Tag Archives: artisan

Coffee – An Education, San Francisco – guest post by Lucy Reynolds

One of my great delights in life is that first cup of coffee in the morning. The one that clears away the fuzziness of sleep and kick starts your brain for the challenges of the day. It’s joyous, it’s essential and before my trip to San Francisco, it’s usually been of the freeze dried variety. Yes, I know – the coffee connoisseurs who are reading this are probably spitting out their mouthful of single origin Columbian shouting “Heathen!” but hear me out. My day job as a teacher doesn’t give me the luxury of having time to craft that perfect cup of coffee; in fact, speed and caffeine content nearly always takes precedence over quality and taste. What’s that? “Life’s too short to drink bad coffee” you cry. Well, break time is too short to faff around with a bloody filter coffee. And that’s how I thought for a long time – until I went on holiday to San Francisco with my mate Diane, an established quality coffee fan already. 

Due to her thirst for great coffee, Diane had already researched some of the best spots to go to for a quality cup. On our first full day, after successfully shaking off a spot of jet lag, we ventured out to find Sightglass in the SoMA district. One of the rules I’ve learnt about trendy shops and restaurants is that they will invariably have a minimalistic shop front (in the case of the uber-cool bakery Tartine, no name out front at all) and that will continue on into the premises, usually with lots of wood and metal, making it look more like a lumber yard than a place you’d go for a drink. And guess what? I wasn’t proved wrong. The interior of Sightglass was exactly what I’d suspected, but I did have to admit that it looked impressive, if not trying to be slightly too cool for school. Within the shop, the barista (who looked like they’d stepped out of an Urban Outfitter’s catalogue) busily prepare their orders in the open plan coffee bar, whilst heavily tattooed types don aprons and work using the beautiful roaster that dominates the eye when you walk in the store. After buying our drinks (I’d plumped with a latte – I felt in safe territory there), we walked upstairs to sit on the mezzanine level, so we could spy on the open coffee bar and also glance into the glass-fronted company headquarters, which are also located within this flagship store.

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The clientele was varied – ranging from typical hipster city types, to older business people and joggers who probably needed that shot of energy to carry on. Not that we’d done any jogging that morning, but anyone who’s ever been to San Francisco will know that those vertiginous hills really take it out of you. So, here I was, ready to take my first sip of SF’s finest when I made my rookie mistake – I added sugar. Diane isn’t necessarily a violent person but if looks could kill, I’d be pushing up daisies. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that adding sugar is a big no-no, that it wouldn’t need any and I should try it before I add. Scowling inwardly, I took her advice and, lo and behold, she was right. Maybe I’m too used to the over processed bitter beans of Costa and Starbucks, but since drinking very good quality coffee, I can taste a natural sweetness that doesn’t need any additional help. I’d made my latte too sweet and I vowed (rather begrudgingly) to avoid sugar in coffee for the rest of the trip. After about twenty minutes of gazing down at the barista, who seemed to have got tapping milk jugs and creating fern shapes in frothed milk down to a fine art, we moved along, leaving customers ready to jump in our places, attesting to the popularity of the place.  

Similar to the popularity of Sightglass, we had heard great things about a shop/micro-roaster called Ritual Coffee in The Mission, so we went for a visit, and after a few wrong turns and relying on my dodgy Google Maps on my phone, we found it. Unfortunately for us, the shop was undergoing refurbishment, so only the front part of the store was visible. The staff were very friendly though and parking ourselves in a lovely window seat, I decided to break free of my latte chains and go for something slightly more adventurous. I opted for an espresso and it was delicious; rich, complex but remarkably easy to drink. What seems to give coffee shops the edge seems to be the way the beans are ground. Diane had drawn my attention to the EK-43 grinder in coffee all of the shops, and told me that if the beans are ground vertically, instead of the traditional horizontal grinding plates, the end product is supposedly more defined and has greater clarity. In Leeds, I’m aware that Mrs Athas has one of these machines (expensive kit but you can really taste the results) but it seems de rigueur in the San Francisco coffee circles. 

