Our Favourite Community Cafés in the UK

Image: Café from Crisis

We share some of our favourite community and social enterprise cafés from around the UK that not only serve up a fab cup of coffee – but also give back to the local community. 

All over the UK, there are some incredible and inspiring non-profit cafés, serving up some of the best food and drink in town.  Whether they’re providing training and employment to ex-offenders or homeless people; or supporting local businesses and running community-focused events, we can’t think of anywhere better to enjoy your morning latte or while away an afternoon with friends over a socially-conscious, low-waste lunch. 

Here are some of the Eco-Age team’s favourite community cafés across the UK:

Hornbeam Cafe, Walthamstow

This long-standing vegan and zero-waste community hub in Walthamstow runs a wide variety of events for and by the community,  based around promoting sustainable and low cost living and giving support to people who need a place to meet. 

Stop by for delicious local, seasonal, organic, fair trade, vegan food (the cakes are amazing!), made using fresh fruit and veg provided by local growing cooperative Organiclea and other local organic farmers. Every Monday the normal café is closed for the Hornbeam’s Food Rescue People’s Kitchen – which offers drop-in opportunities to learn to cook vegan food or just to eat a delicious lunch made from surplus food. Tuesday-Wednesday, Hornbeam runs a ‘Pay-what-you-feel’ community cafe with a focus on organic and surplus food, while Thursday-Sunday What the Fattoush? takes over the kitchen, serving up plant-based Palestinian street food and donating 10% of profits to SkatePal – an NGO supporting young people in Palestine through skateboarding. 

Hornbeam also runs pay-as-you-feel food stalls around the Waltham Forest borough to provide food that is perfect to eat, but won’t be sold by shops as it’s near it’s ‘best before’ date; and a food and veg stall outside the Hornbeam café every Saturday selling organic and ultra-local sustainably grown fruit and vegetables, plus homemade bread, jams and preserves.


Café from Crisis, Spitalfields

Café From Crisis is an award winning training café and social enterprise in the heart of Spitalfields.  For 15 years, it has worked to end homelessness by providing Crisis members with practical hospitality and catering training such as kitchen craft and barista skills to help them to gain qualifications and confidence in a public-facing environment and support them on their journey out of homelessness.  In the café they serve up fresh and socially-conscious food from suppliers like The Dusty Knuckle, Fareshare and Dalstons, as well as partnering with Volcano Coffee Works to create an ethically sourced and unique coffee that is sold in cafés and shops across the UK. 



The Forest, Edinburgh

The Forest is a volunteer-run, collectively-owned arts and events project. They are a not-for profit charity that is funded mostly by it’s cafe. The cafe serves organic vegetarian food  and Fairtrade drinks with many vegan options. You can enjoy a delicious coffee and give something back as their pay it forward scheme allows a customer to pay for a coffee for someone who in unable to. The Forest space allows the vulnerable to enjoy the space, use the wi-fi, play instruments and boardgames and get creative! There is also a free shop where visitors to the cafe can bring any unwanted items or food and pass them on or swap them with someone so nothing goes to waste. 


Brixton Pound, Brixton 

The first ‘pay-what-you-can’ café in South London, the talented cooks at The Brixton Pound turn surplus food into delicious and nutritious vegetarian and vegan meals that everyone can afford. The cafe is run by the local community and the atmosphere is really friendly, laidback and inclusive. 

As well as great coffee and food, there’s also a brilliant range of events happening here throughout the year, both in the cafe and in the studio space below. From pay-what-you-can reiki to green film screenings, there’s plenty for everyone to get involved with. 

The café also trades using the Brixton Pound (hence the name) as well as normal currency. So, if you fancy supporting Brixton’s local businesses, you can withdraw some from the cash machine here.



Café Kino, Bristol

Kino describes itself as being a ‘workers’ co-op’ meaning that any money made by the cafe goes back into the space, improving the experience for both workers and customers. Located in Stokes Croft, the cafe offers some of the cheapest plant-based food in Bristol, with burgers and falafel being popular choices on the menu. Downstairs, the cafe also has space for events, meetings and workshops – with weekly life-drawing class, if you’re brave enough!


