Category Coffee Shops
There are three types of coffee shop in London:
Traditionally, from Victorian times, there were coffee importers and vendors, who would usually have a sampling room at the back. The sampling room grew into a café, and did more trade than over the counter sales of beans and ground coffee. Alongside pubs, coffee houses were the setting for the start of many political organisations and philosophical debating societies, including the Cogers. There are a few coffee vendors left, including the [Drury Tea And Coffee Company (Strand)]? and the [Monmouth Coffee Company]?.
A much more recent phenomenon are the cafe chains such as [Starbucks]?, [Coffee Republic]?, [Costa Coffee]? (which originated stateside) and [Caffe Nero]? (Italian). These tend to have little or no character, being built to a corporate style, and often serve as a spare meeting room for local offices. The coffee is also sometimes of inferior quality, depending on who you ask (but evidently not to the large numbers of customers they get); it is also often expensive. (Starbucks in particular has been accused of this.)
People have occasionally recently tried experimentally setting up Dutch-style cannabis coffee shops, but they are still illegal, and the police have been closing them down whenever they appear. The most successful of these was the Cafe Cairo, but they have now ended their lenient policy.