Coffee Guide: Four Corners Gives You The Tools To Day Dream
That the Aussies and Kiwis have dominated London’s coffee scene for the last few years is no news. But when Gary Baxter launched his indie coffee shop Four Corners, on the quirky street of Lower Marsh behind Waterloo, things were different.
The Antipodean takeover is the third wave of coffee shops in London, explains Gary. It started with the Italian export of the espresso post World War 2. After that came the chains, which Gary is more wary of: They’re great if you want a dessert, he jokes! His point is lele: why add syrups and synthetic flavours to coffee, when it can taste great in its natural form?
Four Corner’s concept is as simple as its coffee is complex. Inspired by the third wave of coffee shops, they take their roasting seriously. For the tea-lovers, they offer 27 types of loose-leaf tea. If you’re on the fence, I highly recommend their spiced chai latte, which for once doesn’t taste like cinnamon infused boiled milk. Thankfully, they’re also sensible enough to not call it a ‘Chai-Tea Latte,’ which even Starbucks lovers by now should know is a redundant term.
While larger chains can get away with average coffee, there’s no compromising on the quality for a small independently owned café like Gary’s. But Four Corners isn’t here to hate on the chains. We poke fun every now and then, but politely, admits Gary pointing to a tongue-in-cheek poster with a rendering of a coffee cup oozing with whipped cream and sprinkles.
The Lower Marsh outlet has been up and running for almost three years. “We launched amidst a heat-wave in London – not an ideal time for selling hot beverages,” jokes Gary. But what’s personally exciting is that its second and newest outlet is conveniently located in my lobby. “Urbanest approached us, and we had been looking to expand.” He admits that it is forward thinking of the residence to bring in an independently owned store with a single outlet, as opposed to a large chain.
While there’s no heat wave – although the warm-blooded soul in me could use one – the second store comes with its own host of challenges. For one, the entire premise of the café is that once you step into its four corners (I’ll allow you a to have your epiphany moment) you escape the real world. “A pause on life,” is how Gary describes it. “We want the experience to be immersive.” Recreating that environment in the lobby of a student building is obviously not as easy.
As for the immersive experience, I would ask you to visit when you get a chance, but until then think of it as a community of wanderlust coffee lovers.
The idea is simple: we all daydream, and often about traveling somewhere else. “We’re here to give you those tools to daydream,” says Gary, which is the inspiration behind having a lengthy bookcase of Lonely Planet Travel Guides. Of course it’s not that simple, for every book has its own story. Four Corners encourages its customers to return old travel guides in exchange for a free coffee.
The Four Corners passport is another manifestation of the travel theme. Though it works like a regular loyalty card, with every 10th coffee free, it can also be folded into a booklet to resemble a mini-passport. If you click a picture with your passport in an exciting destination – the London Eye doesn’t count – you get a free coffee on your first day back. The idea is genius, because anyone who travels will agree that the first day back is also the hardest.
In return, Four Corners gets publicity around the world in addition to virtually traveling with its customers. After all, traveling isn’t always about the physical act, but a mindset. A mindset that Gary and his team hope to nurture among those who seek shelter (and caffeine) in their four-cornered haven. Like he says, “it’s about building a community, one cup of coffee at a time.”
Where: 12 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7RJ