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It was also in this shop that I learnt a whole new vocabulary surrounding the brewing and filtering of coffee. On the shelves were an array of strange apparatus – Chemex, which looked like props from Breaking Bad, V60s, AeroPress, Moka pots and other espresso kettles. Apart from my cafetiere (which I like to say in a thick French accent), I’d only seen the espresso kettle and never in my life heard of a V60 – it sounds like a cream you’d get to clear a case of thrush. I also learnt that they did a cold brew and decided that, in our next coffee shop, that’s what I’d go for.

So on to Réveille Coffee Co. in North Beach, which we actually visited twice during our stay. Our first visit was in the morning, and seeing the freshly baked croissants was too much for our hungry stomachs, so I had a delicious, moist almond croissant whilst Diane went for the classic all-butter version. I also decided to have a cold brew, as I wanted to see how different it was to the idea of an iced coffee that I had already experienced and not really enjoyed in the UK. The difference was marked. Iced coffee is brewed hot and then chilled by pouring over or adding ice, whereas a cold brew is basically ground coffee which is steeped in room temperature or cold water for around 12 hours. It was hugely refreshing and bright, yet still gave that lovely coffee kick. The taste wasn’t strong but actually really smoothy and fruity – it was as if the temperature really brought out the flavour of the beans. The second time we came here we both had a latte and I, learning from my mistakes, left the sugar out and, after a week of this, didn’t miss it at all.

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We also visited The Mill on Divisadero St twice as well; a great coffee shop that was bustling each time we went in. They had an impressive range of beans (Four Barrel) to choose from and the cold brew and espresso I tasted were lovely – I think any memories of freeze dried Nescafe were rapidly disappearing into the ether. They also sold some very delicious looking artisan Josey Baker bread (another thing I’ve learnt is that if you put the word ‘artisan’ in front of anything, you can increase the price by 20%) but Diane and I had already bought some wonderful fresh produce from the local farmer’s market and were waiting on a table at our chosen restaurant for brunch, so decided not to load up on carbs.

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Our last real find was one of the many small coffee bars belonging to Blue Bottle Coffee, well known around San Francisco and seemingly served in most large coffee shops due to the multitude of ‘We serve Blue Bottle Coffee’ stickers adorning shop windows. However, we wanted to find one of the original shops so we could experience just what makes this brand so revered. This kiosk if found nestled a few streets just behind the Opera House (Hayes Valley), opened in a garage in 2005. The only way we knew it was the Blue Bottle Coffee shop was due to the long queue of people patiently waiting for their daily cup of coffee.

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We also patiently queued up and looked at their simple but classic menu of drinks,  with both of us deciding upon a latte. I also spied some shiny, nut brown pretzels and other ‘artisan’ bread buns and ordered one, although myself and the barista must have had some communication problems and, in the end, I had to point awkwardly at the display to the stereotypical twisted pretzel shape, to which she exclaimed rather sardonically “They are all pretzels but I see…you want that one”. I think I made another rookie mistake but hey ho, I wanted the kind of pretzel I’d seen on the films goddammit! Apart from novelty shaped bread problems, the coffee was silky, mellow and extremely tasty – much better than anything that could come from a jar. In fact, we went back a few days after and I, trying to avoid the pretzel lady, got some great advice from a friendly male barista who helped me pick out some freshly roasted beans to take home as a present for a friend. Out of all of the coffee shops I went to, Blue Bottle has to be my favourite. Maybe I’d got used to the culture and the taste, so Blue Bottle came to me when my taste buds were more refined. I think, however, it was more down to the very relaxed and non-pretentious set up of the shop. Yes, it was tiny, but it felt special and like a treat when you got your order. It tasted great and just gave an insight into the typically laid back San Franciscan attitude that we got to know and admire. It was simple, authentic and extremely reasonable in price and aside from my bread battle, that pretzel did taste great!

