Small White Elephant Coffee Shop

There are nearly as many coffee shops per head in London as there are pubs these days. With an abundance of choice in beans, tea, milk, food, decor and locale, there is no format of caffeine dispensary you cannot create. But, if you spent ten years mixing your moods, you probably wouldn’t hit on the same combination that makes ‘Swelephant’ what it is.


Proprietors Dale and Jehn have been running their small shop for just over a year now, and they pride themselves on running their business their way. There is immense competition on just about every tier in Peckham and the surrounding area, with new shops popping up every few months.

As Dale is quick to point out, with the availability of ingredients being what it is, there’s no excuse for getting the basics wrong. This same philosophy extends to how they do buisness too; their’s no excuse to be unfriendly, rush, or not take the time to get to know your neighbours. Unlike the more aloof coffee shops you might encounter in London, everything about the cafe is distinctly unique, and distinctly Peckham.

Given that it only occupies a small front it’s roomy without looking sparse, and even on a busy day you don’t feel too cramped. As you’d expect, the action of the room centre’s round the coffee machine. In a sea of bright oranges, green and purple, it gleams at you with all the reassurance of a machine never neglected. They serve Alchemy Coffee, at temperatures ranging from the traditional hot, through cold-brewed, and on to ‘iced’ in the warmer months. I order a flat white for myself and my girlfriend, and although busy, there’s little or no wait. When it arrives it’s hot, velvety, and not nearly as harsh as some of the other coffees I’ve had of late, providing confirmation that on Dales earlier assertions.

They know their stuff, these people are serious. It’s not been gone 5 minutes and I’m glaring at the stack of cakes and treats on the counter like a seagull at hot chips. Then there’s the rest of the food served out of the tiny kitchen in the back. Fresh sourdough toast with smashed avocado, chilli jam, and bacon from Flock and Herd (an excellent local butcher), an array of cheesy toasted sandwiches and monthly ‘pho nights’are soon to start (recipes taught to the couple by their Vietnamese landlords). My once-simple desire for caffeine was swiftly compounding.


We all have a shop that we’re happy to duck in an out of on a regular basis for our victuals, and Swelephant is one of those. However, it quickly became apparent to me that Small White Elephant is also one of those places that you can visit intending to spend half an hour in at most and maybe £3 or £4, and leave an hour later than intended, £6 lighter and without a single regret. This realisation did not dawn quick enough, and through the course of my conversation with the owners,

I managed to demolish a rich and buttery slice of millionaire shortbread without stopping to think further ahead than my next bite. For a trip that was meant to comprise of a few coffees and a chat, I left with more (and less) than I’d originally intended, and much happier for it. And a bit shakier.


Twitter: @swelephant_cafe

Small White Elephant

28 Choumert Road


SE15 4SE

Instagram: @joemerick89
Twitter: @joe_emerick