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North East Coffee Festival

Well, I survived!! There are still three charity collection cans floating around in Afternoon Tease cafe because I haven’t yet heard whether UK Coffee Week HQ want me to send back the whole cans, or just write them a cheque.

For a first attempt at organising something like this, I think it went really well. In the end, only five places in Darlington actually signed up with the UK coffee week, and of those, one completely ignored my attempts at getting them involved on a local level. But to be honest I am quite glad about that because I had plenty to deal with as it was. Plenty of places got involved without actually signing up officially though, which was great. I did a coffee ‘treasure map’ sending people to seven different coffee shops around town (including Caffe Nero and Clervaux) and finishing at Afternoon Tease, where I gave the first person back (Congrats to Robin Ellwood!) the “treasure” – a bag of organic single origin Costa Rican beans, the most enormous coffee mug I could find and a cafetiere. Because if you’ve managed to get round seven coffee shops in a week, obviously you must be in need of more coffee!!

The ever-enthusiastic Neil at Golden Brown cafe roasts coffee on site, and did some roasting workshops for interested customers – I met a few who had attended and said it was ‘fascinating’! I was a bit gutted I couldn’t make it to them myself. I don’t know how much Neil raised but hopefully the roasting workshops and the treasure map boosted his sales as well.

I did a poster for the Vitae Public Engagement competition, all about coffee quality (as usual) and hosted in Durham. The idea was the explain people’s academic work to members of the public, so I thought I’d do my bit since the event happened to coincide with coffee week. I didn’t win, but I didn’t really expect to, and I did get to talk to a lot of interesting people, including Kathryn from Allegra (organisers of UK Coffee Week) who had made it all the way up here from London for the day. Really nice of her to make the journey!

Annette at Sublime Coffee Corner, who sells a huge range of different coffee beans on the indoor market, did a coffee tasting session as well as being featured on the treasure map. She said it went well enough, and certainly got to enlighten people to the joys of Kopi Luwak coffee, ahem 🙂

I ran a short barista class at Afternoon Tease on the Friday, which was so much fun! Two who had provisionally booked couldn’t make it at the last minute, but the crowd I got in were brilliant, asking me loads of questions, really getting in to it and most significantly, not being afraid to have a go on my machine. One said she was blown away by the tiny margin of error, how the tiniest thing can make such a huge difference in how the espresso tastes. For my part, it was exhausting! I did get to drink A LOT of espresso, tasting all their attempts no matter how bad! However, as usual when I try and ‘teach’ something I am passionate about, I vastly over-ran and talked solidly for the best part of three hours.

Finally, on the Saturday, we held a few coffee themed stalls in the market square (the back-story for this deserves a blog post in its own right, but in simple terms, this was achieved *despite* the council, not exactly with their help!). My beloved coffee Ape van has now been sold (waaaaaaa!) and I sold it on the understanding that its new owners came to the coffee festival. They did, in fact, the festival actually became the launch of their new business. Apey boy is now called Little Coffee Van, and although nervous, they managed some pretty decent cappuccinos! On a less positive note, they also go a taster of the local open market – thus producing another one joining the campaign pressuring the council to invest in the market and breathe some life in to it, I hope!!
We also had beautiful cakies from Cupcake Kisses, Golden Brown cafe came out and sold freshly roasted coffee beans and gourmet chocolates, Tea Experience came all the way up from the other side of York to pacify the tea drinking half of the population, we even had a massage stall called Reinvigorate for when people had had too much caffeine! I tried to do a sort of information stall, using some of the posters and displays I’d done for uni and some coffee paraphenalia I’ve collected (of which I have A LOT nowadays!). However, Afternoon Tease was open at the same time, and I couldn’t leave Carl manning the place on his own. My parents came up for the weekend to help out with Miranda but I still ended up pedalling backwards and forwards between the stalls and the cafe on Betty the bike. I also did a short but live radio interview for BBC Radio Tees which was terrifying, but at least it wasn’t as awful as the mugshot in the local paper. Ugh.

Anyway, things have been learnt. Kathryn seems pretty keen for me to do this again next year (!!!) but that will depend a great deal on how cooperative Darlington council are feeling because there were parts of the initial setting up of the festival which I have no desire whatever to repeat! A budget would be lovely too… However, moans aside, I really do enjoy doing things like this, hopefully all involved benefitted from it, it was something very different for Darlington, we raised some money for a good cause, and we all got a lot of very very good coffee. Which is the main thing, for me at least!!

Here’s some pretty pics from the week:

Afternoon TeaseGusto ItalianoOrigin cup!Cafe PregoClervauxSeasons

Costa CoffeeGolden Brown CafePoster of Coffee QualityEspresso served in Turkish IbrikDay 8Rachel and Nyx Chapman

Stalls at the Coffee FestivalTea ExperienceFlowering TeasCoffee Information StallCoffee paraphenaliaBeans!

