Coffee Shop North

I want Coffee Shop North to be a platform not for me but for everyone involved in the north to discuss, explore and share their insights into the culture of coffee and its rising independent scene. — Dan Saul Pilgrim

Coffee Shop North was crowdfunded, a photo-essay of twenty-three indie coffee shops, seven cities and one town, across the North of England.

Inserted a booklet with portraits of coffee people.

Tamper in Sheffield, Spring in York, two of two dozen coffee shops featured.

Coupled with a collection of a dozen essays on coffee related themes.

Too many cafes, it would be stretching the point to call them coffee shops, are locked into the coffee scam, free machine, forced to buy poor quality overpriced coffee beans.

The norm for a speciality coffee shop, a house blend that does not change, a guest blend and maybe a few single origin speciality coffees for pour over. The only way to experience different coffees is to visit different coffee shops. Nothing of course wrong with that, part of the fun, different barista, different coffee, different techniques.

In ‘The Coffee Curators’ Lee Newell of Foundry in Sheffield questions why? Why not constantly change what is served, a challenge for the barista who then becomes a coffee curator, a challenge for the discerning clientele.

Two coffee shops that do just that, though not featured in Coffee Shop North, The Speciality Coffee Shop in Nottingham and Madame Waffle in Lincoln.

Too many of our towns have been destroyed by bad planning, corporate greed, and chains everywhere, an appalling sameness, then when a cursory glance at a remote spreadsheet does not show sufficient return, store closures leaving gaping holes in our town centres never to be filled.

Coffee shops offer something different, often a sensitive restoration of an old building, money is recycled within the local economy, a sense of place, something different, of character.

Coffee Shop North provides a sense of this sense of place.

Of limited edition, only on sale in indie coffee shops or indie bookshops. My copy was from Ideas on Paper, hidden in Cobden Chambers in Nottingham.

A few days later after picking up a copy of Coffee Shop North I was in York.  A few days after that flipping through Coffee Shop North I recognised the Synesso espresso machine, it was what I had spotted in Spring Espresso Lendal in York, the only one in the country.

I had thought, would it not be a clever idea to have Coffee Shop North signed in each coffee shop visited, or at least try and visit.

So far, only  Spring Espresso Lendal, though I did not have the book for signing.

Comparison would be Coffee Style, a hardback of stunning coffee related photos.  Or maybe Drift, coffee culture city by city.

If a guide to coffee shops in the North, then maybe The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, not that Coffee Shop North claims to be a guide or even attempts to be comprehensive, it is a snapshot of time and place. But a word of caution,  The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide is not as it appears, it is not a guide or at least not as claimed, a guide loses all credibility when coffee shops are being charged £500 for an entry, write their own entry, coffee shops that should be featured are not, several that are should not.

The inspiration for Coffee Shop North was living and working coffee in the North.

My first experience with coffee goes hand in hand with my first experience away from home. I moved to Leeds in September 2010 to study graphic design. A thirty minute commute along the River Aire took me past a little espresso bar known as La Bottega Milanese. Opened not long before my arrival to the city, Alex the owner is Milan born and bred and had worked in coffee to support his graphic design studies not dissimilar to myself. La Bottega was a first of its kind — the first Milanese style espresso bar in Leeds. Given my inherent affection for Italian culture and the stylishly designed exterior, I was drawn to the shop and every day I would supplement my walk into university with a flat white. My dad had passed down his appreciation for coffee and also Italian food and wine due to family. (Yes, it’s more Kiwi than Italian but at the time I was none the wiser!).

The choice between a bus fare of the same price or a beautifully poured drink every morning was a no-brainer: the flat white became synchronous with my independence.

I respected Alex and his perseverance to establish this coffee culture in a northern English city. A year later I worked for him for a few months at the opening of his second shop (more a late night concept espresso bar) to aid my own studies and during that time met quite a few of the baristas intended to feature within the very pages of the book. My appreciation of the drink, the place and people grew and so to did my knowledge.

Four years later, I have spent countless hours in coffee shops in five cities particularly in the north of England. I’ve witnessed and been lucky enough to be part of a scene that has grown quickly in such a short space of time. Within the four (or more) walls of each shop there are stories to be told through image and word. I am but one person with an intimate story and appreciation that has stemmed from one drinkplace and person.

I want Coffee Shop: North to be a platform not for me but for everyone involved in the north to discuss, explore and share their insights into the culture of coffee and its rising independent scene.

A few minor criticisms of Coffee Shop North, the very large typeface at the beginning and irritating to be told what people are wearing as that only serves to regurgitate the myth coffee shops are for hipsters only ordinary folk not welcome, when nothing could be further from the truth.

It would have been useful to know where each coffee shop was, at the very least the town or city, and ideally, web address and twitter.

Dan Saul Pilgrim author of Coffee Shop North lived in the North, discovered specailty coffee and coffee shops, and for a while worked in a coffee shop.

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