Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cawfee Crawl - the aftermath preamble

It's the afternoon after the day before; despite everybody telling me that I'd be more wired than a telephone exchange I discovered something odd, and a little intriguing about how I handle coffee. Basically, I love coffee. Black for preference, either a named type of filter or a good, fresh-ground espresso-derived drink like an iced espresso or a good americano, no need for sugar and milky coffee is really not my thing. I can understand the differences between preground and fresh ground coffee, I know how a Guatemalan bean tastes different to a Kenyan one, how espresso beans are roasted differently to French or Italian roast.

But, despite all of that, I can get sick of drinking the stuff before I get seriously jittery.

By the end of the day I was yawning, ready for my bed. I got slightly twitchy at lunchtime, but that soon passed and by the time we packed in - more on that later - I was feeling fine, if a bit bloated. People had been making jokes about my thrumming along like a hummingbird, but the last time that happened to me I was in my first year at University and being a bit of a muppet. Yesterday I realised that I could, yanno, stop drinking coffee when I got sick of it. Thankfully I was accompanied by people - stars, each one - who would buy coffee that I could then sip for comparison purposes.

These people - in order of joining, my old friend Jo (plus Bump), her husband Glenn, Katie Leedsgrub and my delightful lady wife - did sterling work in keeping me sane and buying more stuff for me to try. Outstanding company, and I thank them all dearly for joining me on what turned out to be less of an epic adventure than I thought might happen.

The original plan was pretty vague, I have to admit. "Take a day to research as many indie coffee shops in Leeds as I can manage". The detail got fairly grandiose fairly quickly, threatening at least 20 locations which didn't take into account areas in general I'd never been to. Twenty different coffee shops is a lot, although I did still think I'd be able to manage that right up until the point at the Victoria Quarter when I said "no, I need a break now". The crash - when it happened - happened quickly. In the end I managed a mere eleven locations, but I did at least try a coffee in each one...

(next: where did we go?)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cawfee Crawl

Just in case anybody was wondering: tomorrow is Cawfee Crawl. I'm starting off at the Engine House Cafe in Holbeck (next to Temple Works) at 8:30, expect to be at Bottega Milanese at 10:30 and will be hitting up the bunch of coffee shops at the University at about 2pmish. Timetable is fluid, though, so phone me if you want to join in at some point. If you don't have my phone number email me (or DM me on Twitter).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cawfee tour, locations

Right, this is the ballpark locations list so far:
Engine House Cafe
Pickled Pepper
Out of the Woods
David St Cafe
Bottega Milanese
Brewery Wharf locations
Corn Exchange
Kirkgate locations
La Strega
Albion Place locations
Art Gallery tea rooms
University Locations
Hyde Park Corner
Chapel Allerton locations
Headingley locations

Cawfee tour, planning.

If I'm going to investigate the coffee shop culture of Leeds I need to come up with a sensible plan of action. The first thing to do then would be to find out just how many coffee places there are in Leeds. According to there are 113 cafes & coffee shops in Leeds. That's a lot of coffee shops and I can't be sure that list contains all of them; I need to look at this list and categorise them.

Now, I'm not going to pubs for coffee; invariably they're not very good at coffee because the brewery installed a machine and didn't train up the staff (who just have to push a button anyway). But there's a couple of places which blur the line a little, more like a continental cafe that happens to serve beer as well as food and coffee so I need to take these into account as well. I can reject all the big chains - Starbucks, Costa, Nero, Caffe Latino - as well as the greasy spoons, and places that are obviously just restaurants.

But... what about the small chains? I'm not going to more than one Bagel Nash, partially because there's loads of them but also because I know already that their coffee isn't brilliant. What about Opposite Coffee, though? They only have two locations (that I know of), in the Victoria Quarter and their home base opposite the Parkinson Building on Woodhouse Lane. Should I go to both? What of Casa Mia? Do all their shops do coffee in the same way?

Looking at the locations it seems like the tour will have a couple of distinct centres (I'll knock up a OpenStreetMap dodad with them on - coffee shops are quite clustered); Holbeck Urban Village, The Calls & Corn Exchange (with a step off the beaten track towards Hob at Clarence Dock), University, Chapel Allerton and finally Headingley. There's a couple of city centre places (Pickles & Potter, for example) that I'll be poking my nose in and I will, for the sake of completeness, get one drink in one location of each of the chains - given that there's at least seven Starbucks in Leeds I don't need to go to all of them - just for comparison purposes.

I'm not going any further out than Headingley, by the way (and if I make it there I'll be surprised). Horsforth and West Park will have to wait.

Right, let's sort out this list...

Monday, June 7, 2010


Last week I went for a chat with Culture Vultures about hosting a tea party at Temple Works and ended up in a two hour conversation about social enterprise and how product people don't trust sales and marketing people. An interesting chat, outside in the sun.

Anyway, one upshot of this chat is that I'm thinking about doing a mass review of coffee in Leeds. I shall take a day off proper work and treat it as a work day, starting early in the morning and trying as many indie coffee shops and cafes as I can fit in (plus, as balance, one each of the main players). I'm sure this will be a fun blog thing, as well as a useful guide to coffee shops for people visiting the area, or just looking for somewhere new to try. Am working out the details in my head still, but it'll probably be in the last week of the month. Anybody wanting to join in for part of the day is more than welcome - I may even install 4square on my phone just for this purpose.

What I'd quite like is recommendations of places to try! I am a critical but very fair reviewer, and not only will I be testing out the espresso but the atmosphere, the perks, the extras, occasionally I'll try out cakes (especially if they're made in-house). If you have a favourite coffee place, or own or manage an indie coffee shop in Leeds then please let me know where it is, so I can work out a route! I'll probably start off in Holbeck Urban Village - which is riddled with coffee shops, so please tell me where they all are! - and try to end up in Headingley, taking in the City Centre and Chapel Allerton. If you're further afield, let me know! I'd be happy to drop in if I can.

The aim is to get as wide an overview of Leeds coffee as it stands today, in one day. I want to champion local, indie places and if you serve great coffee I want to know about it!