7 independent coffee-houses in Reading (plus two tea rooms)
Yes, it’s true – Reading has an active coffeehouse scene. There’s nothing wrong with a cold-brew from your favorite chain brand, but the coffees at Reading’s independent houses are exceptional, with awards won year upon year to prove it. Coffee here is consistently tastier and – more importantly – stronger than the local franchises (and also have cooler coffee-house vibes). These are all great places to hang out and power through some work while getting your caffeine kicks, or just to grab something tasty and strong to start your morning off right. Even better – (nearly) all of the shops here are barely off the high street, making everything easily accessible off the 21 bus from campus. Give these folks a visit next time you’re out shopping!
Starting with my favorite – Coffee Under Pressure was featured on Big 7 Travel’s 2019 list of best coffee-houses in the UK, and once you see the dedication of owner and staff, it’s easy to see why – the clean, minimalist décor belies consistent, friendly, highly professional service. Everyone here is quietly passionate about their coffee, and baristas are incredibly skilled at making perfect blends and emulsions. The shops also feature an excellent range of freshly-brewed teas. Popular options include their flat whites and cortados (my personal recommendation is listed below). C.U.P. has two Reading locations – St. Mary’s Butts (a stone’ s throw from Purple Turtle), and Blagrave St (minutes from Reading station). The latter location has a great hot breakfast and lunch menu, while you’ll find the former a haunt of regulars coming to chat to staff, relax, enjoy the sunshine, or work. Calm, quiet, and delicious – C.U.P. is well worth a visit next time you’re in town.
C.U.P. has the best dark chocolate mocha ever, hands down. Velvety and rich without being cloying, this is more like drinking a caffeinated dessert (without tasting like pure sugar). For the vegan/non-dairy types among us – ask for oat-milk. Not only does it foam as well as dairy, it’s lighter, and – IMO – actually works better, since it doesn’t really cover the bite of the coffee (then again – I like my coffee strong).
Right off the high street next to Lloyds Bank, Nibsy’s is a charmingly cosy spot for coffee, decked out in white, pink, and baby-blue décor, and complete with pavement seating for coffee out on sunny days. This is a great place to stop for a break from shopping, grab a hot drink, and catch up on your DM’s. Coffee here is locally roasted, and baristas are consistently knowledgeable and quick on service. Plus – Nibsy’s have a full-range of non-dairy milks for anyone lactose intolerant or vegan. I also have to give these folks a shout-out – you don’t find many places ballsy enough to go fully gluten-free. Nibsy’s did – yet possibly more impressive is that even if you aren’t celiac or gluten intolerant, you won’t taste ANY difference. The range and quality of their cakes, tarts, quiches, sandwiches, paninis, pasta, sandwiches, and afternoon tea is always exceptional – and not ‘exceptional for a gluten-free option’. Note that it can get pretty crowded on a Saturday.
Grab a sugared donut with your coffee – they’re delicious (and not just as a vegan substitutes). During warm weather, try the Turkish apple iced tea!
Address: 26 Cross St.
Hours: Generally 0830- 1700
Free wifi: Yes
Rated by Tripadvisor as the best spot in Reading for well-priced coffee on the go, Tamp has developed something of a local following, and I’ve seen it argued as the best coffee in town. It’s not hard to see why – I’m not enough of a connoisseur to be able to really weigh in, but I CAN say coffees here always taste clean, fresh, and perfectly smooth without any lasting bitterness. The tiny stand is located on Gun St (just outside the Oracle entrance closest to the Purple Turtle) and regularly rotates the coffee beans on offer, meaning the same drink has subtle differences to taste on different days. There is very limited outdoor seating around the stand.
If you’re with a friend who isn’t into coffee – have them try your flat white. It’s a revelation.
Address: 3 Gun St.
0830 – 1800 (Mon to Sat)
Free wifi: No – but you can use the Oracle’s free public wifi network.
Located on the 1st floor of Reading Climbing Centre, you’d likely discover Ground Up when you’re out with the Mountaineering Society giving indoor climbing a good go. Because of the location – I’d say this is best taken as a place to rest up and recharge part-way through a morning or day out bouldering (either by yourself or with friends). And it really is a great, unusual café to hang out in – wide open and airy, with views of the climbers navigating treacherous routes, the vibe here is exceptionally good for hanging out in the background of a dynamic place that feels comfortably productive. My go-to is their (pretty generous) Americano, but their lattes and flat-whites are also nice and strong. Also worth a mention is their selection of cakes, giant donuts, and really tasty food (including some very satisfying breakfast options, and home-made personal pizzas in the evenings). Be aware that the café is usually busy after about 1700 during weekdays, and all day during the weekends.
