Tag Archives: tea

Spring Espresso, York – The North’s Coffee Community, pt VI

When I first started this series on The North’s Coffee Community I focussed on Leeds and Harrogate, but since speaking to different people involved in coffee it’s got me looking further afield, such as York.

I love York with all its history, iconic architecture and cobbled streets – this is one of the UK’s great cities in my opinion. Having old friends living near the racecourse I’ve visited the place many times over the years. But with my love for coffee developing only recently, I really had no idea of their fantastic independent artisan coffee shops, and I don’t mean Betty’s!

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For my first Coffee Community post in York, I’m starting with Spring Espresso, after a gratefully received recommendation from Ruth at Bean & Bud in Harrogate.

Spring Espresso first opened in Autumn 2011, on Fossgate. The owners, Steve and Tracey previously worked for the Cafe2U franchise, selling coffee around the area from a red van before opening their own place.

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As with many of these coffee community stories, I’ve found that there are people who are seemingly woven into the fabric of these stories. Tracey and Dave Olejnik (Laynes Espresso) have been friends for years, both possessing a love and obsession of coffee in the days before Laynes, when Dave worked at Opposite in Leeds. As Dave opened Laynes in Leeds city centre, Tracey and Steve saw a gap in the market in historic York, where Third Wave coffee hadn’t really found its way into this part of Yorkshire.

With their spot on Fossgate, they’ve built a space with an open feel and calm ambience. This was fully intended with Tracey wanting a relaxing environment where every customer could be seen in one glance. They’ve even implemented the principles of feng shui into the layout of the shop to guide energy flow through the shop!

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One of the first things you can’t help but notice is the stand-out branding on the walls. Steve once served in the Air Force so I assume that’s the link to Spring’s logo, very cool it is too!!

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Another thing I admired was their attention to detail, with customer service being one thing they pride themselves on, greeting customers across a low-level counter means their much-loved Synesso Hydra machine is on show, baristas can’t hide behind brewing apparatus or paraphernalia, and it encourages interaction and builds a dynamic between barista and the customer.

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After recently watching a BBC programme on the coffee scene in the UK, they mentioned a certain coffee chain, which I won’t name who style themselves on the old school traditional Italian coffee shop. I’m SO glad Spring Espresso haven’t gone down that road, and instead have a lovely space with great pieces of furniture made from wood lovingly salvaged from old Yorkshire mills. A prime example is the gorgeous low level circular table at the front of the shop, made from a 17C pulley wheel previously used in a Sheffield mill.

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So what about the coffee, they champion London’s Square Mile Red Brick and often host guest coffees, from artisan roasters like Caravan. Using coffee from Direct Trade is very important to Tracey and Steve, where coffee is bought straight from the growers. Relationships based on respect are built and is mutually beneficial to all parties, where growers are helped to grow the best coffee, often in very difficult environments and circumstances.

After spending the morning with Tracey and Steve, chatting whilst I drank a fantastic latte made with Square Mile’s Red Brick seasonal espresso, the love and passion they have for what they do, the extensive knowledge and experience they have at their fingertips was highly enviable and infectious!!! I think I was a little in awe when I found out that Steve’s competed in the UK Barista Championships many times, having achieved 3rd place in 2012. So this team REALLY do know their stuff and blew me away with it!

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They know their tea as well, 2013 saw them winning BSA 2013 Accreditation and Best Drink award for Best Tea!!! These guys are certainly not one trick ponies, using 10 speciality teas from the Canton Tea Co.

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I visited on a quiet Sunday morning (9:30am) and when I arrived a lot of their regulars were already in there, a couple of hours later the place was full – I have a feeling this a very common occurrence!!

The baked goods are all made by Tracey’s fair hands and I did spot her version of the Bostock slice. I was so tempted to go home with one, next time I’ll definitely snaffle one up!!

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Tracey and Steve are in the process of opening a second shop in the city centre, with the same great coffee and service, but with extra square footage they’ll be able to serve more of the York masses and tourists from far and wide! You are lucky, lucky people!

York for me isn’t just a city I’ll visit for it’s history and architecture anymore, it’s somewhere I can drink wonderful artisan coffee from some lovely people, who really know what they are doing. Oh yeah, it’s an independent too!!

Spring Espresso
45 Fossgate
York
YO1 9TF
07779 294149
http://www.springespresso.co.uk

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

Mrs Atha’s – The North’s Coffee Community, pt IV

The start of my series on The North’s coffee community concentrated on Leeds’ three original independents, now I’d like to focus on more recently established coffee haunts.

