With coffee culture booming and tea showing every sign of being able to give the bean a serious run for its money, it's safe to say the coffee shops and cafés of Leeds are in rude health. But it's not just about getting your caffeine kick. From good old greasy spoons still going strong to quality new spots where artisan roasts and titillating teas are served alongside gourmet sweets and savouries, there are plenty of intriguing options in Leeds. Here are our favourites.
An artisan roasted blend, expertly made from independent roasters, will most likely put Laynes Espresso on any coffee lover’s list. Owner Dave Olejnik learnt his trade with Leeds coffee pioneer Opposite, and Laynes has become a caffeine lover’s haven since its opening in 2011. Its location close to Leeds railway station makes it popular with commuters, city workers and shoppers. It’s small in size and, apart from the artwork that decorates the walls, minimal in terms of decor, but what it lacks in space it makes up for in the quality of its brews. The house espresso is roasted by London’s Square Mile, and guest coffee from notable roasters such as The Barn and Workshop regularly show up on the menu. If you’d prefer brewed coffee, there’s AeroPress, or you can opt for a pour-over. There are also plenty of sweet and savoury treats to choose from, including locally made pastries and cakes, and homemade sandwiches.
One of Leeds’ most well respected independent coffee shops, La Bottega Milanese is popular enough to have two branches – this one in The Light shopping centre, and another in the financial district. Owner Alex Galantino has created a space that’s aesthetically lovely to look at (in particular, its newest shop on Bond Court), and has a minimal, functional, stylish feel. The statement wooden bench that runs through the centre of the space also makes an excellent perch for coffee drinkers. The house coffee is Alex's own blend, La Classica, roasted by The Grumpy Mule, and it regularly hosts other seasonal coffee varieties. If you fancy an alternative to an espresso-based cup, it also offers brewed coffee, such as AeroPress, and pour-over on weekends. If you’re feeling indecisive, try the split shot tasting trays with one shot espresso and one shot cappuccino, or if you’re in the market for something sweet, the affogato is a vanilla gelato covered in espresso and chopped nuts.
The rather unimaginatively named Opposite Cafe sits under a bank across the road from Leeds uni’s Parkinson steps. Ideally located for lunches and lecture breaks, the Blenheim Terrace eatery is extremely popular for meet-ups and munchies throughout the day, and is famed for its unpretentious atmosphere and velvety flat white. A fridge full of fancy, freshly pressed fruit juices, cold sandwiches and pots of irresistibly sweet and nutty granola with yoghurt is the first sight as you walk into the funky yet sophisticated space. The decor is clean and trendy, with urban art on the walls and leather chairs to sink into when hiding from the elements with a cup of hazelnut hot chocolate on a wintery day. Orange juice and a large range of speciality teas are refreshing and fun to try, but it would feel like a missed opportunity to not see the fancy barista machine in action and sample a lovingly made cappuccino for a quick pick-me-up.
It may be primarily known as an independent coffee haunt, but Mrs Atha’s dishes up some of the finest breakfasts in the city from its all-day menu. Found just behind House of Fraser, parallel to Leeds city centre’s main pedestrianised thoroughfare, Briggate, it’s well worth stepping off the beaten path for. Food is chalked up on the blackboard behind the counter, and there’s a fantastic range of coffees and teas to wash it all down with. Some of the highlights include the bacon or sausage sandwiches (£4), pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries (£4.50), organic scrambled eggs on toast with a choice of toppings (£4.50), and muesli with organic yoghurt, berries and honey (£3.50).
If your heart flutters and your knees buckle at the words ‘single origin’ or ‘steam pressed’ (and all this before you even get to the coffee, you lucky thing) then Brewbar Espresso is right up your street. Or rather, if we’re being geographically correct, right under your local municipal art gallery. The friendly baristas in this basement café take their coffee very seriously. As is to be expected for a café which sits under an art gallery in the corner of a design shop, they also do a nice bit of free-pour coffee art. If you’re after something to soak up the Arabica, we can recommend their crusty ciabattas packed with locally sourced ham, crumbly cheese, roast veg and the like and we often make a pitstop for a gooey brownie after a wander around the art gallery.