Algerian Coffee Stores

The Algerian origins of a gourmet Soho coffee shop may be a little foggy, but it remains one of the best places in London to buy Arabic coffee


John Burns


Tom Holmes

Old Compton Street, one of Soho’s jugulars, is alternately lined with shops selling underwear and coffee. The latter are a mix of the usual franchised suspects and the artisanal independents typical of London’s hipster boom. Standing in contrast, at Number 52, is Algerian Coffee Stores. Its post-box red façade and ‘Est. 1887’ signage proffering a curious outpost of North African culture. Inside, the fittings remain much the same as they always have. The old world Victorian counter, display case and ceiling-skimming shelves – heaving with over 60 different blends – are original and kept meticulously in tact. Fading sepia-tone photographs hang on the wall, charting the store through the ages, and the air is heavy with the perfume of coffee. For a brand with a fine reputation and over a century of such well-preserved heritage, one would think its Algerian roots would be firmly planted in Soho’s folklore.

Continue reading












But Soho legend is a circus of gritty decadence. Long the ‘enfant terrible’ of London, the area has always greeted its tenants with an embrace and a blind eye. As such, the story of an Algerian man setting up a coffee shop – although statistically unusual in 1887 – has long been usurped by much taller tales.

‘We only know that the store was opened by an Algerian man named Mr Hassan in 1887 – we know nothing of his descendants or what happened to him after he handed the shop over in 1926,’ says current owner Marisa Crocetta, in response to a question she must be tired of answering. ‘Algerian Coffee Stores has been in my family since 1948, when my granddad took over. My father, my sister and I are now here.’

Mr Hassan’s story is most likely the balance of a delicate social equation – one with perhaps exponential variables and rooted to only four flakes of fact. Eamonn Gearon, a Middle Eastern specialist and professorial lecturer at John Hopkins SAIS, muses over what might have lead Mr Hassan to England.

‘In 1881, Algeria was directly integrated into France and the new laws imposed common law penalties on the native population. In effect, tens of thousands of Algerians were dispossessed, and I would suggest that it was at this time that Mr Hassan, who must have had a little money squirrelled away, made the journey to London.’

By that time, London’s coffee drinking habits were already in full swing and were even undergoing something of a renaissance thanks to the encouragement of the temperance movement. This, coupled with a pre-established trade of coffee, tea, spices, silk and gold between London and Algiers, was what may have roused Mr Hassan’s inner entrepreneur. At that time, it was common for new arrivals to wind up with the artists, writers and bohemians of Soho, where rents were significantly cheaper and coffee houses were popular as places to drink and think.

The fact that Algerian Coffee Stores still operates in the same fashion is both testament and homage to Mr Hassan. Today, London’s Algerian community cluster around Blackstock Road in Finsbury Park – an area affectionately dubbed ‘Little Algiers’ – with many coffee shops of its own. Thanks to Mr Hassan and the efforts of the current owners, however, Algerian Coffee Stores is still one of the best places in the UK to pick up high quality Arabic blends: ‘We sell Yemeni coffee, and we also sell blends spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, anise, cassia and pepper,’ says Crocetta.

We sell Yemeni coffee, and we also sell blends spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, anise, cassia and pepper

