Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

Category: Cafe Culture

#cancelthecurfew

Dear Prime Minister, This is a letter from the hospitality industry with a stark message. Our industry is dying and the 10pm curfew may be the final nail in the…

Dear Prime Minister,

This is a letter from the hospitality industry with a stark message. Our industry is dying and the 10pm curfew may be the final nail in the coffin.

Up and down the country, our pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, music venues, theatres, event spaces and all other businesses that fall under the hospitality industry’s umbrella are teetering on the edge. Some are suffering death by a thousand cuts, while others have been ignored and left to starve.

As an industry we directly employ around 10% of the working population and contribute £39billion in direct tax revenue. That doesn’t take into account the contribution from industries that rely on us, from brewers and distillers to farmers and wholesalers. If nothing changes then hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs, thousands of businesses will close their doors forever, billions of pounds of tax income will be lost, and the hospitality industry will never be the same again.
We have borne the brunt of the measures announced over the past fortnight. We are vilified as breeding grounds for the virus, yet Public Health England’s own figures show this is not true. In fact, the latest figures show that we have one of the lowest infection rates outside of the home.

We are doing our utmost to make our venues safe for our staff and customers, acting on each new set of guidelines as they are announced, regardless of the notice we are given. However, the measures announced over the past week are the end of the hospitality industry as we know it.

The 10pm curfew has been heralded as a measure that will help to drive down the infection rate across the country. This is patently not true when you look at the figures.

The figures for what it will cost the hospitality industry and the night-time economy are stark. It is estimated that it will cost £5.5million a day in Central London alone, and venues are reporting a 63% drop in revenue since the curfew was imposed. Thousands of venues rely on post 10pm trade, with many taking over 60% of their revenue in that time, some even more than that. These are not “non- viable businesses”, these are venues that have reopened safely since 4th July.

In fact, restaurants, pubs, bars, and everyone in between have spent thousands to become COVID- Secure. To open safely many have taken on debt despite the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over them. Prior to COVID-19 we were regularly checked by Environmental Health Officers and local authorities to ensure we were meeting rigorous standards. Since COVID, these standards have become more stringent, leading to a position where we are one of the most tightly controlled and regulated environments accessible to the general public.
A 10pm curfew drives the public from the safe environment of our venues and into areas with no regulations. From 10pm people flood the streets as seen over the weekend, overwhelming public transport and taxis, and begin to filter back to their living rooms and kitchens for “one more drink”.

We are not asking for unlimited handouts. We are asking to open our doors. To be allowed to do what we do best whilst keeping our staff and customers safe. We are asking for your permission to keep the hospitality industry alive.
Stop blaming hospitality, let us serve. #CANCELTHECURFEW

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From bean to cup with Courtyard Coffee Roasters

Hessian sacks of various sizes, a bright red Diedrich roaster, and collected coffee paraphernalia greet visitors to Courtyard Coffee Roasters, just off Eccleshall’s High Street. Wooden shelves are filled with…

Hessian sacks of various sizes, a bright red Diedrich roaster, and collected coffee paraphernalia greet visitors to Courtyard Coffee Roasters, just off Eccleshall’s High Street.

Wooden shelves are filled with glass canisters of loose leaf tea – greens and oolongs as well as black teas and rooibos – single origin chocolate, mostly from Madagascar, and real hot chocolate. But it’s the aroma of coffee, freshly roasted and freshly ground, that fills the air. 

Owner David Wiggins originally established the roastery as a training school for baristas, but it has since morphed into a retail shop. He also sells online and supplies a handful of independent cafés and restaurants, some with their own unique blend.

David’s adventures in coffee began in the 1980s when he and his wife had a deli in Dresden, Stoke-on-Trent. He came upon an antique machine and started roasting his own coffee. In 1990, he set up Rapido Coffee Services, an exhibition service he ran successfully for around 20 years while simultaneously taking charge of Eccleshall café The Artisan (now Sancerre), the neighbouring bakery, and the roastery. Finding himself spread a little thin, David’s focus is now on Courtyard Coffee and his passion for these flavoursome beans.