Day 9Cupcake KissesReinvigorateThe Little Coffee VanLittle Coffee VanBaby Coffee

North East Coffee Festival, a set on Flickr.

Some photos from the participating cafes and the main even, 4-10th April 2011.

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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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A Career in Coffee

I have never had a sensible answer to the inevitable question that has plagued me for the last three years: what exactly do you do with a PhD in coffee?

Since my maternity leave runs out frighteningly soon, and a few short months after that, the thesis should be submitted, I thought I’d better try and find an answer.

I tried to somehow develop a career in academia, applied for 5 lectureships, only two of which I was actually interested in doing, and didn’t even get shortlisted for any of them, such is the hopelessness of the academic jobs market at the moment. One job had 92 applicants.

So I began to scheme and fantasize a little, and then accidently came across My Most Perfect Job Ever, working as a coffee hunter for Mercanta, the importing company. The role involved learning cupping and then travelling all over the world, sampling coffees for export. Amazing opportunity! Of course I applied immediately, but the closing date for applications was so far away, and I also thought there would be loads of applicants and I probably didn’t stand a chance anyway, so I promptly forgot about it. That was until two weeks ago, when I got a call asking if I could do a phone interview. Aaaargh. This was more than a little nerve-racking, not helped by my phone dying in the middle of it, and Miranda wailing in the background. Still, it went very well, sounded very positive and on paper at least I haveall the skills, experience, qualifications and passion for coffee they were looking for. They explained, however, that the job was very much London-based. I did say I’d be willing to relocate and also that I was happy to come down for a further interview if needs be. My Wonderful Friends and Wonderful Husband took this to mean the job was a dead cert, I was sure to get it and I even got the Wonderful Friends sending me links to houses for sale Down South (most at a mere four times the price of our current home.)

This threw me into an agony of indecision though because, as I hadn’t taken seriously the possibility that I would get the Mercanta job, we had begun to work on an even more exciting, daunting, exhilerating, stressful, creative and expensive project, that is, AFTERNOON TEASE!
Afternoon Tease is our new café. I have been on about opening my own place since time immemorial and at the moment, with the safety and comfort of the PhD drawing to an end, Miranda to worry about and the need to find some sort of employment in Darlington (laughs bitterly), I decided that now is the time I should take the plunge and actually do it. Ideas that are never acted on are a waste of brainspace, and I do believe that if I wait “for the right time” I’ll never do it. There’s never a *right* time.

The idea was simple enough – I want a cafe, but I do not have anything like the resources to do it by myself. My Wonderful Friend Jo wants a sort of “office” space to devote herself to her writing and music and set herself up as a freelance writer and performer. My Wonderful Friend Tattoo-Jo (it is very difficult going in to business with two partners both called Joanne) is a Burlesque artist and teaches Burlesque classes locally, and could really do with some rehearsal space. So, what happens if we share the rent on a unit and combine the lot? A burlesque cafe and writers workshop, sort of thing. And the name became obvious after our first serious discussion. The other plan is to create a baby corner; Miranda is going to have to come to work with Mummy everyday (which I still reckon is a far better option than putting her in childcare at 5 months old) so we have all sorts of things, including a knitted tea pot, for the people too small for caffeine to play with.

Actually getting it set up has taken an enormous amount of time – far longer than I had naively hoped. We found one unit which would have done, but the landlord was more than a little unhelpful and it all fell through. We looked at more, and nothing was suitable for what we wanted or could afford. Then my driving instructor pointed out that a unit on Parkgate was free. Even after finding it, we then had the epic tasks of getting hold of the estate agent and then getting hold of the solicitors and then getting them to actually do what we want them to, and then scraping together, begging and borrowing to get the deposit together, then waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting to get the lease… aaaaaaaaaargh.

Just as we were about to settle the lease, I got a call from Mercanta and did the phone interview. So I had an INCREDIBLY tense ten days where the lease could have appeared at any point, and I was simultaneously awaiting the outcome of the Mercanta interview to see whether I’d go to London. I honestly couldn’t decide, and both Jo’s were incredibly supportive and understanding, especially since one option basically meant screwing them over in the middle of all our hard work. But, on Saturday, I FINALLY got the lease. (with spelling mistakes in it?! £350 for solicitors fees and two weeks late, wtf?). And then next time I checked my email, I also got an email rejecting me from the Mercanta job. Which I can’t help feeling was mainly because I don’t live in London, and possibly because I have Miranda. This pissed me off. However, Afternoon Tease was obviously meant to be!

The next two weeks are going to be insanely busy turning the unit – which used to be a model railway shop – into a cafe, including building the kitchen from scratch and making the toilets inhabitable by normal people. The espresso machine has got to be pulled from my beloved Ape van and replumbed into the kitchen, but *of course* everything shall be ready by our opening do! We’re having a big party for our opening night on 4th December, and open to the public on 6th December. Do come visit us!

logoYou can also visit our website at www.afternoon-tease.co.uk

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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