Blackboard Wars On Great Titchfield Street, London W1

A while back, Kaffeine, one of the pioneers of the new wave of Australian/ New Zealander helmed boutique coffee shops to bring bespoke, crafted coffee (not to mention the Flat White trend) to London's coffee scene

started putting funny/ mock-philosophical/ enticing/ chatty messages on a blackboard outside their Great Titchfield Street address. Ever since then, they nearly always have me smiling with their latest, always fun, always bonkers, Woody Allen-ish messages on them. Here's a classic from today

Over time, I've blogged a bunch of their blackboard messages, since I often work around the corner and have had plenty of great coffee over the past few years from the Kaffeine crew. Sometimes they ask you fun stuff when you're queuing, like "Who out of anyone dead or alive would you most like to have dinner with?" (My answer, if you're interested, was: Anne Frank). That quirky rapport is at the heart of their brand and what they do. Hence, the blackboards pursuing that same tone with their customers.

Then, around a year ago (I think), a new coffee shop opened up a few doors along from Kaffeine, whose name I can't remember and they started putting out a blackboard too, also bearing messages. The messages were not whip smart/ amusing like Kaffeine's and came off as just trying to piggy-back what was clearly working for Kaffeine in terms of branding and attracting people off the street (it's always packed). 

So, Kaffeine, faced with a rival coffee shop with a rival blackboard, turned the heat up on their witticisms and the writing got even better. 

Then, things changed again and a few months back, that rival coffee shop disappeared and then appeared newly re-opened as a new coffee shop under the new name of Gitane

They're into their blackboards, too. I haven't tried their coffee. Nor have I been inside. I might at some point, but for now, it seems somehow disloyal to the Kaffeine crew, to set foot in there. Anyway, their blackboards are fairly straight menu boards. Here's a recent pair from Gitane

Despite this, you still get two competing blackboards in a moment's walk along Great Titchfield Street. And always, the feeling that Kaffeine had the idea first and it had been imitated. Then, just when Great Titchfield Street seemed too small for another blackboard, Scandinavian Kitchen, who are located across the street from Kaffeine and Gitane

suddenly started setting out a blackboard with would-be witty messages on it too. And just like that, Great Titchfield Street's Blackboard wars kicked off big time. Here are a couple of Scandinavian Kitchen's recent blackboards

Okay, so they're silly. And you do sort of chuckle in a 'It's so bad, it's almost good' sort of way. But nothing that Scandinavian Kitchen or Gitane can do with their Blackboard messages, comes anywhere near the irreverent, playful brilliance of the Kaffeine boards. Here's another lovely one from Kaffeine

I'd love to know who writes those Kaffeine blackboards. Presumably it's one person, since the writing is always in the same voice and same tone. Other people I know who love the blackboards all reckon it's the work of a female pen (chalk stick?). I think they're right. Whoever this bonkers super-smart, super funny poet is at Kaffeine, I wonder if she knows how many of us are reading her blackboard thoughts all the time, like it's a serialised day in the life? Based on the principal recurring theme - advice handed down by her mother - it sounds like she has a really cool mother: well, I guess it's proof of what they say: like mother, like daughter...

PS: After this post went out, the folks at Kaffeine got in touch to say they wrote their own Blackboards post on the Kaffeine blog. It's really interesting. Check it out here 


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