And now we come to the present day, as I sit in Leeds, staring at my half full jar of Douwe Egberts. I’m not gonna lie….I’ve had a cup or two in the morning, but I get it now. It tastes ok…nothing special. Just something to wake me up. Since coming back from holiday, I have been into La Bottega Milanese, Mrs Athas and Laynes Espresso and been confident enough to order cold brews, split shots, piccolos and espressos. And they’ve been great. And I haven’t added sugar at all (honest guvnor!). I’m also thinking about ordering a V-60…but just thinking mind you. Let’s not rush things… 

All photos in this blog post were taken by Diane Amesbury.

http://www.sightglasscoffee.com
http://www.ritualroasters.com
http://www.bluebottlecoffee.com
https://www.facebook.com/TheMillSF
http://www.reveillecoffee.com

Gusto Italiano @ Lazy Lounge, Leeds

Gusto Italiano‘s, ‘Taste of Italy’ Night is an event hosted by Mario Olianos held at Lazy Lounge on Wellington Street. It’s a monthly feast I’ve wanted to go to for AGES, after reading wonderful things about the evening from Leeds blogger Where’s Lisa. Luckily, Mario was in search of local bloggers to attend last Thursday, so I duly attended with my friend Alice.

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All the food is lovingly prepared by Mario, a Sardinian native, who you may have seen selling his Italian produce at Briggate Farmers market. 

Being a believer in collaborating with other independents Mario invites a local food hero to each event. This months guest was Adam Thur from The Pastry Stall and previous guests have included Costello’s Bakery, The Yummy Yank and George & Joseph.

Mario lays all the food out in a corner of the Lazy Lounge upstairs mezzanine, and even though I’d seen photos on Twitter before, it didn’t prepare me for the reality of it. This was like a foodie dream come true!! 

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Mario happily talked us through the buffet and spoke with passion about what comes naturally; generously feeding people who love food (much of it homemade) with simple flavours which reflect his homeland.

There was a beautiful array of Italian, and in particular Sardinian treats for both meat and non-meat eaters, with the whole idea of grazing. Including bruschetta topped with aubergine and tomato which were showed off on a mirrored table. Great, simple flavours done well!

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An incredibly enjoyable frittata which was thin and light and a generous platter of three meats  –  Parma ham, Mortadella and Salami Napoli.

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A vibrant homemade salad – Polpa di Granchi alla Catalana made with crab stick was a revelation, it was light, but still flavourful from red onion, tomatoes and shredded crab running through it.

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Mario’s an artisan who produces his own cheese using Yorkshire produce, and in an impressive line-up brought along three homemade Pecorino cheeses at 10, 20, and 30 days old. I’m not the biggest cheese fan and even I found myself enjoying them; lovely and creamy, complementing the rest of the dishes well. In addition, there were also two mature Pecorino cheeses giving plenty of choice.

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Mario’s homemade Carta di Musica, a flat bread who’s name comes from being paper-thin, allowing sheet music to be read through it before being cooked.

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A selection of sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes and balsamic glazed baby onions, as well as a freshly made Caprese salad to add a whole host of flavours and textures to your plate.

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With freshly made Margherita pizzas from neighbours Primo, there was LOTS of potential to become incredibly full with the feast in front of us. 

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As you can imagine it was difficult not to indulge, but of course there had to be room to sample the stunning patisserie made by Adam from The Pastry Stall. It all looked picture perfect, and my photos don’t do them justice in the slightest.

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Everything was absolutely exquisite and beautifully made; lemon meringue pies with perfect balance of sharp lemon with sweetness from the meringue.

The macaron were TO DIE FOR!!! A lovely size, completely melt in the mouth and not too sweet. Fresh fruit tartlets filled with creme patisierre were also a complete winner.

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A Straciatella cheesecake which I heard was a total winner of a dessert, with chocolate covered popping candy. Thom is obviously a very talented pastry chef!

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The evening is an absolute bargain for £10.99 and you can eat as much or as little as you want, but believe me you’ll find yourself going for seconds because it’s just so yummy! I wasn’t the only one to think so, as there were a number of regulars who are completely hooked on Mario’s food and buy in 100% to his passion for feeding people with wonderful produce.