The bulk of the world’s coffee is grown in Central and South America – Brazil is the biggest producer – but large quantities are grown in Africa, some in India, and quite a bit in Indonesia and elsewhere in southeast Asia. Each origin has its own particular qualities, led by the climate and geology of the region where it’s grown. While coffee trees need rainfall to flower, too much rain can damage the crop. The fruit, bright red when ripe, is called a cherry. Usually picked by hand, their preparation has a big effect on the finished flavour.

“The processing is quite involved,” explains David. “You have to get rid of the cherry to get to the seed. The fruit is removed by either the dry method or the wet method, often depending on the climate in the country of origin. Half-processed coffee beans are coated in a hard shell known as parchment, which is removed by hulling. Now the green coffee, as it’s called, is ready for roasting.”

The green coffee arrives in sacks weighing 50kg, 60kg or 69kg depending on which part of the world it has come from. While a large roaster will process a whole sack at once, one of these will last David a couple of months. He roasts in small batches of only 2.5kg of green beans at a time, yielding 2kg of roasted beans due of the loss of moisture as they’re heated.

“I’m not really big enough to buy direct from the plantations, and that’s almost a full time job in itself,” David tells Sauce. “You need to have feet on the ground. So I buy from four or five independently run, ethical importers who in turn buy direct from the plantations. They pay better than Fairtrade rates and in some cases they will buy the smallholders’ entire crop, certainly a year ahead and sometimes a couple of years in advance.”

Roasted coffee beans

People are more interested in individual origins these days, and growers are actively encouraged to seek their own markets, whereas previously they were very heavily discouraged from doing so. David believes the next revolution in the global supply chain of crops like coffee will be blockchain. Rather than finding new routes to market, the goal is transparency and traceability. Companies such as iFinca in Central America – which a lot of Colombian producers are already using – are setting the bar for its integration into commercial networks.

Although he claims not to have particular favourites when it comes to coffee, David is partial to Indonesian, Indian and some Central American origins.

“I keep coffee from around 20 different producing countries, only because we’re limited by space. I’ve usually got a Costa Rican, El Salvadoran, Colombian and either Honduran or Nicaraguan. Always Peruvian, because people like it, and Mexican when possible – it’s hard to get the ones I favour. And I always keep decaffeinated coffee, sometimes as many as four types.”

The El Salvador is very popular due to its sweet and chocolatey tasting notes, but David’s bestseller – largely because he supplies one couple who get through a kilo a week – is Indian Monsoon Malabar. It’s stored under cover in mesh-sided warehouses during the rainy season, to allow humid air to circulate around the beans and alter their flavour. The tasting notes are copper, tobacco, leather.

“The effect of the extra humidity is that the beans swell and so the chaff falls off,” says David. “It makes it slightly sour, and the end result is very good if you like that style. In the days of the Empire, when coffee was transported to the UK and the rest of Europe by sailboat, the journey would take around 6 months, and while the sacks were in the hold they’d absorb humidity from the sea. People got used to that flavour, so when steam came in and the journey time was reduced to weeks, they noticed the difference. To try to recreate it, this monsooning process was developed, and it’s now mostly carried out in Mangaluru on the southwestern coast of India.”

As coffee beans are roasted, each half of the seed splits along one side and the chaff – or silverskin – falls away and burns off. The acids, proteins and sugars in the coffee expand until the stage when it opens up with a crack. That cracking sound indicates the roast is nearly complete.

“If I’m making a blend I’ll probably roast them separately so each is roasted to it’s best. If you take three or four types of bean and roast them all together, one of them will be perfect but the others will be over or under done. Usually the roast time is around 12 minutes, but some will be done at 10; others will take 14. You need to judge by eye, aroma and sound.”