Britannia Enterprises CIC, Norwich

Café Britannia is a hotspot for families and quickly became one of the cities most popular stops for coffee, cakes, generous breakfasts and freshly-prepared lunches – which may come as a surprise, as it’s located in HM Prison Norwich. This self-funded social enterprise offers offenders and ex-offenders a range of training and employment oppotunities, providing invaluable rehabilitation service to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

In 2017, Britannia Enterprises engaged 153 prisoners in its projects, with 20 full time contracts issued to prisonners. Although the original site has one of the best views in Norwich, the enterprise has expanded into the local community, with a cafe in Waterloo Park Pavilion, the Britannia Gardens (formerly the Gibraltar Gardens) and two mobile catering vans available for hire and often seen on tour in local parks, festivals and events. 



Paper & Cup, Shoreditch

Image: Paper and Cup

Paper and Cup is a small café just off Shoreditch High Street run by the Spitalfields Crypt Trust charity to employ and train people in recovery from addiction. Focusing on ‘helping people facing homelessness and addiction transform their lives’, this local charity provides employment opportunities which will in turn, hopefully help people in recovery with moving forwards with their lives. In addition to the cheap coffee, book lined walls and counter of baked goods, this café also opens up as an events and exhibition space for new artists with the hope of raising funds for the charity. 


Social Bite, Edinburgh

Social Bite opened as a small sandwich shop on Rose St in Edinburgh in 2012, employing people from the homeless community. Their mission to bring Scotland together and use the strength of the community to combat homelessness has seen the likes of Hollywood greats Leonardo Dicaprio and George Clooney walk through the door to pick up a tasty bite. Social Bite encourages customers to pay forward meals for the homeless and has partnered to launched a global sleep out which has been hugely successful since launching in 2017. This year, 7th December 2019, the global campaign aims to see 50,00 people including Will Smith and Dame Helen Mirren sleep under the stars to raise money for the homeless. What started in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens has now become a global event with sleep outs taking place in New York, London,  Dublin and many more cities across the globe. You can find Social Bite on Rose Street in Edinburgh or St Vincent Street in Glasgow.



Black Cat Café, Hackney

Stop off here for some top-notch vegan food and plenty of hip Hackney vibes. This not-for-profit spot is run by a friendly team of volunteers, meaning you’re always guaranteed service with a smile and you can tuck into your food safe in the knowledge when you pay the bill it will be going to a good place.

The Black Cat Café prides itself on being ‘first and foremost a vegan cafe’ and everything in the place, including cleaning products and materials, are all 100% plant-based and cruelty-free. And it works too: the food here is simply on another level of deliciousness. They even make their ‘vegan meats’, mayo and dips in house, so you know exactly what has gone into them. Plant-based, ethical eating never tasted so good!


The Sidwell Street Café, Exeter

Based in St Sidwell’s Community Centre in the heart of Exeter city centre, this café serves locally-sourced food at low prices. Using ingredients from the centre’s garden and surplus food from nearby supermarkets when possible, St Sidwell’s is on a mission to battle food waste. Volunteers make preserves and soups out of food that is close to spoiling – whether it be from local supermarkets or allotment holders. From barista training to customer service, this inclusive space provides invaluable work experience and training for members of the local community. Veggie and vegan options always available.



The Kitchen, Bristol

Run by the YMCA, this social enterprise is a training cafe providing opportunities for anyone looking to get experience in hospitality. With no prior experience necessary, The Kitchen welcomes volunteers with learning disabilities and mental health difficulties; since launching, it has trained 126 volunteers and helped 36 into paid employment.  Since the start of 2019, the entire menu has been made vegetarian and much of it vegan, and the team work with local suppliers where possible, sourcing their coffee from Extract Coffee Roasters in the nearby area of St Werburghs. The Kitchen is available for hire too, hosting community gatherings and events with an offering of refreshments made by the team on site.


For more ethical eateries, see the 10 best sustainable cafes in London and our favourite sustainable restaurants in London.

In NYC? Here’s Max La Manna’s favourite vegan restaurants in the big apple