The evening was ALL about enjoying wonderful food, with like-minded people who love the good things in life – good conversation and great authentic food.

What another fantastic example of independent businesses collaborating together for the greater good.  Booking on one of Mario’s ‘Taste of Italy’ events is a fantastic idea for lovers of great food and conversation in a relaxed setting. A well of the Gusto Italiano evening, Mario also hosts Cena Sarda where guests are treated to a traditional Sardinian meal, which many of the guests I met on Thursday said is a MUST!! 

I definitely recommend Gusto Italiano ‘Taste of Italy’!!

Food: Delicious, authentic, lots of homemade produce, caters for meat-eaters and non-meat eaters with ease.

Atmosphere: Lovely relaxed atmosphere, ideal for meeting other food lovers.

Value for money: A bargain for the quality of food.

Gusto Italiano ‘Taste of Italy’
Lazy Lounge
Wellington St
Leeds
West Yorkshire
LS1 4JY
0113 244 605
http://lazy-lounge.com

Perky Peacock, York – The North’s Coffee Community, pt VIII

For my second coffee hit in York I paid a visit to the Perky Peacock, located at Lendal bridge on the River Ouse. York is full of historic buildings, but this place has a historically interesting and quirky spot, hidden in an old toll booth (Postern Tower) overlooking the river. Opened by Nicola Peacock, an award winning barista four and a half years ago. It’s great spot, next to the river where rowers and York river boats frequently pass by, close to the main tourist trap of Medieval York and the train station.

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Originally from Thirsk, Nicola got her Philosophy degree at York University, travelled around the USA and then got bored doing mundane office work. It wasn’t until the age of 21 did Nicola actually have her first taste of coffee, and for a period before Perky Peacock was born ran a mobile coffee shop with an espresso machine in a smart car! One of the unusual things she found was she couldn’t trade within the city walls, so Nicola would park up on the edge of the walls luring in coffee lovers, who quickly became regulars! 

Nicola soon realised how much interest she had in coffee as a product, she loved the customer interaction and producing something great from a humble source is at the heart of what she does.

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During this time she noticed the Postern Tower on her coffee route, it’s part of York’s famous city walls and was originally built as a toll tower to help restrict ships access to the town centre. As she was eager to discover who owned it, she posted letters through the letter box constantly to find out who was in possession of the place. Eventually finding out that York Boat who run the cruises along the river did, it worked out perfectly as Nicola has the space above, while the boating company still has the mooring. 

Once inside the tower it has a quirky, oldie worldy feel and bags of character, I loved the wooden beams, the mix of furniture and decor make it really cosy and homely. With there being just four tables I’d say it’s small, but perfectly formed, making the most of the unusual space well. A great view is to be had if you can nab a table overlooking the river too.

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As you’d expect from a barista who’s competed at the UK Barista Championships the coffee is pretty darn good, their seasonal espresso is from Cornwall based Origin coffee roasters. Only using coffee from roasters which deal in Direct Trade is of major importance to Nicola, it means that the best beans are 100% traceable and sustainable, grown by farmers they have built strong relationships with, ensuring they get a fair price for their crop and that the environment is well maintained. For guest coffees they have James’ Gourmet Coffee, who are based in Ross-on-Wye.

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At the time I visited they were using Hunda Oli, an Ethopian espresso with delicate flavours of peach, apricot, lemon and jasmine. I had this in a lovely flat white made on their San Remo Verona machine, by barista Gabby Collet, who’d recently come 6th in the Latte Art category (the highest placed female) at the UK Barista Championships!

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All the cakes are baked by Nicola’s mam, who has a tonne of baking experience, having baked for Harvey Nichols in the past. Coming from a farm she understands the importance of local produce, so stays close to home wherever possible, such as using local butchers on the Shambles. 

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Whether you’re a local, a city worker, or doing the touristy thing and walking the city walls, like you do; you’ll probably find yourself at Lendal Bridge where you’ll see a medieval stone tower with a slate roof – why don’t you pop inside, you’ll get treated well with excellent coffee and banter, a spot of food and a great view from a beautiful, historic part of York. 

