One of the first bars to open in the redeveloped Northern Quarter, Common has been a staple of the area since 2004. In the words of General Manager, Jonny, “the area had a lot of residents but nowhere to drink and hang out. Common wasn’t trying to be a city bar but just a nice, reliable neighbourhood place to drink”.
A lot has changed in the last twelve years. The Northern Quarter has flourished and, during that time, Common has been torn down and rebuilt with an expansion and a refined offering.
“We bought more space, expanded the seating area… we completely ripped it apart and started again. We originally set it up on a tight budget — it was rough and ready, you know? We just kind of outgrew it and we couldn’t keep up with demand. We wanted something more efficient, to allow us to carry on serving food and drink to a high standard”.
The revamp wasn’t popular with everyone, but Jonny is confident that they have retained most of their regulars and won back most of the people they lost.
“Everyone who was vocally hating it, they started coming back once they saw it was the same team, the same philosophy and that we’ve just grown up a bit.”
This is a regular theme in conversations with café owners and operators; adapt or die. Lots of cafés that outgrow themselves don’t update or aren’t able to, for one reason or another. Aside from how customers may feel about this, it can cause real strain amongst staff members who are working in inefficient ways or with outdated equipment, and it can negatively impact the quality of the offering. So what was it about the original Common that, ten years later, was dragging its heels?
“It’s the same thing anyone in the Northern Quarter will tell you: we get incredibly, incredibly busy in very concentrated times, so it’s hard to maintain standards and quality in those conditions. We always want to keep ahead with new ideas, new and exciting things, not just rest on our laurels. It’s not pretentious though, we find stuff we like and we’re excited so we get behind it, and we want to share that”.
Common is in a constant battle to stay relevant to their neighbourhood, but it’s a labour of love and it allows Jonny and his team a certain amount of freedom to try to jump ahead of the curve. “We feel we have to take risks. We tore the place down and built it back up. You know, people don’t like change, but we felt we had to.”
Common 2.0 is ambitious without over-reaching. The offering is broad yet considered, and the team is keeping up with the changing demands and tastes of the neighbourhood whilst showcasing what they themselves enjoy, rather than bowing blindly to gentrification. Common hasn’t sold out. It’s grown up. There is utilitarian yet comfortable furniture, it’s light and airy (even more so in the Summer as some of the outer walls retract and open up the space), but it’s lively. The decor may be slightly Scandi-chic, but the buzzing atmosphere is full on Manchester - the pebbledash bar in the centre is a nice nod to Common’s roots, and a wink that lets you know you’re welcome.
Common has also refined the food offering (the salt and pepper squid and Korean fried chicken are great bar snacks), but they are still serving up their crowd-pleasing burgers and sandwiches. “We’re probably most famous for our burgers, the maple bacon burger is the most popular”, says Jonny.
The coffee scene in Manchester has grown tremendously in recent years, with events such as The Manchester Coffee Festival (formerly Cup North) putting Northern roasters and cafés on the map, and allowing local businesses access to roasters from other areas. “Since we re-opened we’ve seen much more of a push on day trade. The coffee side has really taken off, we’ve invested a lot in that and it’s blown up. Our coffee sales are up by about 400%.
When we visited we drank a bright and sweet brew of Marimira AA, a Kenyan coffee currently in our range. “People come down to try the latest filter, and we keep it on constant rotation. The people who like it get into it, they come back and try the different beans. The staff too — they love the filter.”
Originally coming from a craft beer background, the team at Common had a love of and appreciation for good coffee, but none of its staff were trained baristas. “We worked closely with friends from other cafes like North Tea Power and Idle Hands. They did some training with us and got the staff on board. It’s the same with anything we buy: wine, beer, gin — we apply the same thought behind it all in terms of taste.”.
It’s important to look at venues like Common who take stock of their position, decide what can be achieved, and then reach for it. In a time when so many new openings seem to be guided by the same rulebook, adhering to an accepted aesthetic, Common are “still here, still pushing forward. That’s about it really”. If you’re in the Manchester area you can drop by Common any day except Monday, and check out their sister venues Port Street Beer House, The Beagle, and recent addition The Pilcrow, close to Victoria train station. The latter is a pub built by hand with help from the local community in the NOMA neighbourhood, operated by All Our Yesterdays, a new partnership between Common owner Jonathan Heyes and Paul Jones, the co-founder of Cloudwater Brew Co.
