Posts Tagged ‘Stokes on High Bridge’

Coffee beans from Stokes on High Bridge

September 19, 2017

Last week I had been recommended at The Lawn, try our Ethiopian beans.

Unfortunately, and somewhat perversely, roasted at The Lawn, but not on sale at The Lawn, have to trek down to Stokes on High Bridge which is a coffee shop in both senses of the word.

I looked through what was on offer, maybe half a dozen coffee beans.

I settled on Ethiopian Hunda Oli, which I think is what I had been recommended.

I asked of the roast date. The girl serving apologised and said she did not know, as she was only a trainee.

Not a problem, and I offered to explain why roast date was important.

We were rudely interrupted by a lady who said she does the training here.

She checked and told me April, I cannot recall was it 24 or 28 April.

I was astounded, especially when the lady who was in charge of training told me  that it was not a problem.

I could not be bothered arguing with her level of ignorance on coffee, and asked of a different Ethiopian coffee, not what I wanted, but on the other hand, I did not want old beans ether.

I settled for roasted in August, 18 August 2017, which the helpful trainee kindly wrote on the bag. Not ideal, but better than April.

I noticed they still had on sale the second edition of The Northern Independent Coffee Guide, not the latest third edition with the new title  The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, as now includes Wales.

I did not ask why they did not have the latest edition, when other coffee shops in Lincoln have the latest edition, but at a guess, Stokes is featured in the second edition, have been relegated to footnotes in the third edition.

Sadly it is all to easy to see why. Lack of knowledge of importance of roast date, best by is meaningless, does not bode well. Nor that the last time I had  cappuccino from their house blend it was undrinkable.

It was then to Madame Waffle where an excellent cappuccino and a bag of Keyon Mountain  beans from Square Mile Coffee roasted 28 August 2017.

In a supermarket you will not see roast date. The reason why, old beans.  Which is why always buy coffee from either the roaster or a reputable indie coffee shop

Waitrose is the rare exception, beans from Union have a roast date, but all too often past their best.

A coffee shop may have old beans, they may miscalculate their turnover, though they should rotate to avoid selling old beans.

There is no excuse for a coffee roaster to have old beans either in stock or on sale.

As I write, the coffee is on the table, aroma wafting by, both bags are in a brown paper bag, the Stokes also wrapped in a plastic bag.

With the Square Mile, a heirloom variety, I am getting a subtle aroma of chocolate, toffee or fudge, maybe vanilla.

With the Stokes, an overpowering aroma of roast coffee, no subtly.

I would though hasten to add, aroma is no indication of taste, as I learnt a few weeks ago at a cupping session at Taylor St Roasted.

I will learn more when brewed over the next few weeks.

To put the roast dates in context.  Last week, from Madame Waffle a Red Brick espresso blend from Square Mile roasted 10 August, from Coffee Aroma Has Bean espresso blend roasted 5 September, from Makushi a single origin from Costa Rica roasted 9 September, from The Little Tractor Coffee Shop a Kenyan single origin roasted 7 August.

When coffee is roasted, leave for about a week for the oils to adjust, then at its optimum for the next three weeks. 

A reputable coffee roaster will generally roast to order, then ship either that day or the next. 

A reputable coffee shop will order to demand, try to rotate the stock in order that no old beans are sitting on the shelves. 

There can be absolutely no excuse for a coffee roaster to have old beans on the shelves for sale to customers. 

Old beans, lack of understanding of the importance of roast date, undrinkable house blend, it comes as no surprise to see Stokes relegated in the latest indie coffee guide to more good cups and more good roasters. 

Stokes are a fourth generation coffee business that has unfortunately lost its way. Are they suppliers of catering supply coffee in a race to the bottom with Lincoln Tea and Coffee (suppliers of bagged low grade commodity coffee)? Or are they suppliers of speciality coffee?

At the very least, Stokes need to form a separate speciality coffee division, Stokes Speciality Coffee, have on sale at The Lawn with its own unique branding, the coffee shop as their flagship coffee shop. They have the skilled baristas, have invested in top of the range equipment, a pleasant environment, pleasant staff, all they now need are quality beans, hand-roasted, with a Q-grade of at least 84.

