The Classic Car Boot Sale – London, King’s Cross, 16th & 17th April 2016

Last weekend was The Classic Car Boot Sale, and by gum if we didn’t sit down that Saturday and Sunday.

A short summary: we went through 10 wholesale size bags of coffee beans, a wholesale size tub of hot chocolate, 10 cartons of soy milk, surely another 10 of semi-skimmed milk, Jen had to make numerous trips to fetch more water (in jugs so big we bought a trolley for the rounds), and I lost count of how many 6 pint bottles of whole milk were used.
Demand was high. We were the only people at the event serving fresh coffee, and with the chilly weather that weekend, the demand for hot drinks was ridiculous.

With a 7 o clock start, to get set up and ready for serving traders at 8, Jen and I didn’t sit down, have a break, eat, or drink until half six that evening. Needless to say a bath was in order at the end, and a sound sleep was had.
From what I did get to see of the event, there was a huge array of vintage, retro, and shabby chic clothes, accessories, and bric-a-brac to be had along with some fantastic looking (and smelling) food and drink. I’d certainly like to go to the next one, but as a punter! While I didn’t get to see all that much of what was on offer, what I did know was that the organisers and fellow traders were some of the most lovely we’ve got to work with so far.

It’s pretty difficult to keep on top of the orders when, just as you’re finishing an order for about 6 drinks, another 5 come through; and when you look up, you see a queue going on until you can’t see among the crowd, so you know respite is not in sight. All of this, while bending over a lowered coffee machine with just the two dispensers of water for the portafilters, one spout for piping hot water, and a steam wand. It’s very hot, a lot of burns happen, and there’s only the space to do a few things at once. My back is always ruined at the end of a busy day, but at least there’s the knowledge that it’s been good for business.

Jen does her best to give me as much time and space as I need when working (the arrangement is that I make the coffees, and she takes care of the money, small talk, and everything else). There’s so much bin clearing, surface and equipment cleaning, getting more stock, mixing hot chocolate and more that Jen takes on so I have the time to properly froth milk for cappuccinos. The system works, and we’re exhausted by the end.

Then at the end of business, there’s the Tetris game of getting two coolers, three flat-pack tables, six chairs, the loose products (cans of pop, bottled water etc), the flowers, the menu board, the sugar, the lids, the stirrers, the milk jug, the gazebo (in case of showers), the bags of coffee beans for sale, the cakes, the cutlery, the soap, and everything else into the confinements of the van, closing the lid and then we get to rest.

We usually get a chance before orders start coming in to get a few pictures of where we are, and of May, but this time this remains the only picture:

Image taken by Jen, and featured photo at the top taken by Botond Istvándi

And granted, it’s not of the fair, nor our beloved van. It’s just a picture Jen managed to snap at the end of the first day as we walked back to the hotel.

Overall a hugely successful, tiring, and fulfilling trip down to London.






200° Barista Training

A visit to the roastery…

On the 6th of April, 2016, I was initiated in the ways of the 200° barista. Arriving at an unassuming warehouse was the cozied away roastery; save for a small sign in the window, I only knew I was in the right place from the heady smell of coffee drifting onto the street.

Myself and Mike (husband to Jennifer Walker and with her, co-owner of The Split Screen Coffee Company) were introduced to the Californian coffee-guru Alex and head roaster Mike. They gave us thorough training, with tips from the perfect tamping method to frothing milk to create the perfect taste and texture. About ten practice lattes later, and a lot of frothing w1ashing up liquid in water (which is surprisingly akin to milk when using a steam wand, and saves wasting a cow’s worth of milk in training) Mike and I came on leaps and bounds with our coffee making skills.

200 Degrees  have blown up with success from the demand from coffee fanatics. We were told how busy their café is on an average day, the sheer volume of roasting that goes on to keep up with demand, and their plans to open two new shops (one near Nottingham train station – if those works are ever finished!) so they’re pretty much going all out to test, roast, and blend the best coffee in such a relatively small operation.

Above image taken from 200 Degrees’ website

I’ve been working alongside Jen at Split Screen since September 2015, so pretty much from then, we’ve been trying our best to deliver the best coffee out of the confinements of a ’65 VW Van.
We’ve had a fair few compliments on our coffees, teas, and hot chocolates, but I feel so much more confident with producing high quality beverages consistently now. (Although that may still waver on the cold evenings when we have a huge queue of people all wanting everything so quickly).

There’s so much to be said for the independent businesses trying to make it in cities where so much is franchised out and the heart is often gone. The care and effort that goes from the produce, to preparation, to the customer is so obvious with 200°, and it makes us all the more proud to be using their coffee in the van.
As Alex told us during the training, “there’s not a lot to coffee, but there’s a lot to coffee… it takes so little to either make or break a good cup of coffee – and just a bit of know-how to take something from a good coffee, to an great one”, words to live by.


Inside the roastery – the masses of un-roasted beans lie in wait

Since I graduated from university with my degree in English literature, I’ve had very little inclination to do any writing, but having been around people so passionate about something they love and so clearly care about, it’s given me the impetus to start doing some write ups. Here’s hoping I’ll keep up with this!