Ancoats Coffee Co and the rise of ‘speciality coffee’ in Manchester

It’s not just the Manchester craft beer scene which has experienced huge growth in the last couple of years. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of ‘speciality coffee’ outlets in the city, too, with a handful of local roasters literally giving it the beans
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Jamie Bolands, founder of Ancoats Coffee Co, secured its Royal Mills unit from the local authority after moving back to the UK a number of years ago.

Some people
are surprised
when I tell them
beans are green
before roasting

“I’d always dreamt of having the cafe/roastery set up, mirroring what was going on in London. I also liked the history of the area and the fact it was known as one of the world’s first industrial suburbs.”

Walk into a high street coffee chain and you’ll notice all sorts of words prefacing coffee on the menu. Words like “organic” or even “fresh”. These terms aren’t particularly descriptive or useful which is why roasters like Ancoats use the term ‘speciality’ coffee – an accolade awarded to beans that are scored 80+ by a qualified Q-Grader, the sommelier of the coffee world.

“The term ‘speciality’ causes confusion for some people, but in the coffee world, it’s a technical term, not just a throwaway comment. Converting people is always a challenge, but being here in our own space people has certainly helped as people can see the process and taste it for themselves.”

Walking into Ancoats Coffee Co is an education in itself. By chatting with Jamie or any of his baristas you can quickly learn the difference between washed and natural, pour over and Aeropress coffee. They’ve also been hosting semi-regular cupping events with a view to holding them more frequently.

Ancoats Coffee Co Manchester 5

“If you came in randomly and weren’t aware of coffee, a cupping event might be a bit daunting . Some people are surprised when I tell them beans are green before roasting. It’s probably more for someone further on in the coffee journey who’s been experimenting with fresh beans at home.

“Cupping events explore the science behind the final cup. We use them for very scientific processes like assessing and grading beans. At the moment, we tend to check for things like bean uniformity, insect damage as well as sweetness and acidity levels.

“We’ll cup coffees that we’re interested in and look at the flavours – for example, fruits, chocolate, caramels – and the body of the coffee. When it comes through the door we test roast it 5 different ways and then compare them against each other. To keep our events interesting we’re speaking to our importer who’ll usually come along with 10-15 coffees. If we were to do it regularly we’d contact European roasters just to make sure we have a really interesting table for people.”

Their cafe is an ideal spot for both coffee novices and enthusiasts alike, and while drinking coffee in the evening isn’t typical for many of us, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be awake for days.

“There’s no need to drink loads of coffee at a cupping. You’re tasting lots of coffee and some people even spit, like at a wine tasting.

Ancoats Coffee Co Manchester 4

“Most just drink small amounts as it’s more about assessing the flavour and helping people understand things like the different regions and telling the difference between a washed process and a natural process. When we have other roasters and industry people around we also like to do blind tastings”.

If this is all sounding a bit like jumping in at the deep end, Ancoats Coffee Co has been hosting regular supper clubs which offer the chance to enjoy coffee alongside some delicious food. Their next supper club takes place at the end of the month and will see the return of chef Robert Owen Brown.

Given all those points of entry into the speciality coffee world, you could do a lot worse than walk on down to Ancoats and enjoy some locally roasted coffee in their relaxed and comfortable cafe space – their current food menu is also set to grow over the summer as they extend their kitchen.

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