When it comes to turning the beans into a more brew-able form, a burr grinder is the best. Propeller blades tend to be too effective, producing an almost floury and slightly uneven grind.

“If you grind coffee for an espresso too fine, the water struggles to get through, and you’ll end up with a coffee that’s so bitter you won’t be able to drink it. That’s known as over-extraction.”

When using the filter method, pouring over the water – ideally at a temperature between 88-92 degrees Celsius – produces a bloom of tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide which will be familiar to anyone who uses a cafetière or drip coffee maker. There’s nothing wrong with giving it a little shake to get a more even extraction.

“I tend to brew at about 90 degrees,” shares David. “Using the burr grinder and filter method, you get the true aroma of the bean released. The coffee industry is always searching for that aroma in the cup, but you never really get it.”

Courtyard Coffee Roasters
14d High Street, Eccleshall, ST21 6BZ
courtyardcoffeeroasters.co.uk

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From Italy with love: Lichfield Tea Company

Sauce sat down with Rae Holland in her beautiful shop overlooking a courtyard in the Heart of the Country Shopping Village at Swinfen. She shared her inspiration for founding the Lichfield Tea…

Sauce sat down with Rae Holland in her beautiful shop overlooking a courtyard in the Heart of the Country Shopping Village at Swinfen. She shared her inspiration for founding the Lichfield Tea Company.

“It was a hobby that turned into an obsession that took over my house, so we had to get a shop. It was something I used to do with my nan, who was Italian. In Italy they only drink coffee – they don’t drink tea at all. If you’re ill, you get chamomile.

“In the mornings she used to make everybody a cappuccino – she just called it milky coffee. I’m allergic to milk, so it would make me really poorly. She would then give me chamomile, which is a natural anti-inflammatory, so instantly I would feel better. She thought tea was magic. She didn’t realise it was an infusion – because it’s called chamomile tea, to her it was tea.”

Rae’s grandparents owned an old-fashioned newsagents and all-stores in Coventry when she was a child. Her grandma started importing tea for her to taste and to sell in the shop.

“So I grew up drinking lapsang souchong and Earl Grey,” Rae explains. “She really got into it and it was our little hobby. When they retired they moved to the South of France and we would take tea every time we went to visit. I started the shop with money from my share of the inheritance when they died.”

In 2016, tired of working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a stressful job, Rae and her husband Ollie decided to slow down a little and opened their first shop on the other side of Heart of the Country site. They moved into a larger unit when they outgrew the first premises, and have now expanded floorspace further by knocking through into the neighbouring shop. They have installed a kitchen and will soon be serving ‘hearty, homely, vegetarian food’, cooked by Rae herself.

In terms of teas and the various coffees Lichfield Tea Company offers, choosing what to stock is largely a matter of personal taste with some family input and, of course, an eye to what customers will think.

“I try it, and if I like it, we sell it,” laughs Rae. “When my grandparents had their shop they kept meticulous accounts. My uncle still had records of some of the tea gardens. So we still had a connection, for example, with Kenilworth. My grandparents were in Coventry so they recognised the name and went with it; now we stock tea from the same garden in Sri Lanka.”

English Breakfast is by far the most popular choice. Naturally, visitors to the shop tend to be blinded by the sheer number of options with around 80 teas in stock on Rae’s shelves at any given time.

“It’s much easier to have a conversation with someone and make a recommendation based on what they like and whether they want to try something new,” she says. “We’re thinking about a tea passport, where we have a little description and space for comments to keep a record of what you’ve tried.”

Rae’s seasonal picks for March, April and May start with the aptly named Spring Tea, a fresh and floral green tea with strawberry and rose.

“We also have this Japanese black tea, which is a real little find. It doesn’t smell particularly, but it tastes like the centre of a Malteser. It’s really light but flavoursome, so ideal for spring.”

If you’re looking to push beyond your comfort zone and try something unique, Rae recommends Pu-Erh – a real tea lover’s tea.