Up for a late morning climb? Grab an Americano and a hot, buttery bacon roll before you get started.
Address: 33 Cort Robert Industrial Estate, Britten Rd
1000 – 2130 (weekdays)
0930 – 1730 (weekends)
Free wifi: Yes
There isn’t much excuse for not being able to find independent coffee shops in Reading (seriously –nearly everything on this list is within a 7-minute walking range) – but you’d be forgiven for being confused about Anonymous Coffee Co, since they’ve actually set up shop inside ANOTHER store. That store is Tasting House (wine store), located in the alleyway between John Lewis and Bill’s, and it’s headed by Phil Carter, one of the brains behind Tamp Culture Coffee. Accordingly – coffee selection, quality and presentation here is amazing, and the baristas have the knowledge to match. You certainly wouldn’t be out of place grabbing a coffee to go, but this is also very definitely the place to come if you’re a self-proclaimed coffee geek. And if you’re not, come anyway for a great hot drink and some buttery pastries – then wander around to look at the shop’s wine selection, which ranges from £8 bottles to wine over £100.
Pretty much anything you get is going to be damn good, but I’m going with the Nitro cold-brew (if you can find anywhere in town to match it for taste and strength, leave a comment telling me where).
Address: 30a Chain Street
0800 – 1700 (Mon to Fri)
0900 – 1700 (Sat)
1000 – 1700 (Sun)
Free wifi: Yes
Oft overlooked, Workhouse is one of Reading’s older houses for artisan coffee, and it still stands as one of the best. Started nearly a decade back in Oxford Rd, Workhouse Coffee has since expanded into a second location directly opposite the Starbucks and Costa on Kings St (so RIGHT in the middle of town). Workhouse prides itself on a vast array of different roasts and beans, the brewing knowledge to match, delicious baked goods, and some seriously savory snacks (a single sausage roll here is a filling and complete meal). They take pride in experimentation, and you’ll find special options on their blackboard, and a different bean of the week for their filter coffees. Lack of wifi makes this a great place to disconnect, read a book, or chat with a friend. Workhouse is very much a place that considers their coffee a craft – if you’re unsure what you’re after, I very much recommend going for a fresh filter coffee in their bean of the week.
Fresh filter coffee, if only for the diverse range of flavors you get from week to week. That said – their flat-whites are absolute rocket fuel, so grab this in the morning for something with a kick.
Address: 10-12 King St.
0730 – 1800 (Mon to Fri)
0830 – 1830 (Sat)
0930 – 1800 (Sun)
Free wifi: No
Picnic is located on the other side of Starbucks from Workhouse, pretty much opposite a Costa (locals have colloquially called this ‘coffee corner’). Cosy, colorful, and consistent – this spot is excellent for a quick bite to eat (try their fresh sandwiches). Though during weekday lunch rushes, I’d recommend either going early, or taking out. But on to the coffee –with a focus on ethical sourcing, their coffee range is classic, strong, and quickly brewed. For home-brewers – you can also buy their beans, either ground or whole.
Picnic makes a pretty great latte –best paired with a slice of home-made cake!
Address: 5 Market Pl
Hours: 0700- 1800 (Mon to Sat)
Free wifi: No
Bonus: Tea Rooms
HIGH TEA ON A BARGE. If you’re after a traditional tearoom experience in an unorthodox format, give Andrew and Lesley a visit for some of the best tea (and cake) you’ll ever have. Located on the opposite side of Reading station, right on the water.
An independent florist and tearoom, 7 Flowers provides hand-picked flowers and craft bouquets for any and all occasions, as well as lovely service for any visits to the tea-room, be it quick or leisurely. This is an absolute gem of a place for a unique, feel-good afternoon of lunch and tea (whilst surrounded by cacti and succulents). This is tucked away on Cross St, barely a minute from Marks and Spencers – use Maps if you’re getting lost!
Written by Elliot Kim