Get to know Birmingham a bit, and you’ll realise just how many top quality independent places there are for good coffee and tea.
Just pitching up on a rainy day in May had not done much to make me want to return, though. If it hadn’t been for the warm welcome and great coffee I had at Six Eight Kafe in Temple Row, the whole experience would have been a wash-out.
But no sooner had I blogged about that miserable May day, than all of Birmingham began to chuck ideas at me about where to go for a cuppa. And when I heard that 29 September was to be Coffee Birmingham Day, that was it: Fancy a Cuppa? had to give the place a second shot…And this time, both of us would go!
Our day began at the lovely Saint Caffe at the bottom of St Paul’s Square. Not sure how I’d missed it in May, as I must have walked within 50 yards of the place about five times in the pouring rain.
They really know their coffee here and are keen to get Birmingham on their wavelength: each table has a little blackboard explaining why they think coffee’s best drunk without sugar; why it shouldn’t be piping hot; why they don’t serve the mega-cups you get in most corporate coffee shops.
But just in case you begin to feel a little preached at, they also say they are happy to serve your coffee any way you like, and, deep down, they ‘love coffee, not snobbery’. Thanks to Liam – who’s on Twitter with the wonderful name of @TheHolyBarista – for the chat about Birmingham’s coffee scene.
Just a short walk towards the centre of Birmingham, we found Yorks Bakery Café in New Hall Street.
Now, we have a good excuse for not coming here in May: they only opened in August this year.
But what a great addition to Birmingham’s independent coffee scene. Mind you, their tea looked too good to miss, too, and after our disastrous attempts to find a good tea in Birmingham earlier in the year, this we had to try.
Adam Smith (good name, huh?) was the lead barista on Saturday. What a great guy. A real master of ceremonies, keeping things going while engaging with all the customers. With one bloke propping up the bar throughout our visit, the whole atmosphere got us thinking of a scene out of Cheers. In a good way, mind!
And Adam may not be an expert on tea (coffee is his forte) but he did a good enough job telling us the tales of the teas they stock to make us want to get a map out and plan that trip to China sooner rather than later, so that we can see for ourselves some of the plantations they source from…
For lunch, we were determined to get to Brewsmiths in Livery Street. After all, this was the venue that so many people had been shocked we missed when we complained back in May that you couldn’t get a quality cup of tea in Brum.
Very nice to meet Dave and Kate who run the show here, a real down-to-earth couple, who just love serving up good tea (and coffee, and cake, and bacon sandwiches…).
They’re the sort of people who show that you don’t need a degree in tea production to run a good independent tea/coffee business. All you need is a passion for what you do, a bit of knowledge of your local community, and maybe a head for figures in these tricky times…It’s always inspiring to meet people like this because it shows again the diversity of folk that get themselves into the whole coffee and tea world.
It was also good to meet Tim Wilson, one of the organisers of Coffee Birmingham. Shame we had to head back north and couldn’t stay for the IndieBirmingham walk. Mind you, if we’d had any more caffeine, I’m not sure we’d have slept on Saturday night.
That’s what’s so hard about being a coffee and tea reviewer. I don’t know why so many people say they envy what we do. Sleepless nights; worry about finding a good cuppa; trouble talking to some of the owners; watching the waistline due to excessive cake…
No worries in Birmingham, with any of that, except maybe the sleepless nights. But if you want to get 40 winks, just switch to green tea late on – they’ll give you some tips on which to choose at both Brewsmiths and Yorks.