Cappuccino and latte at Stokes on High Bridge

April 25, 2017

Stokes used to set the standard for coffee.  Either they are going downhill or my taste is improving, not sure which.

A cappuccino that looked yuk, the taste was not great either.

I checked the beans on sale in jars, none had a pleasant aroma.

I was told the light roast not suited for espresso.

Not true. Try telling that to Makushi, single source, traced back to farm, light roast.

The least worst was beans from Nicaragua.  Medium roast

I was told roast earlier in the week or last week.

Then when they were weighed out, I checked again, told roast 17 February.

No way.

I settled for a blend, that is meant to emulate Blue Mountain.

They offered to grind.

No way.

As I write,  the aroma fills the room.

My cappuccino, and I assume the latte too, was from an espresso blend.

I headed up Steep Hill to Makushi, looking in Madame Waffle on the way where they source beans from Square Mile Coffee Roasters.

Cappuccino and latte at Stokes on High Bridge

February 16, 2017

The third wave is, in many ways, a reaction. It is just as much a reply to bad coffee as it is a movement toward good coffee. – Trish R Skeie, Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters

A cappuccino and latte plus a cookie at Stokes on High Bridge.

Cookie was excellent, but mixed feelings about the coffee.

We have third coffee wave, little indie coffee shops, small indie coffee roasters, coffee plantations, all working together to bring you the best in a cup of coffee.

The roasters go to the plantation, to ensure the best growing conditions, the best beans are then picked. Next stage is how the beans are extracted and washed. The coffee roaster attempt to bring out the best character of the beans. Finally the barista coaxes the best the beans can offer.

Get any part of the chain wrong, and you will have poor quality coffee.

Stokes, instead of moving forward embracing this third wave, are not standing still, they are regressing.

A latte should look good,  that is why it is served in glass. In Stokes, up until a couple of weeks ago, served an excellent latte, not any more.

A barista will take pride, not only in how the cappuccino is brewed but also in the art.

This used to be true of Stokes, not any more.

What is going wrong? Nothing like asking.

Orders from head office.  We have to serve the classic Italian cappuccino.  Repeated like an automaton with no great faith in what they were saying.

No, Italy does not serve great coffee. This is to go backwards.

It is a myth Italy is associated with good coffee. That myth has arisen because the Italians invented the espresso machine, though the French may beg to differ.

The myth that Italy is synonomous with quality coffee, is just that, a myth.

Italy invented the espresso machine, though the French may wish to dispute this.

It was the French who first applied steam to drive water under pressure through coffee.

In 1818, Mr Laurens of Paris used a percolator system to create coffee. Further refinements by Louis Bernard Rabaut in 1822.

It was not until the early 1900s Italians came on the scene.

antique espresso machine

antique espresso machine

In 1901, Luigi Bezzera created a primitive espresso machine.

It was not until post-WWII we had the forerunner of the modern espresso machine.

It was Italian Fascists who coined the term barista, to differentiate from the American barman.

The world has moved on from bad Italian coffee, leave that to the likes of Costa, with their over roasted coffee.

And speaking of Costa. Stokes has appointed a training manager, from er, Costa!

Stokes is a very old coffee business, dating from 1902, now a fourth generation family business.  The current location of Stokes on High Bridge, in a Tudor building on a Norman Bridge over the River Witham dates from 1937.

Stokes have recently acquired The Lawn, though begs the question when will it open? It will serve coffee, roast coffee, run coffee classes. Though why has the Joseph Banks Conservatory been relocated? A key feature of The Lawn.

The service of late in Stokes on High Bridge has been abyssal. Today service was much improved.

The River Witham, which runs beneath Stokes, was today running very fast and very muddy.

From Waterstone’s, four copies of The Spy. Strictly speaking, swapped four copies. Waterstone’s stick stickers on the front of their books, which damage the books.

Outside Waterstone’s, between Stokes and The Stonebow, a  man was playing a saxophone. He was quite good, but why oh why ghastly backing music? It would have been far better, a sax on its own.

