Collaborating in the community: Gerry’s and Smith St. coffee
There are lots of reasons why I love Sheffield, the landscape, green spaces, the creative culture and the sense of community.
For me, I feel this one strongly where I live in Walkley, the high street, South Road has a village vibe offering a plentiful variety of food and drink. From one end with Joni’s, Cafe Masala, Walkley Beer Co. Beeches to Gerties.
Here the spotlight is on Gerry’s bakery and the news that Smith St. coffee have arrived ‘in store’! If you are already a fan of their coffee or you are looking for somewhere new for your caffeine fix, then read on.
Gerry’s bakery is small with a handful of tables but it offers a warm welcome and interesting breads. I had the day off work and watched enviously as I gained an insight into the lives of others, whether that was enjoying a leisurely coffee and croissant, catching up with the paper and meeting friends. Gerry knows pretty much everyone as he greeted the steady flow of customers (and any children) by their first names.
I asked him about the collaboration with Smith St. and why he’s chosen to do it. Quite rightly, he responded with a ‘why not’. If you are going to enjoy a quality cake or croissant, in his view you want to have a decent coffee to go with it and it makes sense to team up to share expertise.
Trev from Smith St. coffee was on hand for the day with grinders at the ready, two coffee blends were on the menu, with the house blend from Brazil and Burundi and a guest single origin from Rwanda, NKORA, with temptingly described tasting notes of orange and dark chocolate.
I tried the guest as an espresso to appreciate the delicate orange flavours, it was refreshing with a zesty finish, one to savour and it’s worth trying without milk to enjoy the full flavour.
It’s likely that you have tried Smith St. coffee before as they are stocked in a wide range of Sheffield locations from the Theatre Delicatessen, Thali cafe, El Toro, Urban Pantry to The Holt, where you will find their coffee roaster on site. Their focus is to provide a ‘range of seasonal custom blends and single origin beans with an intense focus on quality…’
On to my next coffee, I moved on to try a house blend flat white, my usual coffee of choice and I enjoyed taking in the buzz of the busy bakery as customers came in to get their routine loaf or try something new.
As I propped up the counter, I asked Trev how he keeps up on coffee trends and knowing what’s good right now. He said there is tons of information out there, he’s always trying samples, cupping and tasting to help him make a selection. There are always new ones to try and each coffee can vary so much depending on where it is grown, the soil, altitude and how the beans are processed.
Trev uses Falcon coffee importers who really know their stuff and specialise in quality, as well as building collaborative and sustainable supply chains with producers. I’d recommend you take a look at their website as they are doing some great work with coffee growing communities.
Trev soon got his hands full with a raft of coffee orders so I chatted to Gerry about the bread he makes and how he decides on what to bake. Again, the theme was collaboration and learning from customers, as he wants to offer what people enjoy and a little taste of home. As he said, you can get bread anywhere so his aim was to bring interesting bread to Walkley.
They bake the Jewish bread challah, which Gerry says is a satisfying bread to make and no-one else makes it in Sheffield, the nearest Kosher bakery is in Leeds or Manchester. He likes baking to gear towards other nationalities and traditions. As an example, after chatting with a Sicilian customer, they now make mafalda, a white bread with a golden crust, made with durum / semolina flour using different techniques to your conventional white loaf.
A friend of mine was singing the praises of Gerry’s Middle Eastern maneesh flatbread topped with authentic za-atar, not the flavour lacking dust you sometimes get in the supermarket. Then there’s the Greek Orthodox inspired laganes flatbread made for Lent, a big favourite with a great crust topped with sesame seeds, which they make using a bit of malt extract. This is baked just once a year and it’s the only time they open on a Monday to sell it, a couple even travelled all the way from Grimsby to get some!
Other breads that Gerry makes have come from customer requests such as the cheese and marmite bread which sells out every time. Then there’s their ‘healthy’ bread made with soya milk, linseed and white spelt flour, rich in omega 3 and 6, which also sells really well.
It was a real pleasure to spend an hour chatting, drinking coffee and watching the stream of customers enjoying their americanos, cappuccinos, lattes, having a challah to share and hearing the banter and chatter. This is what community is all about, getting together, enjoying where you live, having a sense of belonging, as well as good conversation over a cuppa.