Address: 39 Edge St, Manchester M4 1HW
Back in October, with our new Probat P25 finally in position, we fired it up and got to work. Almost every day since has been spent turning numerous batches in the pursuit of delicious coffee.
The first stage was familiarising ourselves with a new set of controls and a new machine, establishing thresholds, sensitivities and nuances. That took around 600kg of old, green coffee that wasn't fit for release and will never see the light of day, but which served a far greater purpose; it allowed us to begin the trial roasting and profiling of our current range.
We roasted. We rested. We cupped. We repeated.
Cupping countless times each week, over five weeks, we continued to tweak our roast profiles, noting the imperfections with each batch and where improvements could be made. The goal was always to produce coffees not just as good as those being produced in Clerkenwell, but better.
We're delighted to say that, last week, we reached that point.
After a quick move East over the weekend, from today you'll find the whole production team in our Bethnal Green Roastery. And starting tomorrow, on the first full production day in Vyner St., we'll be roasting, packing and distributing some of the best coffee we've had the pleasure of serving.
We hope you enjoy it.
In April of this year, we were handed the keys to 3,500 square foot of expansive, empty space in and amongst the art galleries on the quiet, cobbled road of Vyner Street, East London. As with any major project, the work to get us to that point began long before, but in the seven months since, we've been hard at work. In every corner of the business, we've been making some exciting advancements, from our production department, to changes to our stores and the refinement of the Workshop Coffee brand itself.
First, the Workshop Coffee Roastery. Our new space affords us two important developments in our quality-driven approach: resource and time.
The installation of a brand new 25kg Probat has an immediate effect on our capacity, allowing us to roast larger batches whilst continuing to carefully monitor our output through the ever-reliable Cropster. We've also built a climate-controlled storage room that will allow us to dictate the temperature at which our coffee is stored, diminishing the impact of yet another difficult-to-control variable that has a considerable impact on taste and flavour. Meanwhile, our still new and somewhat unfamiliar ColourTrack laser analysis unit that sits across the room from our roaster provides us another window into better understanding the numerous elements and variables that help us roast the best coffee possible.
The benefits of all of this are already beginning to be seen in the area we are going to be spending even more time on than we currently do: the cupping table. With greater levels of capacity and resource come increased opportunities to cup, taste, evaluate and continue improving every coffee we roast in the space. A renewed focus on this crucial point in our feedback loop can only mean greater consistency in our roasting process and we're excited to showcase the results in the coming weeks and months.
Having had numerous discussions with our wholesale partners, our customers and members of our own team, we've also developed a new, bespoke coffee bag.
We've scrutinised everything, from their shape and height to the design of the label that adorns them, ensuring quality at every stage and level.
The custom-made, resealable bags -- available in all of our stores and online from today -- continue to allow for ongoing freshness and we've sought to unpack the details of each coffee into a clear and approachable grid system to ensure continued quality of information.
Most excitingly, we've also changed our bag size. A switch to our 250g bags has allowed us to create a product that, for 1- and 2-bag orders, is capable of fitting through almost every conveivable letterbox. That means that our online and subscription customers can now expect to arrive home to our freshly roasted coffee ready and waiting for them to enjoy.
As you'll have no doubt already noticed, in the process of improving our packaging we've also taken the opportunity to refine our brand. From today, a new bold and distinctive 'W' will feature on each and every one of our coffee bags. We've also been working over the weekend to bring that new look to our website and into our stores.
In short, a number of things have changed. Our new look will manifest itself in the bigger ways we've already outlined and in the countless details of our everyday operations: signage, aprons, takeaway cups, to name but a few. And, as is always the way with projects such as these, things will continue to adapt and iterate over time as we acquire feedback and learn lessons along the way.
However, fundamentally, nothing has changed. We continue to source, roast and brew the cleanest, sweetest, freshest coffee possible and these advances will allow us to do that better than we ever have.
We’ve been working with Carter Donnell since he started Daily Goods as a small concession in the now closed Kinoko Cycles some two years ago. The little Soho concession we blogged about shut doors in Golden Square last June and re-opened as a much more substantial cafe across the river in Camberwell, South London. We dropped by Daily Goods to catch up with Carter and ask a few questions about the changes and what it's been like over the last year:
So how did you first get introduced into coffee? Where did you work before setting up Daily Goods?