The Perky Peacock
The Postern Tower
Lendal Bridge
York
YO1 6HU
 01904 613511
http://perkypeacockcoffee.co.uk

Upshot Espresso, Sheffield – The North’s Coffee Community, pt VII

My latest review has brought me to Sheffield for the first time on my indie coffee exploration, and I must admit I’m still really enjoying the ride and venturing outside of Leeds! Upshot Espresso came onto my coffee radar during North Star’s Latte Art Throw Down, when one of their baristas competed in the event.

Originally from Doncaster, Upshot Espresso started life when Sam and his Dad opened the place 2 years ago. Found on busy Glossop Road, near the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and Sheffield University, their main custom comes from both of these establishments.

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It’s a light, relaxed space and with an inviting low level counter showing off their prized EK-43 grinder, the creme de la creme of grinders and a yummy selection of baked goods, either produced by an artisan baker in Penistone or by their resident baker Lauren. With a semi-rustic feel from reclaimed wood pine floor boards for counter tops and old army bridge supports for the window table, I chatted to Sam who is the Head Barista/owner of the shop at said window, which for me was the best seat in the house!

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Like some other great coffee establishments a low coffee counter lends itself well to interaction and building relationships with customers. They can show off different brewing methods, such as V60 and Aeropress, and a nice bit of latte art. Yeah, I know that doesn’t mean the coffee’s good, but I personally can’t get enough of it!

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In this case the coffee’s great, they have two different espressos on at a time, and three filters, swearing by artisan roasters like Square Mile and Workshop. They regularly host guest coffees too, just to mix it up a little bit and keep it interesting. Provenance and traceability plays an important part in their choices of roasters and coffee, so using artisan roasters is at the top of Upshot’s priorities. 

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At the time I visited there was Square Mile’s Red Brick Seasonal Espresso with 60% La Serrania from Columbia and 40% Santa Ana from Brazil giving  brownie sweetness, vanilla aromas and dried fruit finish. Also on the books was James Gourmet‘s Sulawesi Tana Toraja AA Espresso with its rich, silky body, hint of asparagus, sweetness, fruit and floral notes.

On filter they had an Ethiopian Doyo from local artisan roasters Foundry and Columbian filters Finca El Agrado and Finca La Esmerelda from Workshop.

They are also the purveyor of fine teas using a nice selection from the Canton Tea Co, and are happy to talk tea as much as they are to talk coffee!

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Sam and barista Fran were both friendly, immediately approachable and informative, without feeling the need to dish out every single bit of information on the coffee. They have a great relationship and rapport with their regular customers, which was seen first hand as they joked about with one of them while I was there.

Collaboration with other good indies in Sheffield is important to them, just last week during UK Coffee Week, Upshot hosted a cupping event where local indie Tamper got stuck in too. Sam has also been a guest barista with the team at Bean & Bud in Harrogate. In the future they’d like to host more cupping events and possibly run evening classes such as latte art. 

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On the food side, at the moment they have a small menu which they are in the process of expanding in the near future. One of the key things is that everything they do matches the standard of the coffee they serve to customers.

During my afternoon I had a much needed piccolo using Square Mile and  a slice of the Apple Streusel tart which was scrumptious! 

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The only reason I tend to come into Sheffield is to visit my best mate, but at least I know where I can get a great coffee and cake fix, a spot of banter in a relaxed environment from a fantastic independent.

I’m looking forward to see what else Sheffield has to offer in terms of artisan independents now!!

Upshot Espresso
355 Glossop Rd
Sheffield
S10 2HP
0114 278 0333
http://www.upshotespresso.co.uk
@UpshotEspresso

Bean & Bud, Harrogate – The North’s Coffee Community pt V

As part of my series on The North’s coffee community I also wanted to branch further afield than just focus on Leeds. Yes, there are my favourites that I’ve already talked about, but Leeds isn’t the be all and end all of coffee in The North, and as I’ve found there are quality coffee independents in other parts of the region too. I was introduced to Bean & Bud at North Star’s Latte Art Throw Down, when their barista Lenka was 2nd in the competition. After a little research I found that it was one of, if not THE first decent independent coffee shop in Harrogate. 

