Lewis Fernandes (aka Coffee with Lewis) is an online coffee blogger & social media presence that has a serious passion about Coffee! With the starting ambition to review every speciality Coffee Shop in London, Lewis has really created a great community and buzz around telling us the stories of his Coffee experiences and expertise. We were lucky enough to have been asked to participate in his Friday Feature series. Here he is talking to our very own Jordan...
"Coffee and Communities"
This week’s Friday Feature celebrates the return of the road cycling season by welcoming Jordan, co-owner of G!RO, to TFF! G!RO is a fantastic coffee shop in Esher (SW London) which serves up amazing coffee whilst acting as a hub for the community- cycling or otherwise. Last summer I spent an entire day here, watching a Tour de France stage and felt so comfortable and welcome. It’s a really great place with a powerful philosophy, as we’ll find out below.
Q- Who is Jordan?
A- Co-Owner of G!RO.
Q- What’s your preferred coffee?
Q- Favourite brew method?
Q- Tell us about your last coffee.
A- Beautiful Honduras Single Origin - Black Honey - As roasted by Beanberry Coffee.
Q- Do you have a favourite coffee producing country/ particular farm/varietal?
A- Good question... Its hard to pick, as we cycle through a number of single origins for our pour over menu, and they all have their own characteristics. I must say, what I seem to be drawn to the most is our Ethiopians that come in. In particular Rocko Mountain is a stunner. Lovely natural coffee, with strong notes of blueberries and a sweet chocolate. Love it.
Q- Your best coffee moment so far? Where everything from the drink to the setting was just perfect.
A- Funnily enough it’s probably when I’ve been on my own. I found myself in a coffee shop/clothing shop in east London. I was waiting for a friend, so stopped into grab a coffee. I was served a single origin espresso in a beautiful hand shaped unpolished ceramic cup, and was sat at this lovely green marble table in the window of this shop, sitting in the sunlight. In that moment, it was just so calming and serene - aesthetically, and to touch & taste it was all great - watching the business of London stream by. Awesome.
Q- To go/ have in?
A- Have in. Always. Make time for it.
Q- Favourite coffee shops?
A- Im a big fan of places that offer great coffee and food. Ozone in London is up there. I recently got back from Australia and Elementary coffee in Adelaide was stunning as well as Maker in Melbourne. Both roast their own coffee, and serve a very simple yet incredibly tasty food menu.
Q- What makes a great coffee shop?
A- Besides the quality of food and coffee, it is 100% the people who work in it. They set the culture and the tone for a friendly, welcoming, homely place, and it spreads like wildfire.
Q- What’s your must have coffee companion?
A- Someone to really enjoy and appreciate the experience with.
Q- Most important coffee tool?
A- Grinder. Always the grinder. (And a cloth to keep everything nice and clean!!)
A- Absolutely. Decaf for some reason is seemed as inferior, but does serve a purpose, and many roasters put just as much energy into decaf as non-decaf to create lovely coffees. Should be respected and appreciated for sure.
Q- Return a bad coffee?
Q- Capsules/pods ...thoughts?
A- They serve a purpose, and can be a good gateway product to better coffee at home/office. Some great roasters are now making capsules, which again supports that purpose. But I dont touch them.
Q- Coffee pet peeves?
A- Where to start?! Ha. Being on the other side of the counter I cant stand when people order a coffee without even looking at the menu in that coffee shop. eg. 'Can I have a tall half-caf cappuccino?' or 'Can I just have a coffee?'. Its not on our menu for example, so I often just smile and nod, and have to appreciate some folks are simply not used to various coffee house menus etc. Still winds me up! (good to get that off my chest)
Q- Why speciality coffee?
A- There is just so much to learn and serve! It is ever changing, and I love the relationship between roaster and coffee shop.... a balance of both parties working hard to serve the best possible coffee. When you place a coffee in front of someone and the reaction is 'wow'...thats priceless.
Q- How was G!RO born?
A- Quite simple actually. Neil (my business parter) and I were out on a ride. And I mentioned to him I had an idea for a cafe in Esher where local riders could meet up early doors (pre 8am) on a weekend and could build a good community around that. He too had always wanted to be part of a coffee shop, so we started making plans. Our planning quickly evolved into a high street coffee house, that helped to cater for riders, but is far from exclusive to riders only.
Q- What is the Philosophy of G!RO?
A- Before we opened we had the notion of 'The person that walks through the doors is more important than the money they will be spending'. Essentially our heartbeat is to create a space where people can feel at home, and can grow a healthy thriving community with the coffee shop at the heart of it. That very much remains the focus of all our decisions, where community is central to our plans. In our case, cycling is a key vessel to seeing that happen, but is by no means the only way of achieving this.
Q- Many of us would dream of having our own coffee shop, but what’s it really like to own one?
A- Its very hard work! Pure and simple. BUT it is incredibly rewarding. Seeing a busy coffee shop where people are spending time with one another, complementing what they are being served, it is incredibly rewarding. If one wants to start a coffee shop for the glamour of it... dont! Its hard work, and many sleepless nights at times, but as I say, it is worthwhile. And when you have (as we have) a great team of employees it is just so much fun seeing it plough forward.
Q- Why do you think coffee has become an integral part of cycling culture?
A- Good question... They just seem to go in hand so well. I think there are two sides to it. It can be a convenient place to meet early in the morning before a ride to fuel up and get a caffeine injection. A welcoming coffee house serves that purpose very well. But riders also want their reward... After a long ride, they can treat themselves to a big slice of cake and a coffee ... or a beer!!
Q- What can we look forward to from G!RO?
A- We are always trying to improve our offering of coffee and food, which wont change. In the short term, we are refining our food menu and bringing in some experience to help take our breakfast and lunch options to new height. Also, we are opening Friday nights as part of our G!RO Nights series of bar evenings. Live music, food & cocktails etc. Really excited about this.
And beyond this, if the right location came up, we would look to open another for sure.
Q- Awesome stuff! Any final thoughts or things to share?
A- I often have to take a moment to step back and look at the journey from opening to current day. Whilst it has its ups and downs, I’m truly blown away by what the power of community can achieve. For us its simple, we open our doors, serve coffee and food to the people who come through the doors. But the communities of friends that can create is so beautiful. One of our regulars who is now a close friend, started joining our rides weekly, then bit by bit got more involved in the groups, built some real friendships in the cafe, and he is now very much the heart and soul of what goes on. But what we didn't know until recently was that when he first starting coming in for coffee he was in a very dark place in his life, feeling that he had no real escape. Through the rides and our open doors each week, it gave him a community that in turn really changed the course of his life. Community.
I suppose what i'm trying to say is that whilst we can have the goals to serve better coffee and food, its so important not to lose sight of the simplicity of creating a space where people can come and just be themselves. The coffee and food we serve is a bonus, but the community is what makes a place special to people.
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Last week saw the Guildford Crit, a 0.6km town centre crit that uses the infamous cobbled high street of Guildford as a large part of the circuit and the toughest finishing straight in Surrey. Every year Charlotteville CC put on this awesome race, featuring all different level racing, all raced at full gas. The nature of the circuit leaves you nowhere to hide, technical, tough, fast and short, this course will beat you up and spit you out whether you’re off the front leading comfortably or at the back struggling to keep up. There’s no easy race at Guildford. Whilst the short, technical course is brutal it also offers a spectacle that allows spectators to get immersed in the action and always turns out a big crowd, with the G!RO support crew definitely being the loudest!
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