Interview: Ashley from Holmeside Coffee, Sunderland

A few months ago I came across Holmeside Coffee in Sunderland. Almost instantly, I was besotted. Great ethos, great coffee and great vibes. And perhaps more importantly, great story. I was lucky enough to catch up with Ashley who has been with the company since the early days. Here she talks of their journey from serving coffee in an ‘indecent nightclub’ to where they are today; the challenges of being the first independent specialty coffee shop in the city centre; and how she takes her coffee at home…

In your experience, what’s the most important thing to get right in a coffee shop?

I feel like one of the most important things to get right in any independent coffee shop is to really put your stamp on it. There’s a reason why people go out their way (as a customer) to visit an independent place. If you get it right, let the customers know who you are and what you’re about as soon as they walk in, they almost decide whether they’ll fall in love with the place or not. Bigger coffee shops, as in chains, already have their stamp and everyone knows who they are and what they are about. So yeah, I think it’s important to set yourself aside and really focus on what you want to achieve.

What has been the most challenging aspect of running your coffee shop?

The most challenging thing for us which is currently ongoing, although not as much now, was the move we made to bigger premises last February. We came from an indecent night club, opened there in 2013, then in Summer 2017 opened up a kickstarter enabling us to move to a bigger and more public space. In the move, we became more accessible to the general public because we are now based in a museum. All manner of customers visit us every day and I think the biggest challenge we face is teaching customers who are relatively new to specialty coffee who we are and why we do things the way we do. It’s been a struggle because coffee shops in general are set in a certain way. Even cup sizes, milk temperature and price need to be explained and need an added reason. However, it’s been fun. It’s all about being passionate and explaining why we do things that way. That’s what works for us!

Is there anything you would like to see happen in the coffee industry in the next 10 years?

In the next ten years I’d love to see more independent, good specialty coffee shops open in city centres. People who have a passion for good coffee, good food and the people who run it to match. People with character, personality – the works!

How do you take your coffee?

I drink filter coffee! Preferably from a V60 or Kalita wave. I’m not averse to a really good batch brew providing it’s done well!

Preferred way of making coffee at home?

At home – I drink good old Yorkshire Tea! Hardly ever have coffee! (Yikes!)

Best coffee related purchase to date?

I got a V60 one year for Christmas, that’s probably a handy little gadget when I feel up to making myself a proper coffee at home. I’m normally too lazy to use it. I have had my eye on a Chemex for a little while now so maybe that’s a birthday treat some time.

Find out more about Sunderland’s hottest coffee spot by reading my blog here. Or visit Holmeside yourself, either at their museum premises or their takeout. Details in the blog or via their Facebook page
Like the sound of Ashley’s coffee-related purchases? Get your own Kalita Wave here, Chemex coffeemaker here or a V60 here

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