I’ve learned lots about the coffee community in The North so far, but only a tiny smidgen in terms of everyone else in the know. Still being a complete novice I’m really enjoying learning along the way.
My third instalment is about Opposite Cafe, as the likes of Alex (La Bottega Milanese) and Dave (Laynes Espresso) amongst others have said it was one of Leeds’ original coffee shop indies. Louisa Henry, Opposite’s founder seems to be woven into the fabric of the coffee scene here.
Louisa Henry came to study furniture design at Leeds Met, but was the first to admit wasn’t the ideal student and didn’t complete her degree. Struggling to pay the rent, her landlord got her a job in student rentals, where having the arduous job of renting out 120 properties in 3 months forced her to learn quickly. Her mind was set on opening a shop in the space at Leeds University, and only after a very long time, when she nearly gave up on the whole idea did her landlord finally agree to rent the space to her.
In 2005 the first branch of Opposite opened at Leeds University, opposite the Parkinson Building. Having only done bar work and no experience in coffee she’d taken a big leap of faith in herself, but her dad gave her one piece of good advice, to ‘concentrate on one thing, do it really well and keep it simple’. During the early days Louisa’s interest in coffee skyrocketed and after just six months of opening, she was 2nd in the UK Barista Championships, admitting that the strength of the competition was a lot smaller in those days! With a few other passionate baristas, like Ben Townsend from The Espresso Room and James Hoffman from Square Mile, they were part of a UK Barista team taking part in European Team challenges, here her knowledge in speciality coffees really developed.
Even with the success of Opposite at the University, she realised she didn’t want a coffee chain clone so decided to open a speciality coffee shop in Leeds. Fortunately against tough competition she opened at the small kiosk site in the Victoria Quarter and here she struck up a friendship with Dave (Laynes) and Paul (Coffee Community), working with them. Her barista’s such as Adam Lodge were becoming well known and Opposite was named in the Guardian’s Ten of the Best UK coffee shops article.
The VQ site was a great way of getting known by the rest of Leeds, but being limited in size Louisa wanted somewhere she could have the best of both worlds – serving speciality coffees with good food and space to sit. 18 months later a friend saw an empty site in Chapel Allerton’s Stainbeck Lane, the heart of the suburbs eating and drinking scene, opening Cup & Saucer in 2013.
Part of Louise’s ethos is to know the exact origin of coffee and have trust in the quality of processing they undergo making a perfect cup. At both sites they showcase their house espresso from Square Mile also Has Bean for filtered coffee and their guest coffees include some from Roundhill and Leeds based North Star.
As well as the quality of the coffee they serve, food has been a big part of the business too, the majority of it being made in their own catering company. Also served are baked goods from local producers That Old Chestnut with their vegan delights.
Over the last decade it sounds like Louise Henry’s life has been a hectic one, and I’m sure it won’t stop her driving her business forward. Paramount to that is to serve quality, ethically sourced coffee and promoting The North’s coffee community, which she and her team at Opposite have been integral to.Opposite branches:
- 26 Blenheim Terrace (Opposite Leeds University)
- Victoria Quarter, Leeds City Centre
- 4 Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton