When you hear of a cafe that calls itself ‘The Temple of Coffee’, there are certain expectations that begin to build up.
As what you might call something of a ‘casual’ when it comes to coffee, I only buy it as a treat and never really make it at home, I was expecting to be completely out of my depth in an establishment that claims to literally worship the stuff.
But the name intrigued me, and with a similarly glowing reputation I decided to set out on a pilgrimage from East London to Bayswater to visit the temple myself.
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Having never made a journey anywhere near this long specifically and solely for a coffee before, the stakes – and the bar – were raised even higher.
With my boots on the ground in unfamiliar West London, it wasn’t long before I spotted the glow of Arro The Temple of Coffee, shining like a warm beacon in the bitterly cold early evening darkness.
From outside the cafe I could see the semi-religious boasts had some truth behind them, with varieties of coffee from Asia, Africa, South and Central America on offer, as well as a house blend.
Clearly this was a place for those who knew their stuff, i.e. not me.
Nonetheless, I stepped into the temple to see what they had to offer, and was immediately taken aback as the sound of rockin’ around the Christmas tree hit me square in the face.
It wasn’t just the choice of music either, the place was adorned from floor to ceiling in some pretty elaborate Christmas decorations, with one two-storey wall of the cafe quite literally covered in bow-tied gift boxes.
Tendrils of twinkling bunting also caught the eye as they shimmered in the quiet store.
It felt like I’d stumbled into the temple of Christmas more than coffee.
Having adjusted to this festive surprise I took in the cafe itself, there were numerous pastries and savoury bites on offer, with some delicious looking focaccia lining the glass counter.
The smell wafting around the place was that you’d expect in a coffee shop, but without that sour industrial tinge you get in the chain cafes.
The main coffee menu itself was simple, with the many different filtering options and special blends kept on separate boards, no doubt to make it easier for casuals like myself.
I went for my usual order of a mocha, and unable to resist, added a cinnamon swirl pastry to boot.
This came to £3.40 for the coffee, and £2 for the pastry.
I then settled in in the softly lit and cosy upstairs section to enjoy my hard-earned drink.
The coffee itself despite the reasonably low price, looked spectacular, with layers and interesting shapes visible through the insulated glass it was served in.
The entire sides of the glass were actually coated in real chocolate.
As I settled down to take my first sip, the gravelly voice of Chris Rhea floating through the warm and festive room, watching traffic flash by outside in the night, all was well.
Until I took that sip.
Having looked so pretty I was expecting a sweet taste to match but my first swig was anything but, the bitterest of coffee flavours stinging my tongue.
Perplexed at how it was possible I couldn’t detect a single hint of chocolate in my mocha, despite its appearance, I took up my spoon and gave it a good stir.
This seemed to do the trick, because sip number two was heavenly.
I’ve had a lot of mochas in my time but the balance of that strong bitter coffee with the sweetness of the real melted chocolate in that sip was genuinely a revelation.
I’m quite the cynic when I write a review, so I don’t say it lightly when I tell you this mocha raised the bar substantially and may actually have ruined all my local coffee shops for me.
And it just got better as time went on, more and more of the chocolate melting and creating a deliciously rich and perfect winter drink.
I drank slowly from my lofty position, savouring the coffee as customers filed in and out and the two baristas chatted away in Italian.
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Having expected to be completely out of my depth in the temple of coffee, I couldn’t have been more comfortable and contented.
And when the time came to leave I set out into the night again with a smile, and a caffeine-induced spring in my step.
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