A little further up the High Street, Richard Silvester playing violin. I suggested he recorded and released on bandcamp. He asked what would did I like? Paganini.

Cappuccino in Stokes on High Bridge

February 2, 2017

Service in Stokes is deteriorating. It was not good a couple of weeks ago when  I had a coffee, today even worse.

Long wait until my my order was taken, then another long wait. Even the lady at the adjacent table commented how slow, that at least twenty minutes had passed by.

No explanation, no apology for the piss-poor service. And not even excuse that it was busy. Stokes is never busy these days. It used to be very busy, if not there before ten in the morning, would be waiting for a table.

And was it worth the long wait?

The latte was nowhere near what it would usually look like.

And my cappuccino, looked as though someone who did not know what they were doing, or did not care, or it was rushed.

No coffee shops I frequent, would not serve a cappuccino looking like this. I have had far better cappuccinos served, then taken back, with an apologetic barista saying not good enough.

Taste wise, it was good.

Pleasant chat with the lady at the next table. We were discussing local coffee shops.

I suggested try Coffee Aroma around the corner. She knew of but had never tried.

I also said try Makushi, the new coffee shop half way up Steep Hill.

The one place I said do not try, The Angel Coffee House, the place lacks any ambience, the chairs are threadbare and filthy, the coffee looks disgusting and tastes disgusting.

As she was interested in coffee I suggested check out No to Costa.

On leaving I saw Stokes now has on sale Northern Independent Coffee Guide.

Stokes did not make the first edition. Which I thought was a major omission. They are in the second edition, but if they let their standards slip, I cannot see them making the third edition.

On my way, I passed the guy with The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop in the grotty shopping Arcade opposite Stokes. Another location for good coffee, The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop that is not the grotty shopping arcade.

Cappuccino at Stokes on High Bridge

January 17, 2017

The last couple of occasions I have avoided Stokes and Coffee Aroma and decided to try a couple of the indie coffee shops in Lincoln.

A risky endeavour, as I can end up in somewhere like The Angel Coffee House, as I did last week, shabby, lack of ambience, filthy threadbare chairs and awful coffee.

Today I decided to play safe and visit Stokes on High Bridge.

As always, excellent cappuccino.

I picked up a copy of Bailgate Independent. A glossy magazine full of advertising, articles not worth reading. Tragic waste of trees. I am surprised Stokes stock it.

I contrast with the excellent Viva Brighton. Brighton has creative talent, maybe Lincoln does not.

On my way I passed through the grotty shopping centre opposite Stokes on High Bridge.

Not where would expect quality coffee. I stopped and had a brief chat with a guy with a little coffee stall. I said I would pop by one day and try his coffee. Several brewing methods, maybe too many for a little one man stall. Wrong location, a grotty shopping centre is not where would expect quality coffee. Central Market would be ideal location, except for one problem, thanks to the destruction Coop and the local council have wrought down on the area, footfall is low. Beans sourced from Makushi.

From Stokes, roast dinner at Park Street Eatery. It tasted better than it looked, but not great.

Cappuccino in Stokes on High Bridge

January 3, 2017
Stokes on High Bridge

Stokes on High Bridge

Excellent cappuccino in Stokes on High Bridge but easy to see why these days when I pass by, not busy.

Two lads who I have not seen before, standing by to guide to a table.

Then at least a five minutes wait if not longer, to take my order.

I popped back later, as I walked in, I asked for a cappuccino.

No, we have table service.

I contrast with Coffee Aroma, prompt service and the coffee better.

And I am not one of those who wishes rapid coffee. I am quite happy for a barista to take their time so long as I get excellent coffee.

Nor am I saying cappuccino not good in Stokes. Cappuccino excellent, but Coffee Aroma has the edge.

On the counter Guatemala coffee beans organic and FairTrade, though no logo for either.

But no roast date.

I checked other coffee beans. No roast date.

Best by is absolutely meaningless.

I asked the girl, and she told me they had been roasted the week before.

I asked how did she know?

Either she or or colleague had roasted in-store.

Fair enough, but they should write the roast date on the bags.