I grew up in a small town in Idaho and like normal, small town American life there was always a pot of coffee at home - coffee was always there noon and night. I didn't think anything of it until I was watching my favourite skateboarder on a video, he was drinking a cup of coffee while waiting for a train in New York. I emulated him in every other way so I knew I had to start drinking coffee.
My first job in coffee was at Starbucks and, ironically, it was there I actually learnt that coffee could be something other than a caramel syrup-filled slushy drink! On my first day they made me cup the two coffees they were currently serving: a Colombian and an Ethiopian. When I tried the Ethiopian against the Colombian I couldn't believe that you could taste actual flavours, different flavours, from coffee without adding anything to them!
From there, using the sweet deal of being able to work at any Starbucks, I left Idaho and headed to the East Coast. Settling in Philadelphia for a year, I took every opportunity to travel to Manhattan on the bus. Discovering the guys at Ninth Street Espresso on 13th St. in New York (now Everyman Espresso) was a revelation; no syrups, no blender, no sandwiches, just great coffee! I set about convincing them I wasn't a brainwashed Starbucks barista, was willing to forget everything I was taught and learn it their way if they gave me the opportunity. I worked at Ninth St. for three years, learnt a great deal about coffee and loved that job so much!
Afterwards I moved to London and worked at some great places like Milk Bar, Store Street Espresso and Embassy East. After a while however, I knew it was time I set out to do my own thing and try to create what I missed most about working in New York, the neighbourhood feel. I wasn't able to fund anything standalone on my own so found a stepping stone in Kinoko Cycles. I rented a small corner of the cycle shop in Soho and traded there for a year.
What's it been like going from a one-man band to being the owner-operator of a whole team?
Oh man! I would be lying if I said it was easy. I had no idea how much work it would be. Trading from a small counter on my own everyday for a year was easy enough; I knew what I needed to do and how to do it and had no one to answer to or look after, except for the customers of course. Opening in Camberwell has been a rewarding challenge; I now have five employees who I have to make sure get paid, get breaks and have fun while working. That is an amazing feeling but also a lot of responsibility!
Nowadays I do a lot more managerial work but when I leave the office and see the cafe full of regulars and my crew behind the counter serving these people and knowing them on a first name basis, ultimately building more of our community in Camberwell, I can't help but be happy with what Daily Goods has become, even if I am behind the counter less myself.
Do you ever miss the little bar at Kinoko Cycles?
No, not at all. I didn't like being in someone else's space and being held to their guidelines. It was an amazing opportunity and I can't forget that, but I'm much more happy here in Camberwell.
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It’s always the greatest of pleasures to see our Wholesale Partner’s grow and develop. While some go on to open second shops or do major refurbishments, others like Daily Goods go from small establishments to being much bigger cafés that form the hub of a community.
So, if you do find yourself in Camberwell, you know where to go for a great Cult of Done Espresso or a filter coffee served from the Fetco batch brewer. We can’t wait to see what Carter and his team have planned next and look forward to helping out where we can, as Daily Goods continues to grow and develop in the coming years.
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36 Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5 8QZ
Mon to Friday – 7.30am to 6.30pm
Saturday - 9.30am to 5.30pm
Sunday - 10am to 5pm
Opening last year, Under Pressure Espresso is a small coffee bar in Sutton Coldfield, just north of Birmingham. The owner and founder of Under Pressure, Matthew Hall, having worked at great roasters and cafes around the world, decided to return to his hometown and go about putting into practice everything he had learnt. Driven by the goal of serving the best possible coffee in an accessible manner with no pretence, it's obvious Matthew has genuine passion for speciality coffee.
Alongside a variety of different hand brew methods, the bar features a La Marzocco GS/3 and Mythos Grinder at its core. Having a single group GS/3, Matthew is free to explore different pressure profiles and temperatures when brewing, testing different recipes for his espressos, as he tries to get the best out of each coffee he serves.
Under Pressure is testament to the growth of speciality coffee in the UK, showing that innovation and quality is not limited to larger towns and cities but can thrive in local communities too.
