Cafés have become more of a lifestyle hangout nowadays, elevating a cup of humble coffee to the next level via its surroundings. Be it a chic cup and spoon, the design and packaging of the beans, the chunky industrial look of the coffee machine that you'd wish for your kitchen at home, to the stylish decor of the actual café where you can immerse yourself for a couple of hours. All this reflects the image that the café owner wants to portray.
Often, cafés also have a story or message they want to deliver. Promoting fair trade coffee and supporting small coffee bean farmers has been a big thing in recent years. Others work with a meaningful ethos, such as one I went to recently called Redemption Roasters.
On the face of it, this places looks like a normal stylish café in London. Many small tables for two were dotted around, great for an intimate chit chat catch up over coffee with a friend. Most only sat one person though, accompanied with their laptop, a common sight in many cafés nowadays.
What made this café special, and I don't know if you noticed its name and logo, is how it operates - redemption. Nothing to do with religious before you wonder.
The café, actually there are more than one in the company, trains prison inmates as barrista and coffee roasters and help them find jobs when they leave prison. The idea is that retraining inmates with new skills can help them integrate back into society easier and stop them from reoffending again. Many are employed in one of the Redemption Roasters or the company help them to find jobs in the industry. Furthermore, all the coffee beans used in the cafe is roasted inside the prison. I didn't know about this before I came, all I was looking for was a nice place for my afternoon coffee. Finding a café that does such great work is a big bonus.
The cafe had a back garden outside and it was perfect to sit outdoors in central London but away from the buzz.
The back garden was actually at a lower level than the front of the building, and as I came down the stairs, I saw this really interesting feature. It was all sorts of random objects stuck on the wall and painted over in white. The shapes of the different objects gave the wall a really nice texture and I couldn't resist not taking a selfie. Judging by the mirror, I'm sure I'm not the first nor will be the last to do this.
It was late afternoon when I arrived and the garden closes an hour before the café. I moved back inside to finish my coffee and sat by the window watching the world go by.
A guy sat outside with his drawing pad and pencil. I don't have an ounce of art inside me, so am always mesmerized by people drawing. Then he pulled out his set of pencils, that was really impressive!
Another guy walked by armed with some leaflets. Or posters? He sat down and the two started chatting. Not sure about what. Maybe the older guy just wanted to talk to someone. They say people living in big cities are a lot colder and distant, and everything is about me me me. I wonder how true is that, or are they just waiting to be redeemed? Food for thought.