This October, Queen Mary students and Tower Hamlets residents gleaned another independent work and social space on Burdett Road. Whereas students are well versed in the local Mile End road attractions and campus hangouts such as: Ground, The Hub, and the Coffee House, a new and independent coffee venture has popped up just across from the green bridge and the second left after Mile End Station. As the name would imply, the International Comrades Coffee House prioritises a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Despite being six weeks old, this new establishment already boasts of heaps of positive reviews. Notable comments refer to the friendliness of the staff and the popularity of the playlist of 80s bangers. Such tunes could be played from your own stereo at home and compliment the background buzz of quiet chatter. Overall, the space is lively and makes for a decidedly chill atmosphere.
This new area of local interest is an important addition to a growing number of independent spaces near campus. Whereas it may be convenient to pick up a ritual order from Starbucks or Costa- both of which are accessibly located right by campus- as students with an investment in the local area, it is important to recognise and prioritise local endeavours rather than engage in the commercial practice of fuelling larger companies. Perhaps to some, the familiarity of being able to enter a Starbucks and find a space decorated and smelling exactly like one across the road, across the city, or even across an ocean, is familiar. However, I personally find the experience a bit jarring. Mile End road in particular does not have the same chain food prevalence as some areas of central London (no Pret in sight!), however, I think that students will find it a welcome relief to be able to liaise and work in a completely new atmosphere.
The space itself is ideal for a quick catch-up between classes or a day scouring Jstor for that last-minute essay. With a multitude of seats with readily accessible plugs, free wifi, and large windows for natural sunlight and people-watching, the minimal decor is both calming and aesthetically pleasing. For the warmer months there is also an outdoor space in the back.
What is perhaps most appealing about the International Comrades Coffee House is the keen attention paid to the variety and quality of coffee and food served. The coffee is sourced from local brewery Union hand roasted coffee. The coffee itself is sourced from Yayu forest in Ethiopia, which prioritises the preservation of wild-growing arabica coffee. This preservation incentive means that because the value of the coffee is increased, the value of the forest and preservation effort increases, leading to higher wages for the farmers. Alongside a very nuanced and pleasing cup of coffee (I would rate my latte 5 stars) you can be safe in the knowledge that the practice behind your caffeine addiction is ethical. For a quick run-in before class, I would also recommend a cup of batch filter coffee— although this trend is seen far more in New York and more locally in the City, ICCH are hoping that commuters will see the value in a quick and very tasty filter coffee for a commute or sprint to class.
The food selection includes breakfast favourites such as croissant, pan au chocolat, danish, sausage rolls, toasties, and various vegan and vegetarian wraps. Within the next coming weeks the new and unique addition to the menu will be sushi: a healthy and unprecedented accompaniment that has apparently taken hold in Australia but never before in London. We are excited to see if this will become a coffee-sushi hub for QMUL students and we will definitely be lurking around this new and relaxed venue for some article writing!