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Under Pressure Espresso
23a Birmingham Road, Sutton Coldfield, B72 1QA
Mon to Thursday – 8am to 5pm
Fri to Saturday - 8am to 6pm
Sunday - 10am to 4pm
It is always exciting to work with people who value provenance, quality and flavour as much as we do; like our latest wholesale partner the Quality Chop House Shop. Based on the corner of Exmouth Market, this grocers shop and butchers has been supplying Farringdon with meats, charcuterie and daily staples since early 2013. More recently it has become renowned for its Friday offer of freshly made doughnuts and roast meat sandwiches, all made in the restaurant next door.
If you are a regular to Exmouth Market, dining at the restaurant or just in need of some fresh coffee you can now drop into the Quality Chop House Shop, stocking a range of Workshop Coffee beans, alongside brewing equipment, grinders and filter papers.
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Quality Chop House Shop
88 - 94 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3EA
Mon to Thurs – 11am to 7pm
Friday - 10am to 8pm
Saturday - 9am to 6pm
Sunday - 11am to 5pm
Lost & Found - a cafe right at the fore of the burgeoning Northern Irish coffee scene.
With the 2013 Irish Brewers Cup Champion Daniel Henderson at the helm, Lost & Found puts great emphasis on its brewed coffee and Workshop are proud to have worked with the team since early 2014, helping them achieve their goal of preparing and serving simple and delicious coffee.
A large part of service for Daniel is telling the story of each coffee's origin and promoting the farmers and cooperatives that produce each one. He also regularly runs brew classes and has a rotating range of filter coffees available to drink and take home.
The bar itself features a La Marzocco Linea EE and Anfim grinder, with filter coffee being served using an Über boiler and Über grinder setup.
Make sure you drop in to see Daniel and the team and ask them about the different Workshop filter coffees they have on bar. You won't be disappointed.
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Lost & Found
2 Queen Street, Coleraine, BT52 1BE
Tues to Fri – 8.30am to 5pm
Saturday - 9.30am to 5pm
Monday and Sunday - Closed
Founded by Sam Tawil in 2010, Bold Street Coffee is arguably the centre of Liverpool’s speciality coffee scene. While the bright red La Marzocco FB-80 is the focal point of the bar, Bold Street also prides itself on serving a wide range of filter coffees. More than that, Bold Street has become famous for its regularly changing menu of breakfasts and salads.
If you find that all seats are full at Bold Street, only a short distance away is it’s airy sister cafe - Duke Street Espresso. This compact, slate black espresso bar is a great location to stop while touring the streets of Liverpool. On top of offering a range of different filter, espresso and cold brew coffees, they also have a toast bar with almost every conceivable condiment.
Both locations are a great place to visit to try a changing range of our single origin coffees or a Cult of Done espresso.
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Bold Street Coffee
89 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HF
Mon to Fri – 7.30am to 6pm
Saturday - 8am to 6pm
Sunday - 9.30am to 5pm
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Duke Street Espresso
27 Duke Street, Liverpool, L1 5AP
Mon to Fri – 8am to 5pm
Saturday - 9am to 6pm
Sunday - 10am to 4pm
Workshop Coffee is extremely pleased to announce that we are again accepting Wholesale customers.
For those unaware, a few months ago we put a stop on all new wholesale accounts. We chose to put the stoppage in place in order to ensure that the quality of our coffee did not deteriorate off the back of growing interest in our roastery.
You might be wondering what has changed? In short, we have made a range of small changes, allocated more time to roast coffee and have hired additional staff. We are now more than confident that we are ready for our new wholesale partners while maintaining the quality and consistency we pride ourselves on.
If you run or are planning to open a cafe or restaurant and would like to work with Workshop Coffee, we would love to talk to you.
Many people have remarked that this might be the ‘grandest’ or most interesting space to enjoy speciality coffee in London. There is no denying that when we were approached by the team behind The Wren we were very excited to see their venue. The cafe is part of a St. Nicholas Cole Abbey that lies just South of St. Paul’s Cathedral. In fact, the church and the cathedral were both designed by Sir Christopher Wren - hence the name.
The high ceilings and tall stained glass windows create an a level of light incomparable with any other coffee shop we know. The open space is great for larger gatherings or just a solitary flat white while admiring the finer details of the stain glass windows. As the summer rolls in the outdoor mezzanine, set away and above from the street, is the one of the best places to watch the bustle of The City of London while you enjoy a Cult of Done espresso or V60 filter brew.
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114 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4BJ
Monday to Friday – 7am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday – 10am to 4pm