Many of us appreciate the virtues of coffee, but few have devoted their days to the blessed bean. Mike Cracknell is one of these devotees – his temple is Vertue Coffee Roasters and his religion is the delicious brew.
Humanity’s love for coffee is not a recent infatuation: the origins can be traced back to 13th century Ethiopia, spreading to the Middle East and throughout Europe. Today, the British Museum preserves a handbill thought to be the first advertisement for coffee in England, named ‘The Vertue of the Coffee Drink’.
Finding your way to Vertue isn’t easy, but it’s certainly rewarding. Navigate the path behind a petrol station and mechanic’s workshop, duck through a small doorway and you’ll be greeted by a light-filled atrium and the aroma of freshly roasted coffee.
It’s a dream come true for Mike, whose hospitality experience encompasses more than 18 years, the last 10 of which have had a strong coffee focus. Vertue was a true labour of love and finally opened its doors in 2015. Head Roaster Ciaran Ardren came on board soon after; his many years of coffee experience placed him firmly at the helm of the roasting and brewing process.
The guys may be serious about their coffee, but they’re not purists. As far as Mike and Ciaran are concerned, there’s no right or wrong way to roast, brew and drink coffee. On any given day, Vertue will be serving up a curated selection of the 20 to 30 coffees on hand. African regions feature prominently alongside interesting beans from Asia, South and Central America.
First things first: try the original Sabertooth blend. A customer favourite, this sweet and slightly spicy blend combines beans from Colombia, Brazil and Ethiopia. Ideal for milk coffees and delicious as black, you’ll be treated to hints of milk chocolate, peanut brittle, toffee, apricot and orange.
Branch out a little with the wide selection of single origins, available as espresso or filter. Alternative brews are on offer to bring out the unique flavours and aromas of each coffee and the team will be happy to suggest something to please (or perhaps challenge) your palate.
Pop in for a coffee and stay for a picture-perfect brunch or lunch. The menu changes with the seasons: sweet fans will find treats like the banoffee pancakes served with coffee creme patissiere and walnut praline; while those more savoury-inclined can opt for dishes like truffled mushroom on cornbread.
There’s a sense of community at this little oasis: the team is always ready to help you find the right coffee to take home or work with a wholesale client to create a custom blend. Vertue also provides resources and training for SCARF, a not-for-profit organisation that provides hospitality training for disadvantaged young people.
The endless quest for the best coffee will no doubt continue for another few centuries, but Vertue Coffee Roasters is an ideal place to sit back and feel grateful for the beauty of the coffee bean.