My favourite freelance coffee places in Manchester

Sara Benaissa is a freelance writer and part of the Freelance Folk network. She loves writing about global movements, urban stories and how technology affects the human mindset. Sara specialises in communications, branding and blog content. In this article, she talks about finding her favourite freelance coffee places in Manchester.

As a freelancer, I’ve spent a fair chunk of my time typing my life away in cafés. Café working is a rite of passage for any remote worker, and even though I have transitioned back into office working, the cosy café is still a firm favourite of mine.

I think I like working from cafés because I can concentrate but I also feel like I’m part of the humdrum of urban life. Like many modern workers, I’ve worked in open offices and inadvertently got used to background noise, so now a quiet house can feel a bit eerie.

And let’s be honest, it’s also a great excuse to try loads of different places and spend that hard-earned freelancer cash. Anyone that knows me well will know that I’m slightly obsessed with trying the newest things Manchester has to offer, and out of all the bars, events, museums and restaurants, trying new Manchester cafes is definitely my favourite money draining hobby.

Let’s just say I’m a bit of a café fan girl, and because of this self-given status, I wanted to give any freelancer living here or visiting a round up of which city centre cafes I think are worth your coffee spending money.

I could list a million cafes that I love to work in, but in the interest of time and attention spans, I’ve whittled it down to 5.

Chapter 1 Books

This is a perfect café for freelancers but also a great café to do whatever you want. I would go as far as to say this place is my favourite independent café in Manchester. There are some places that just have something about them, Chapter 1 is one of those cafes. It’s such a versatile café and it instantly relaxes you as soon as you walk through the door and hear the soothing sound of the marble fountain plonked in the middle of the space.

I think this café is so popular because it’s completely flexible and multi-purpose. There are great tables to work and study from (and plug sockets!), which any freelancer knows is surprisingly hard to come by. It has communal sofa areas, private study/readings sections and even a little makeshift mezzanine that feels like an exotic tree house, oh and let’s not forget that it’s also a book shop. This means that it attracts all walks of life that sit side by side and happily comingle – a real rarity.

The actual look and feel of the place is really different too, they have chintzy sofas next to concrete blocks, bistro tables and typewriters - a concept that shouldn’t work but does.  A bit like Manchester itself.

And for the food intolerants out there, they do gluten free, dairy free and vegan cakes, and even have multiple choices every time you go. What’s not to like?

Foundation Coffee House

Foundation also has great working areas that are versatile. They have the classic New York style window seats, big 4-seater spaces perfect for meetings and a more loungy area if you don’t feel like working upright all your life.  

And when it comes to the hazel stuff, they don’t mess around and they mean business. Foundation’s coffee is smooth yet packs a punch and they tend to always be the first to offer different types of coffee that have just started to hit the hipster streets.

The interior is spacious and uber cool. In my mind they were the first café to ace the minimalist look in the northern quarter and have held their ground ever since. They also do some great events, like yoga, tech talks and Wednesday movie nights (and always serve a seriously good and cheap cocktail to go with your popcorn). And although this doesn’t strictly make it freelance friendly, it does make it a great place to work all day and then attend something fun at night.

I’ve recently been forced to give up caffeine, a fate I wouldn’t wish on my enemies. My new coffee free life has meant that I needed to get a bit creative in the morning and try other ways of waking up my brain for the day ahead. Foundation do some great hot and cold drinks that are caffeine free and hit the spot. Their turmeric latte is my favourite.

Ziferblat Edge Street

Ziferblat Edge Street is a bit like Chapter 1, the space is multi-functional, has something about it and even has similar chintzy chairs, but Ziferblat is also entirely different.

The café is a pay per minute concept where you pay for your time and not what you eat or drink. For some reason this makes everyone uber relaxed, easy to talk to and helps you to concentrate when working.

It’s a weird paradox that somewhere that counts time makes you feel like you have all the time in the world. I haven’t felt so comfortable staying in a café for hours since I lived in France. It also feels like you are in someone’s living room, so it really does feel like an escape from the hustle and bustle of the streets below.

I would say Ziferblat is the best social café too, so if you are feeling a bit isolated this place is perfect. It has an open, serve yourself kitchen where people naturally strike up conversation as they serve themselves cake or make a cup of tea. The space even has a balcony where people have sunny coffee breaks or cigarette chats.

Ziferblat, like many cafes in Manchester, do a stream of events, including the Freelance Folk meet ups . But I’d say Ziferblat do more than most because they are so known for their open social environments which bring different types of people together to feel part of the same working community.

Siop Shop (pronounced Shop Shop)

These guys are hands down the Manchester connoisseurs of doughnuts, which should be an incentive for any freelancer when deciding which coffee shop to work from. They actually first started in one of my favourite northern quarter bars, Common, as a pop-up counter bakery and soon got the funds and following to open their own shop just around the corner.

Whenever I go to a place to work, I always look at the tables. There is nothing worse than hunching over a rickety table while trying to balance your coffee scarily close to your laptop. It doesn’t make for the most epic concentration levels. And the tables here are great, plus the staff are always friendly and up for a joke. Their coffee is also not to be sniffed and their constantly changing menu would keep even the most ardent foodies entertained.

And one of the things I love most about Siop Shop is their seriously funny and freewheeling Instagram account, who knew doughnuts could be so off the wall.

The Banyan Tree

I’ve finally managed to venture out of the Northern Quarter and have jumped right to Castlefield. The Banyan Tree isn’t exactly on most people’s doorsteps or even radars, but it’s only a 10 minute walk from Deansgate station. I discovered it when I lived above the café and I still go back whenever I get the chance.

Because of its relatively hidden status, this café feels like a proper neighbourhood café. It’s independent but without the usual snobbery that comes with it. The staff are super relaxed and talkative, and you can spend hours there without feeling like you’re taking up ample coffee drinking space. They just let you be, and it makes you feel instantly at home. It’s also got a pretty decent outdoor seating area with good enough tables to work on when Manchester feels like being sunny.

I also really love how their drink selection and menus change regularly so I never get bored with the same working lunch, home-made biscuits or post work bevvy. They also do great curries (I think their speciality) and fun events, including their quiz and curry nights, wine tasting and art fairs. A definite hidden neighbourhood gem that makes you feel like you’re a local, even if you aren’t.

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Katy Carlisle