“It’s a fermented tea so it’s super good for you, like kimchi. It’s only grown in the Yunnan province of China. They come in cakes, and they get more expensive the older they are.”

As for the recent trend for cold infusions, Rae has no truck with the idea that shaking a teabag in cold water is the way to go…

“If you want cold tea, make a really strong cup of fruit tea, hot, pour it out and put ice in it,” she suggests. “We do a lemon tea that’s basically homemade lemonade in a very sweet vat of strong English Breakfast. It looks like pond water but it tastes amazing and goes down a storm.”

Interestingly, the recent resurgence of interest in tea after years of growth in coffee seems to be driven by a younger generation, with new brands like T2 and familiar names like Whittard benefiting from the attention.

“The people who are most excited about it are the 18-24 year olds,” Rae enthuses. “It captures their imagination and they love trying something new, and they love the fact they’ve discovered you.”

Lichfield Tea Company
www.thelichfieldteacompany.co.uk 
Unit 11a, Heart of The Country Shopping Village, Swinfen, WS14 9QR

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Quintessentially British

How better to brighten up your afternoon than with tea and cake? Tea rooms are a staple of Staffordshire life and everyone has their preferred spot to indulge, whether it…

How better to brighten up your afternoon than with tea and cake? Tea rooms are a staple of Staffordshire life and everyone has their preferred spot to indulge, whether it be a traditional setting with fine china and finger sandwiches or a cosy café with a more modern take on the afternoon tea. We’ve picked out some favourites from across the county.

Hetty’s Tea Shop

Named for café owner Emma Atkinson’s grandmother, Hetty’s can be found in a converted Grade II listed building at Froghall Wharf, alongside a quiet arm of the Caldon Canal and historic lime kilns. The peaceful location is the perfect base for a countryside walk, where you can return to the warm atmosphere and local specials like Homity Pie. Hetty’s serves breakfast, brunch and salads, alongside teas, Italian coffee and hot chocolates. And if the weather is particularly frightful, it is also a licensed venue.

Froghall Wharf, Foxt Road, Froghall, ST10 2HL
www.hettysteashop.co.uk

Lazy Days Tea Room

This quaint tea room is situated at the heart of the picturesque South Staffordshire village of Brewood. A perennial favourite of cyclists, not least because of its proximity to the Shropshire Union Canal, Lazy Days offers breakfast, lunchtime meals, teas, coffees and homemade cake along with a friendly welcome and relaxed atmosphere.

25 Stafford St, Brewood, Stafford, ST19 9DX

The Vintage Tea Emporium

Old-fashioned service and dainty presentation are on the menu at Uttoxeter’s Vintage Tea Emporium. There are almost 30 loose leaf teas to choose from, served up alongside delicious homemade cakes and scones which are all baked daily on-site. You can also enjoy a light breakfast or lunch in a charming vintage setting overlooking the market place.

38 Market Pl, Uttoxeter, ST14 8HP
www.vintageteaemporium.co.uk

Whitmore Tea Rooms

If you were asked to imagine a quintessential English tea room, it would probably look like this. In a restored 18th Century cottage in the shadow of Whitmore’s pretty parish church, this venue is stunning year-round. The breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea menus are available daily, with an ever-changing array of homemade cakes filling the countertop. If you’re really pushing the boat out, go for the Royal Afternoon Tea which includes a glass of sherry and a glass of Champagne.

Three Mile Lane, Whitmore, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 5HR
www.whitmoretearooms.co.uk

Langan’s Tea Rooms

Set in the elegant Burton House in the centre of Burton-upon-Trent, Langan’s Tea Rooms serve freshly prepared breakfasts and lunches as well as traditional afternoon teas. You can indulge with a sense of purpose, too, as Langan’s is a social enterprise. All profits go towards education, training and employment for people who have been rehabilitated at Staffordshire’s BAC O’Connor centres.

