Leeds, in West Yorkshire, is one of the biggest cities in UK and its population is higher that many European capital cities like Athens, Copenhagen or Dublin. Yet when you walk through Leeds’ city centre you don’t feel like being in a metropolis. You can walk or cycle anywhere and the beautiful landscapes of the Yorkshire Moors National Park are only 30 minutes drive away!
Leeds has a special place in my heart: my fiancé Sandy lived there for 3 years, before I convinced him to move to London with me! I often wish I had been the one to make the move up north! The first time I visited Leeds, I fell in love with it: leaving the traffic and noise of London behind the spend a relaxing weekend in a friendly and approachable city was such a pleasure!
Being a university town, Leeds’ population is young and varied and there is a big focus on arts and culture. As for the food, it’s not just greasy spoons and chippies! Yorkshire has a great offer of locally-grown vegetables and fruits, as well as meat and fish from local farms (such as Blacker Hall Farm). Leeds is also part of the coffee revolution that is transforming Britain.
At last, we’re waking up and smelling a different kind of coffee. More and more UK coffee drinkers […] are discovering the more complex pleasures of brewed coffee, originating in a single area or even farm.
I write extensively about independent coffee shops in London, but I was surprised to discover that other UK cities, such as Manchester, Leeds, York, Lincoln, are also part of the Third Wave Coffee movement.
In Leeds there are a few independent coffee shops, all supporting each other with the end goal of promoting good quality coffee. As I planned a weekend getaway to Yorkshire for Easter, I decided to dedicate one day to touring Leeds’ best coffee places!
Louisa Henry led the coffee revolution in Leeds when she opened Opposite near the university and also in a small booth in the beautiful Victoria Quarter. That’s where I met one of their baristas*, Ollie, and had an interesting chat about coffee while tasting Hasbean brew and espresso.
**Update: one of Opposite baristas, Howard Barwick, has arrived 3rd at the UK Barista Championship 2012!
My next stop was Laynes Espresso. Opened one year ago by barista Dave Olejnik, Laynes serves Square Mile beans, homemade sandwiches and delicious Dumouchel pastries. I had a Piccolo, while Sandy had a Cappuccino, with a Brioche Bostok, before moving onto the third stop of my coffee crawl!
We made a quick detour to Cornucopia Leeds in the Corn Exchange to meet Dave, as he was promoting Laynes and selling coffee and brewing equipment.
By lunch time we arrived at Bottega Milanese. I was really keen in visiting their small shop at The Calls, in my favourite part of Leeds, near the river Aire. Unfortunately it was closed for the Easter holiday, so we went to their bigger café inside The Light shopping centre.
At La Bottega Milanese we are crazy passionate about what we do, and we want to show what a real Italian Espresso bar has to offer. Our plan is very simple, give the exact experience as if you stepped into a bar in Milan.
Alex has created a friendly space with a wide selection of Italian pastries, sandwiches and piadine, and the best Italian espresso of Leeds.
The final stop of my Leeds Coffee Tour was Brewbar Espresso, a beautiful cafe under the Leeds Art Gallery. With more seating space than Laynes and Opposite at VQ, a quieter environment than Bottega, and the best music selection, Brewbar was our favourite spot (though the brownies were too dry to impress). The coffee, roasted by Grumpy Mule, was outstanding and the baristas Josh and Luca were friendly and happy to have a chat!
To be fair, everyone we met during our Yorkshire trip was friendly and chatty! It makes such a beautiful difference to be greeted with a smile, London’s baristas could learn a lesson or two! :)
Last weekend the first Leeds Coffee Crawl took place, but there are more to come in June and I will be there!