of drinking a coffee here, and it really begs belief that coffee shops are style over substance when it comes to creating change for good. Walking out of here, the world does seem slightly brighter and more hopeful. For a company to do that just over one a half years into its reign, I think is something pretty special. Kiss the Hippo: keep an eye out for this unstoppable, caffeinated force for good.
Like the sound of it? Buy your very own Kiss the Hippo beans here (free delivery right now), and keep your eyes peeled for their subscription service. Check out their second venue in Fitzrovia.
Things to to know:
-toilet and baby-changing facilities (gender neutral options)
-alternative milk options
-official accredited SCA training centre, plus enthusiast workshop
-Music: fun and laid back, in the background
-Opening times: 8-4:30pm (Mon-Fri); 8:30-5:30pm (Sat); 9-5pm (Sun)
Recommended things to do nearby:
-Catch one of the best views of Richmond from the famous Roebuck pub
-A treasure trove nestled between the river and surrounding fields, visit Petersham Nurseries
-Shopping in Richmond – from cute independent gift/clothes shops to tasteful department stores, there is enough to suit all tastes. Specifically impressive are the range of luxury brand stores, from Anthropologie to Space NK, from Aesop to Neal’s Yard
-take a picnic or enjoy a drink from one of the pubs on Richmond Green
-have a post coffee walk down the river