Burton House, George St, Burton-upon-Trent, DE14 1DP
www.langanstearooms.co.uk

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Stone welcomes BEAR

The latest exciting addition to Stone’s thriving food and drink scene is BEAR’s new branch on the High Street. Sauce was invited to one of the pre-launch events to get…

The latest exciting addition to Stone’s thriving food and drink scene is BEAR’s new branch on the High Street.

Sauce was invited to one of the pre-launch events to get a taste of what’s going to be on offer when the store opens to the public on Thursday 1 November.

The first striking feature when you walk through the heavy, draught-fighting curtain, is the beautiful decor. Craig and Michael, the local duo behind BEAR, have kept the original parquet floor while making the most of the old bank’s fantastic high ceiling by installing a mezzanine with comfortable seating. With huge windows making the most of the natural light on even the grimmest of days, it manages to be light and airy but also cosy, with a palette of deep blues, greens and pinks complemented by modern furniture and lots of greenery.

First and foremost, this is a speciality coffee house. You can choose between the chocolatey house coffee from Myanmar, the current guest – a fruity Ethiopian coffee – and there’s also the option of a citrusy Peruvian decaf. If coffee isn’t your bag, there are plenty of teas and soft drinks to choose from too.

Although great coffee is at BEAR’s core, you can’t miss the fact that it’s also a kitchen and bar. As we went along to the brunch event we were able to sample the delicious food, but even on a Friday it was a bit too early for gin, cocktails or craft beer (served from 10am in case you’re interested). In addition, there’s a retail section where you can buy coffee brewing essentials like Chemix and Aeropress or keep cups if you need to take your drink away.

There is no shortage of knowledgable, friendly staff who are able to talk you confidently through the menu. We went for the smashed avocado toast with eggs and the baked eggs with feta, served with flatbread. You can see right into the kitchen, filled with the smiling faces of the team that will prepare you some fresh, super-tasty food – including perfectly poached eggs.

There’s an ‘All Day’ menu that takes over from breakfast, with some brunch items and a small but thoughtfully formed list of sandwiches, salads and mains. In the evening the food offering switches up with a focus on the social. There’s a selection of small plates and pizzas designed for sharing, with a very Mediterranean feel – you’ll find sampadori olives, caprese salad and chorizo on there, to name just a few.

As far as we can see, the team behind BEAR certainly seem to have found their recipe for success with speciality coffee, fuss-free dining and a relaxed atmosphere. Check it out for yourself from next week and let us know what you think.

BEAR Coffee House, Kitchen & Bar
57 High Street, Stone, ST15 8AH
www.bearcoffeecompany.com

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Opening this autumn

It’s time to get excited, because the opening of these new Staffordshire food and drink destinations has recently been confirmed. Bod Stoke Work is underway at this very moment to…

It’s time to get excited, because the opening of these new Staffordshire food and drink destinations has recently been confirmed.

Bod Stoke

Work is underway at this very moment to transform what used to be the first class lounge at Stoke train station into the newest ‘bod’, with access from both Platform One and the pavement on Winton Square.

Due to open its doors to the public on Monday 8 October, the café and craft ale bar will open early in the morning serving breakfast and coffee. From lunchtime until late in the evening commuters and locals will be able to enjoy award-winning ales along with their food.

Burslem-based Titanic Brewery, who also own seven pubs across the county, opened their first bod in Weeping Cross near Stafford in a former Co-op store earlier this year.

Titanic are also looking to create a third branch of bod at Trentham in the former NatWest Bank premises on Longton Road. Their planning application has been submitted to Stoke-on-Trent City Council, so watch this space.

www.facebook.com/bodstoke/

Blanc NRI

A new fine dining Indian restaurant, Blanc NRI, is set to take over the former Bengal Lodge building on the A34 near Tittensor.

Blanc NRI will be the second restaurant from Husban Ahmed, the 31-year-old chef behind the award-winning James Dahl restaurant in Birmingham’s China Town. Ahmed worked at the Bengal Lodge as a teenager and has described how taken he was by the “love and support of the customers who came in and used the restaurant”.