Bud & Bud is a speciality coffee and tea house which started life in January 2010, when during one of our bad snowy winters Ruth and Hayden opened the door to the public for the first time.

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Both had been London city workers for a number of years, with Ruth working for Cafe Direct and Hayden as a tree surgeon, I know a tree surgeon! Having always had a love of coffee they wanted to open a place of their own. As always, finding the right location was important, and with the recession affecting the country it was vital they chose the right spot. At one point they’d toyed with areas like Cornwall and Ilkley wanting somewhere semi-rural, but eventually chose to settle in Harrogate where Ruth’s sister also lives. 

Bean & Bud’s philosophy has always been to combine quality ingredients with a passion for excellence, individuality and attention to detail, ensuring the very best in each cup. They take great pride in knowing exactly where each product comes from, and by working with some of the best artisan roasters in the country, such as Caravan and Roundhill, Bean & Bud have introduced coffees from different continents to their customers. 

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Every few weeks they regularly change their coffee in order to showcase some of the best coffees from all over the world. Having two coffees on espresso available at any one time allows them to provide the customer with a choice of regions and contrasting flavour profiles. They also have a 3rd coffee for slow brew, using brewing methods such as Chemex, V60 Pourover and Aeropress, producing coffee with a cleaner, smoother flavour and no bitterness.

During the afternoon I spent at Bean & Bud, it was obvious how they value their relationship with the customer, quickly starting a dialogue with them, with the aid of their boards which clearly explain flavour profiles, tasting notes, roaster’s name and their origin.  So even a coffee novice like myself can get a great cup. Being highly trained baristas they ensure attention to detail, and with a huge depth of knowledge at the fingertips, they are always more than happy to recommend a particular bean to choose.

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I found Ruth and Hayden genuinely lovely people, with a willingness to quietly educate others. I liked how they have worked, their relationships with their customers were natural and not showy and I found them very easy to chat to. It was a lovely afternoon as I was even allowed behind the counter. They explained how Gina, their state of the art La Marzocca Strada worked, Gina being named after Gina Lollobrigida as their machine is curvy and Italian!! It was like a computer in a coffee machine, giving the barista complete control over every shot of coffee. 

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The team at Bean & Bud aren’t just specialists in coffee, they also have a wide selection of loose-leaf speciality teas such as Black, Green, White, Oolong and Puerh teas. Their teas and infusions are all expertly sourced directly from growers, Ruth has a wealth of knowledge from working for Fairtrade pioneers Cafedirect, but also from spending time with tea growers in Kenya and China. This has allowed her to find out how their teas are produced from leaf to cup, but also about the culture and philosophy of the drink.

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To accompany their coffees and teas, they have a good choice to get your tastebuds around. Freshly made sandwiches every morning, using local suppliers for bread, cheese, meat, salad and chutney, such as Harrogate Preserves and neighbours Addimans Butchers.  They also use gourmet cheeses including local examples Coverdale and Fountains Gold. 

Ruth’s homemade Amaretti biscuits sell like hot cakes. I’m not surprised as the one I had was lightly golden on the outside and had a yummy chewiness on the inside, just right for an amaretti biscuit I think! She also bakes the Fat Rascals and brownies too. A lovely surprise was the Pastel de Nata, the Portuguese custard tart, I was lucky to leave with one for the journey home and it left me reminiscing of our holiday in Lisbon last year.

In the future Ruth and Hayden would like to streamline their tea menu and focus more on exclusive teas, holding tea cupping events where customers can be introduced to new products. Home barista courses and Q&A sessions, where their knowledge and understanding of both tea and coffee could be put to fantastic use may also be a possibility. 

I’m really glad I spent the afternoon getting to know Ruth and Hayden. They certainly know their stuff and I’ll be definitely coming back on my next visit to Harrogate!!

Bean & Bud

14 Commercial Street
Harrogate
HG1 1TY
01423 508200

www.beanandbud.co.uk