‘Up for lobbing mud at firecrackers, slurping speciality coffee and craft beer and scoffing cake?’
The thought of spending a Friday evening drinking coffee from one of my favourite roasteries with good music, cake and other like-minded people obviously sounded absolutely horrendous after a tough ‘back to school’ week…
Kathryn Lewis, Editor of the guide, spoke passionately about the community that continues to be established through the use of UK roasted coffee and the establishments who take great pride in serving their coffee to really show it off. When I asked her about the criteria for applying for a spot in the guide, she told me that it included: serving high quality speciality coffee roasted in the UK and being independently run.
The sense of passion and fun overspilled into the activities on the night: the first UK Tejo competition which you can see in action here and a latte art throwdown, which was serious business for the competitive baristas on the night as they fought it out to win £250 and the kudos for the rest of the night.
We spent some time with Rohan Pitumpe, a Cimbali trainer and latte art aficionado, who told us a few secrets about creating the perfect at-home Flat White and Macchiato, including how to get your steamed milk and micro foam just right for latte art (which I have to say is going to take a while to master, although we’re having fun trying it out…) ‘Brown paper; white pen’ was his mantra for the perfect latte art and you can see him in action over on my Instagram.
Whilst I was happy enough to be high on all things caffeine-based for the evening, I admired Manchester’s Cloudwater Brew Co. in its many aesthetically pleasing forms (those cans are enough to make me start drinking beer!) and Sam assured me they tasted as good as they looked, which doesn’t happen often, hey?
For the ethically conscious, it was great to know that gracing each coffee was free-range and ethically sourced milk from the Stephensons’ farm; expect to be served their milk as standard in the Atkinsons shops around Lancaster – you won’t be disappointed!
Artemis Cold Brew were lovely guys from Yorkshire who let me sample their Nitro wares on tap. After telling them that the only cold brew I’m used to is a teacher’s cold brew, it took a while to get used to the idea that this was a delicacy. I’m happy to practice…
Later in the night, the icing on the cake (geddit?) was the arrival of Cakesmiths HQ team finally arriving from Bristol after their 13-hour journey due to the wonderful M6 traffic (don’t you just love the North!) – tray bakes of dreams including the Honey and Bergamot sponge, Lemon Polenta cake and chocolate brownie with enough punch to make you cry…
Pick up your copy of the guide online or keep your eyes peeled for it in any half-decent local coffee shop; it’s certainly a great ‘coffee table’ book with best editorials yet if you fancy swotting up on your beans and brews or in that you can easily pick a great spot for a catch-up or post-shopping (hangover) slump across the North.
Some of my personal featured favourites from across the North West:
1. Bold Street Coffee, Liverpool. The place that originally got me into drinking decent coffee. In fact, I blame them wholly for my coffee snobbery and thus coffee Insta-spam on a regular basis. Their ever-increasing food menu will leave you disappointingly full in the nicest possible way. (Although, do try and save room for a Maray lunch next door!) TIP: Ask for a Flat White, Cortado or espresso – you won’t be disappointed. I dare you to not take a photograph in there.
2. Pot Kettle Black, Manchester. A Flat White served on a cute metal try with water and chocolate pirouline to dip or scoff as you wish? I’m in. Their food and cake choices are pretty scrummy too. TIP: Have a perch on a communal table for a good people watch but call me nosy…
3. Imposta Coffee, Accrington – my local. God bless this place after a disappointingly bleak whip around the once thriving market town – it will pick you right back up. Expect regulars of all ages, award-winning coffee and not a turned up nose in sight if you dare ask for a *GASP* flavoured syrup! TIP: Meet an old mate or take your grandparent for a good catch-up – you’ll be welcome here for hours!
4. Homeground, Windermere. If I don’t get my annual trip to Homeground, I can feel myself getting an itch at the thought of missing out on their lush coffee, Huevos Rancheros or sourdough in general. TIP: Ask for a cake-away – you’ll be too full to fit one in whilst you’re there! Be prepared to wait, but believe me, it’s worth it.
5. The Parlour, Clitheroe – Espresso Martini heaven, retro video games galore and in the words of the lovely Alex Turner: ‘banging tunes’. These guys will serve you up a coffee as happily as a cocktail from their small but perfectly strong menu. As long as you’re not planning on sleeping this month, you’ll love it. Remember: “Sleep is the baby mama of death”. TIP: Ask for an Espresso Martini and leave the car at home! (You’ll want more than one…)
I will be over here trying to come-down from my coffee ‘high’…