coffee shop sketch

For the past 75 years, H.R. Higgins has quietly been keeping the people of London caffeinated. Tucked away down a peaceful street in the heart of Mayfair, the H.R. Higgins shop is the perfect spot for coffee and tea drinkers seeking solace from the rush of bustling Oxford Street – a London coffee shop boasting a cornucopia of the finest teas and coffees, overflowing from delicately ornate caddies.

On 16th September 1944, Harold Rees Higgins first opened the doors to the H.R. Higgins shop with the sole aim to supply coffee to businesses and individuals affected by the war. A result of the humblest of beginnings, H.R. Higgins is now proudly celebrating the shop’s 75th anniversary and with this lies the opportunity to reflect on the past three quarters of a century.

The everyday commuter or passer-by might miss the unobtrusive London coffee shop, seduced instead by the bolder glass fronted Mayfair premises with their exquisite and daring window displays. Those with a more inquisitive eye will however spot a bicycle with a basket full of flowers, and glints of gold, brass, and dark wood interiors that mark H.R. Higgins (Coffee-man) Ltd. Upon walking through the door, the shop is seductively dark and enigmatic, and the intoxicating smell of coffee and tea intrigues and invites.

This wasn’t always the way. Let’s rewind 75 years. On Wednesday 31st March 1942, Harold Higgins noted in his diary that he had ceased being an employee of The Kenya Coffee Company (better know these days as Kenco). He was then offered a small attic room on 43 South Molton Street in Mayfair, an address that was occupied at the time by a Miss Fox and a Miss Jenkins, who were local bakers. The room was up 70 stairs and the rent was £5 a month including rates. It was here Harold started H.R. Higgins (and therefore was subsequently known as Coffee-Man), a wholesale only business, possibly because nobody in their right mind would climb the 70 stairs to the little back room to buy directly!

The business boomed, and in 1944 Harold took his roaster back down the 70 stairs to his first shop at 42 South Molton Street. It is thought Harold attempted to acquire these premises over a long period, with several thwarted applications due to the front of the shop being repeatedly blown out during bombing raids. Despite these setbacks, H.R. Higgins was born. This humbled ground floor shop and basement was decorated with rich mahogany and exquisitely designed traditional weighing scales bought at auction. On his first day of trading, Harold served eleven customers and made a rather remarkable £2 and thruppence.

London coffee shop Fast forward to the 1960s, and Harold handed down the reins to his son, Tony. Involved in the business since a child, Tony was able to hit the ground running, and over the next 40 years the business continued to grow. In 1979, H.R. Higgins received the Royal Warrant and started to supply the royal household as it still does to this day.

London coffee shop

By 1986, the business had somewhat outgrown the premises on South Molton Street. It was then the decision to move to a new address just two streets away at 79 Duke Street was made, and it is here that the shop can still be found today. In 2016, the shop underwent a full renovation, creating the current stunning interior.

From the ground floor shop, a winding staircase leads down to a strikingly designed café. Beyond the regular blends and mouth-watering treats available, the café offers weekly filter V60 specials chosen by the team. This method of brewing produces clean, fresh coffee, which are made with expert precision using beautiful copper Hario V60 filter cones. To celebrate its anniversary, this year H.R. Higgins has launched monthly coffee tasting masterclasses at the café for those wishing to discover the story behind this iconic business.

London coffee shop

H.R. Higgins holds a vast collection of extraordinary teas and coffees from across the world. The knowledge and authority with which David and Tony Higgins source, select and create their perfect roasts and delicious blends have been likened to a great sommelier or oenophile creating a world class cellar of vintage wines. However there is no stuffy formality or snobbish attitude – rather the welcoming and enticing atmosphere of a family run business, dedicated to helping individuals find their preferred flavour.

The team are now working hard in planning how to take H.R. Higgins into the next 75 years of business in the ever-changing landscape of the London coffee shop scene.