This article appears in the issue42

MAIN A Day at the Museum

In collaboration with Burberry, take a day trip to Dubai

MAIN 24 Hours in Kfardebian

Come for the skiing, stay for the lahm baajine

MAIN The Rock Climber

A self-taught climber paves the way for women’s athletics in

MAIN Šerefudin’s White Mosque

Designed in 1969, a modernist Balkan mosque in Bosnia and

MAIN The Olympic Ski Team

Armenia’s female Olympic skiers gear up for the country’s first

MAIN Le Corbusier in Baghdad

An architectural historian at Georgetown University, Dr Mina Marefat explores

MAIN Shahira Mehrez

An Egyptian antiques collector preserves her Hassan Fathy designed penthouse

MAIN Aga Khan Museum

Geometric patterns and serviceberry trees light up the gardens of

MAIN Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban

Like a lily floating on a pond: Dhaka’s national assembly

MAIN Soraya Umewaka

Japanese and Lebanese traditions mix in one filmmaker’s central Tokyo

MAIN Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur

Indonesia's temples receive a modernist makeover in the Malaysian capital

MAIN Yaghmour Architects

It’s all relative: an architectural firm in Amman is a

MAIN Czech Embassy in Cairo

The high-rise embassy in Egypt keeping its concrete charms in

MAIN Swiss Embassy in Algiers

A contemporary Helvetian addition to Algiers' embassy circuit offers a

MAIN British Embassy in Abu Dhabi

Afternoon tea, a hologram of the Queen and a slice

MAIN US Embassy in Karachi

The rundown on a 1950s Richard Neutra relic under threat

MAIN The Bahrain Pavillion

At a world’s fair, there are perks to being a

MAIN Danish Embassy in Riyadh

A Danish design for the desert stands out amongst Saudi

MAIN Rahill Jamalifard

Persian psychedelia plants new roots in Queens, New York

MAIN Zaki Nusseibeh

Essential reading: inside the 40,000 book library of 'the finest

MAIN Kuwait Embassy in Tokyo

Award-winning architect Dr Hisham N. Ashkouri breaks down Kenzo Tange’s

MAIN The Tripoli Planetarium

A closer look at an architectural star on the Libyan

MAIN Palestinian Embassy in Havana

Coffee, history and ‘msakhan at the Embassy of Palestine in

MAIN Berber Brutalism in Agadir

Brownbook finds beauty in the striking brutalist buildings of Agadir

MAIN Island Mentality

Two thousand miles from Muscat, a contemporary Omani fort washes

MAIN Oscar Niemeyer in Abu Dhabi

Brownbook's latest publication unearths the late Brazilian modernist's long forgotten

MAIN Agadir Town Hall

How did one town on Morocco’s south coast become a

MAIN Masjid al Nilain

A modernist masterpiece on the banks of the Nile, Masjid

MAIN At Home in Nouakchott

After touring the world, pop star parents Noura Mint Seymali

MAIN New School

The campus dormitories of one university in Cairo offer students

MAIN Esen Karol

In a housing estate built by musicians, Turkish editorial designer

MAIN The Alan Vaughan-Richards House

Built in the 1960s by the Vaughan-Richards family, AVR House

MAIN Cool on the Hill

One mountain lodge in Morocco’s Berber countryside has become a

MAIN Daphne Mohajer Va Pesaran

Two rooms in west Tokyo is ample space for fashion

MAIN Going Underground

The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art’s industrial exterior hides one

MAIN Moley Talhaoui

In his Stockholm studio, Moroccan-Berber artist Moley Talhaoui makes a

MAIN Salah Barka

A look inside the home and neighbourhood of Tunisian fashion

MAIN Ghada Khunji

In her Manama penthouse, photographer Ghada Khunji brings together two

MAIN Fem Güçlütürk

Turkish botanist Fem Güçlütürk is giving her Istanbul apartment the

MAIN School of Thought

Blending harmoniously with its surroundings, one university campus is serving

Main 2 The Brazilian Mashrabiyeh

Combining mashrabiyat with modernism, the Arab diaspora's influence on Brazilian

Main The Fruit House

In rural Iran, a simple house for storing fruit is

MAIN Bank Statement

A cultural powerhouse in Istanbul, SALT’s latest limb takes over

Main In Full Swing

After years of designing the dream homes of others, Bernard

MAIN Made in Japan

Why Ethiopia’s second city of Gondar is the perfect place

MAIN Survival of the Fittest

A serene complex of sporting pavilions in Riyadh is keeping

Main Electric Feel

A 1930s electricity hangar in Amman is now generating excitement

Main Office Crush

Known for its impeccable design principles, Autoban’s beautiful headquarters keep

MAIN Cosmetic Surgery

Housing its staff in recycled shipping containers, this medical centre

MAIN Cargo Collective

Take one shipping container, some concrete and a little initiative,

Main Looking for Palestine

The Upper West Side is home for actress and memoirist

MAIN Prison Break

Once a royal garden and a city prison, a new

Main The Mosque in the Snow

With a name that means ‘blooming tulip’, Lala Tulpan is

Main Buried in the Alps

An Islamic cemetery has become a source of architectural solace,

Main Brick by Brick

Bespoke architectural design comes at a price – a surprisingly

Main Dar Delight

A 300 year old family home gets a sensitive restoration

Main Landing on its Feet

With a stylish redesign by Foster + Partners, Amman’s new

Main Art in Algeria

A former family apartment is now an artist residency space

Main In the Dar

Low-key and glitz-free, an avant-garde boutique hotel set in the

Main Visions of Samia

Samia Halaby’s Tribeca loft in Lower Manhattan is an apt

Main Escape from Tehran

Built by famed architect Nourkeyhani, a house in the Iranian

Heading Inland Heading Inland

A custom built housing project for the fishermen of Tyre

Main Trail Blazing

Fathy Salama is one of Egypt’s foremost composers and helped

Main Half the World

Take a stroll around Esfahan, the former capital of Iran

Newsha-Tavakolian Stop, Look, Listen

Award-winning and ground-breaking, photograher Newsha Tavakolian considers herself a voice

Burberry: An Interview with Christopher Bailey Burberry: An Interview with Christopher Bailey

Brownbook speaks to Burberry's Christopher Bailey about the art of

The IM PEI Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar. Museum Masterpiece

Legendary architect Ieoh Ming Pei's timeless and minimal design for

IMG_3238f Palm Leaf Architecture

In London, a house made from date palms

Featured-image-size The House that Bassam Built

Bassam Al Okeily is the Egyptian architect behind the Narrow

Featured-image-size Omar Samra

The youngest Arab and the first Egyptian to climb Mount