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Mrs Atha’s opened in October 2012 by owners Jonathan and Warren. Found around the back of House of Fraser, Mrs Atha’s has quickly become one of the most quirky and interesting independent coffee shops to have opened in recent years. With such established shops almost with landmark status in Leeds coffee, Mrs Atha’s has had to find it own way into the hearts and minds of Leeds folk.

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They’ve completely transformed a space into a beautiful coffee shop, with a boutiquey ambience, reminiscent of a bohemian New York vibe that’s just perfect for relaxing in. The team at Mrs Atha’s want it to be somewhere you can eat, drink, socialise, read, plug in your Macbook and work if necessary. With dimmed lighting and even table lamps, Wifi and plug sockets a plenty it’s tailor made for this. With the combination of great coffee and food in the mix, it’s sounds pretty good – don’t you think?

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The interior is slightly bohemian, with a feel of the industrial about it. One large wall is left with exposed red brick and a statement RSJ beam handsomely frames the displayed art work, whereas the opposite wall counterbalances this with some sort of polished plaster (stucco). Complete with quirky, yet functional furniture, it’s definitely a place to spend a few hours in very relaxed surroundings. They are also blessed to have extra seating downstairs, which also houses their open kitchen.

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OK, so what about the coffee, well this is expertly sourced and selected by the team. With Scott who’s previously worked at La Bottega Milanese, and Matt the two main men when it comes to the coffee they have baristas with a tonne of knowledge, in some cases to the point of obsession with the drink. They use their own blend of coffee from roasters Has-Bean and often host guest coffees.

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The knowledge and attention to detail they have I found incredible. In my limited time learning more about the drink, I’d never met a full-on coffee geek till I met Matt, a self-confessed coffee connoisseur/aficionado. This is where it gets scientific! To get the perfect cup each time they have fine-tuned their coffee depending on the amount of TDS in each shot of coffee, that’s ‘total dissolved solids’ to you and me. Knowing exactly the precise parameters to work with so the % TDS fall within a certain range – resulting in a coffee that has undergone optimum extraction and possesses the perfect balance between bitterness and sweetness etc. I also learned the importance of water temperature and for this they have an Über boiler (LOVE the name). It delivers exact volumes of water at exact temperatures, giving the barista control over different parameters for each individual cup. They also recently bought a serious bit of kit – the EK-43 grinder which has the ability to grind beans into a whole array of finenesses, allowing coffee to have a greater level of clarity and definition. All VERY GEEKY!!

I NEVER had any inclination whatsoever that coffee was so scientific. Being a so-called science teacher in my normal, boring life I found this really interesting and it made me want to find out more, so I even spent time looking it up!!  I don’t think I’ll turn into a coffee geek just yet, but it was a little addictive researching it!

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With Warren’s interest in interiors, it’s no surprise that Mrs Atha’s are a big supporter of local artists and always have work displayed for sale. Some may think the space is a little pretentious, but as an ardent art/museum/exhibition lover I really liked the aesthetic it provides the space with. 

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On the food side they showcase local producers, such as That Old Chestnut with a selection of Vegan cakes and their bread comes from Bondgate Bakery. The have a very supportive network, including family friends who bake much loved cakes for Mrs Atha’s, and they are so good that they have built up of following of visitors who come not necessarily for the type of cake, but because it’s made by this particular person. A great testament to the baker I think!
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A good selection of loose leaf teas are also available, which they are proud to know their exact provenance, drunk from one of their gorgeous vintage tea cups, and a slice of cake…ahhhh lovely!
They have plans to drive Mrs Atha’s forward in the future – last year they had a pop-up restaurant which went down really well. So they’d like to build on this with more of an emphasis on dining, not just cakes and sandwiches which they already do. I hear they already serve cracking breakfasts and lunches, I really need to try out these for myself ASAP!
Other possible plans include holding events/courses to educate about the nuances and technical side to making a great cup. With Scott and Matt’s knowledge and passion I’m sure these courses will be very popular.
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I’ve been a number of times and I must admit the coffee is pretty great. Whatever they do with the whole science/coffee geekery it certainly works! The people at Mrs Atha’s are lovely, friendly and interesting. Always wearing a fab selection of hats and more than willing to educate and inform the customer, which I really like. 

Mrs Atha’s

Central Road
Leeds
LS1 6DE
http://mrsathasleeds.com/
Opening Hours: Monday-Tuesday 9am-6pm, Wednesday 8am-6pm, Thursday-Saturday 9am-10pm, Sunday 10am-5pm.