Now he’s opening his own sleek and modern new restaurant in the space, which has undergone extensive interior and exterior renovation over the last few months. In terms of cuisine, Blanc NRI is promising vibrant and flavoursome Indian dishes blended with the fine dining ambience of France or Dubai.  

www.blancnri.co.uk

BEAR Stone

BEAR announced earlier this month that an opening date for their new Stone location has been set for Thursday 1 November.

As we noted in the autumn/winter edition of Sauce (available now – see our list of stockists for details of where to get your copy), local entrepreneurs Craig Bunting and Michael Thorley opened the first branch of BEAR on Uttoxeter High Street in January 2016, followed by a second in Derby at the end of 2017.

The team are now busy converting the former HSBC bank at 57 High Street, Stone, into a new coffee house, kitchen and bar after their change of use planning application was approved. They’ll be serving up a heady mix of sustainably sourced coffee, seasonal fresh food, cocktails and craft beer from the freshly refurbished premises.

And they say they have “loads of exciting things planned for Stone throughout October, so keep your peepers peeping towards our Facebook page to stay up-to-date on all the fun.”

www.bemorebear.co

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Sit back, relax and watch the world pass by

Café culture is most definitely thriving in Staffordshire, whether it be on the high street, tucked down a cobbled alleyway or nestled in a courtyard down a high-hedged country lane….

Café culture is most definitely thriving in Staffordshire, whether it be on the high street, tucked down a cobbled alleyway or nestled in a courtyard down a high-hedged country lane. We’ve selected just a few of the county’s favourite places for coffee and cake.


The Cakery

Launched quietly in November last year by mother and daughter team Jackie and Harriet Gallimore, the cafe is sited just off Newcastle-under-Lyme’s Ironmarket. The selection of mouthwatering homebaked cakes varies from day-to-day, and breakfast items like pastries, Staffordshire oatcakes and eggs Benedict are also available. The lunch menu features favourites like local lobby, quiche and soup. Dogs are more than welcome at The Cakery, too.

3 Fogg St, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 2RE
www.facebook.com/thecakeryh


The Artisan

Independent local coffee shop on Eccleshall’s pretty High Street serves up quiche, paninis and rolls alongside quality coffee, big slices of homemade cake and speciality scones, all while you’re treated to their eclectic music mix. The Artisan prides itself on sourcing as much stock as possible from Staffordshire suppliers.

14 High St, Eccleshall, Stafford, ST21 6BZ
http://theartisaneccleshall.business.site


15 on the Corner

Proud to serve artisan locally roasted coffee from Has Bean alongside tea from Waterloo Tea, based in Cardiff. A small but well-executed menu of home cooked food is available, including delicious cakes. The cafe is fully licensed so you can also enjoy craft beers, wine, gin and cocktails.

15 Bore St, Lichfield, WS13 6LZ
www.twitter.com/15onthecorner


Cobwebs Coffee Shop

Established November 2012, this hidden gem sits in a cosy red brick building on a farmyard just outside Abbots Bromley. Homemade vegetable soups are on offer and every day brings a fresh cake, with flavour combinations including raspberry and white chocolate, toffee and walnut, hazelnut praline and baked chocolate mousse cake.

Goose Lane, Abbots Bromley, Rugeley, WS15 3DB
www.facebook.com/Cobwebs-471667122892228


The Grove Coffee House and Kitchen

In a peaceful and secluded spot overlooking St Mary’s Church, the family-run Grove Coffee House and Kitchen is a great place to savour a latte or a lunchtime meal. Welcoming staff go out of their way to treat you as a friend rather than a customer, and they serve homemade scones in flavours like fruit, wholemeal and date, or cheddar and smoky bacon. The Grove also caters for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets.

9 St Mary’s Grove, Stafford, ST16 2AT
www.facebook.com/The-Grove-Coffee-House-and-Kitchen-480971155330500

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