RECOMMENDATION | Crouch St Bakes, Essex
I don’t think it’s too dramatic to declare that coffee flows in my veins. Okay, maybe it’s a bit dramatic – but I love it. As late as I was arriving at the caffeine party (had my first cappuccino at 21, first flat white at 26; haven’t looked back since discovering oat milk at 28), I’m now the guest who doesn’t want to leave. Coffee is my wake-up go to-to and my lunchtime pick-me-up; to me, it’s a catch-up at the weekend, a leisurely treat with a pile of magazines… It’s a luxury and one that I only enjoy, for some stupid reason, in its most decadent form: namely, freshly-frothed, in a takeaway cup or a cute bit of china.
(For those wondering, nope: this Essex princess has yet to master enjoying a cup of instant joe.)
Anyway! With all this in mind, I’m very excited to invite you to step inside one of my very favourite coffee haunts, and one of the very best coffee shops in Colchester. Offering a heady mix of caffeine, cake and shoppable trinkets, gems don’t come much more sparkly than this place.
Crouch St Bakes is as much a micro-community as it is a coffee shop. Founded in 2017, it’s named after the road on which it stands; nearly all the shops and boutiques on ‘this side’ of Crouch Street are independent (pop into nearby Annabel’s for a fashion fix, for example, or H Gunton’s for some supper inspiration). In less than two years CSB has earned a place in the community, with excellent coffee – they use Paddy & Scott beans, FYI – just one of the reasons locals gravitate towards it.
Arguably, it’s the personality and charisma of the place that makes it a place people love to go. Owner Ally and her team remember names and orders effortlessly, are full of interesting chat (be it about Netflix or local current affairs) and are general rays of sunshine for bleary-eyed commuters when doors open at 7.30am.
Naturally, it’s not just the early birds who flock to it. The perfect place for a mid-morning meet-up, you can bag a table outside the shop when the weather is good, offering you and your gang somewhere to unwind as you soak up the caffeine and vitamin D. Dogs are welcome – as long as they won’t try to grab a sausage roll off the counter, of course – with many dog walkers popping along each day for a restoring cuppa-something apres their stroll with their hound. Equally, it’s somewhere to quietly sit and watch the world go by, or wile away an hour with a book.
A moment of quiet reverence must be given to the foodie offerings of the cafe, too. With the word ‘Bakes’ in its name, you know from the off its going to offer something quite special, and each time you pop in, you’re in for a treat. Be it slabs of Mini Egg Cookie Bar or Peanut & Oreo Brownie, there are freshly handmade sponges, tray bakes, scones, cookies and more (so much more!) to suit even the most discerning of palettes. My recommendation is the Bourbon Biscuit Brownie or the Rolo Cookie Bar – both delicious, though be warned that you will be left craving more.
Another reason to adore CSB? It encourages and supports local talents – from prints and artwork (it even stocks some of mine!) to posies of flowers and sourdough loaves, there’s a curated assortment of treasures from Colchester creatives to treat yourself to.
A proverbial stone’s throw from the town centre yet far enough out to feel a bit detached from the main hustle and bustle, it’s a home-from-home kind of place. Central Perk it might not quite be, but it’s the perfect place to take your – wait for it – friends.
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