We head to York to discover what makes a great artisan coffeehouse stand out from the crowd.
We all have our own preference when it comes to finding the perfect spot for a quiet coffee or a catch up. Whether you want a cosmopolitan, busy coffeehouse vibe, or a cosy corner away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, there’s plenty of choice in today’s towns and cities. But what makes a coffeehouse stand out from the crowd? We headed to York’s Coffee Culture to find out.
There’s a genuine sense of warmth when visiting here, with cheerful greetings guaranteed. Coffee Culture may be a little cramped in size, but that doesn’t particularly seem to matter. Narrow stairs lead to two upper floors, with hand-made tables built from parts of an old barn, and cushions aplenty – cosiness seems to be the aim of the game here. The top floor features a long leather sofa to sink into, and offers excellent views of the Minster, an added bonus. To call it idyllic wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration.
Back to the task in hand, though. We’re here to learn about the ingredients that go into our overall coffee drinking experience. Right on cue comes our barista-come-waitress, Jessica Walker, navigating the narrow stairs and juggling a tray full of coffee and cakes with the same smile that greeted us on arrival. Jess – a 21-year-old linguistics and creative writing graduate – sits down to talk to us at Wine & Dine about what she thinks a good coffeehouse should be.
‘I think it really only boils down to two main aspects: excellent coffee and a nice atmosphere. Everyone is becoming more particular about their coffee. They care more about the quality, where it comes from, and the way it’s prepared. The Third Wave coffee movement means that if you’re an independent coffee shop and you don’t serve great, consistent coffee, then you are lacking. The atmosphere of a cafe is also a major catalyst. I believe that if a cafe looks great, has lovely staff, and plays eclectic music, then it has an atmosphere that I will want to return to. As a writer, if I can spend hours in a cafe working on my writing, then that cafe probably hits the nail on the head in terms of atmosphere for me.’
Coffee Culture has certainly achieved what Jess considers the most significant hallmarks of a great coffeehouse, but what about their ingredients?
‘Our house blend coffee is unique to us. We have York Coffee Emporium supply us with our very own Coffee Culture blend. It is a dark, rich, chocolatey Italian style roast with Ethiopian, Brazilian and Colombian beans. It makes a fine cup of coffee each time, and tastes great black or with milk. We also offer six other delicious types of coffee from around the world, all supplied from York Coffee Emporium. We have a coffee to suit everyone’s tastes from a traditional dark roast coffee, to the more popular acidic, citrus-tasting coffees.’
We all like to be seen to encourage local businesses, and prioritise their welfare and place on the high street ahead of the big brands and commercial chains. And this is no different when it comes to coffee, so why should we visit an independent coffeehouse, instead of perhaps a branch of Costa or Starbucks?
‘Well, with an independent cafe you are supporting a local business with a local business owner. Their coffee shop may well be their life and soul, so I would rather support that than a large corporation. I think independent coffee shops provide more than the large chains as they offer a friendlier and more personal experience. The coffee can often be better in an independent, too, as they will specially select the best beans, and the focus is on the care rather than the turnover.’
If you’re in York, Coffee Culture is absolutely worth a visit. You’ll certainly be well looked after by their staff, and are guaranteed to leave with their feel-good vibe and great coffee running through your veins. But don’t just take our word for it, take it from Coffee Culture’s very own coffee connoisseur, Jess.
‘We have a lot of regular customers who speak of Coffee Culture being their second home, as well as a friendly place, a welcoming establishment, and a cafe with great coffee and food. I hope that all of our customers feel this way, as we want everyone to feel welcomed and comfortable. We aim to provide all with a great kick-start to the day with our coffee.’
To find out more about Coffee Culture, head to their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/41goodramgate. And to visit their coffeehouse, head to 41 Goodramgate, York, YO1 7LS.
And as a starting point on your coffee adventure, here’s a selection of some of our other favourite coffeehouses:
Leeds – La Bottega Milanese, Bond Court
Sheffield – Tamper Sellers Wheel, Arundel Street
York – Perky Peacock, Lendal Bridge