And she had no idea why roast date was important.

Stokes are expert coffee roasters and should know better.

Their staff are usually well informed on coffee.

The high standards which set Stokes apart are slipping.

Any coffee connoisseur seeing no roast date and not knowing Stokes, would simply assume, unless they made further inquiries, that they know nothing about coffee.

Stokes have two coffee shops in Lincoln, plus a warehouse where they roast coffee. They are featured in the second edition of Northern England Independent Coffee Guide, which surprisingly they do not  have on sale.

Stokes on High Bridge, a long established family business, in an Elizabethan building, on a Norman Bridge over the River Witham flowing through the centre of Lincoln, is one of the top coffee shops in the country. But Stokes need to up their game, as whereas  others are innovating  Stokes appears to be going backwards.

Cappuccino in Stokes on High Bridge

January 13, 2016
Stokes on High Bridge

Stokes on High Bridge

cookie jars

cookie jars







Excellent cappuccino in Stokes on High Bridge. But then I would expect no less, from one of the best coffee shops in the country.

The cookie was excellent too.

It begs the question why anyone would wish to drink the disgusting brew that is claimed to be coffee in Costa or tax-dodging Starbucks, sit in their corporate atmosphere or eat their factory cakes?

Lunch at Stokes was temping, roast lamb or pork chop.

Stokes on High Bridge, a long established family business, in an Elizabethan building, on a Norman Bridge over the River Witham flowing through the centre of Lincoln, is one of the top coffee shops in the country.

Cappuccino at Stokes on High Bridge

December 22, 2015
coffee beans and china cup

coffee beans and china cup and saucer

coffee shop

coffee shop

coffee beans

coffee beans



Lucky to even get in, as if not before ten in the morning, full until gone four in the afternoon.

It was around eleven in the morning, but fortunately  table was vacated as I walked in.  And it was a window seat.

No cookies.

Stokes on High Bridge is a long established coffee shop on High Bridge in Lincoln.

Cappuccino at Stokes on High Bridge

February 5, 2015


cookie jars

cookie jars

brew bar

brew bar

making coffee

making coffee



first floor restaurant

first floor restaurant

Excellent cappuccino and cookie at Stokes on High Bridge.

But then I expect no less from Stokes, the gold standard by which lesser coffees are judged.

Which begs the question why is lunch so bad, from an establishment that prides itself on quality?

A fourth generation family business, Stokes on High Bridge has been of the coffee and tea business since 1902, at their present location in a beautiful Tudor building on High Bridge, a Medieval Bridge with Norman foundations, since 1937.

Stokes not only serve excellent coffee, they are coffee roasters, supplying local indy coffee shops.

Lunch at Stokes on High Bridge

February 5, 2015
mushroom soup

mushroom soup

roast lunch

roast lunch

Stokes is excellent for coffee, indeed the gold standard by which lesser coffees are judged. A pity the same cannot be said of lunch.

Last week I missed roast lunch by a few minutes. Scampi and chips was not good. I did consider lunch at the County Restaurant, but as I missed out on roast lunch last week, I thought I would give it a try. A big mistake.

For starters mushroom soup. It was ok, but I have had far better.

It came with an enormous bap. Too enormous.

Portion size meagre.

The roast dinner was beef. Indeed every time I have looked it has been beef. I would have preferred roast pork.

When served, it looked singularly unappetising.

Initial impressions proved correct. It was pretty awful.

Yorkshire pudding was dried up and burnt. Mashed potatoes were not very nice. Something which I think was red cabbage, but why was it sweet?

Last week I had breakfast, not the full English. Bacon in a bap. A lovely piece of bacon, but I did not think much of the fluffy white bap. The same bap that gets served with the soup.

Stokes on High Bridge is an establishment that prides itself on quality, excellent coffee, skilled baristas, charming waitresses in its coffee shop, knowledgeable on coffee, quality ingredients, and yet lunch is awful.

I suggest a new chef, as something is going very wrong in the kitchen.

I would not hesitate to recommend Stokes on High Bridge for coffee. I cannot recommend for lunch.