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Blog // Can't Buy Me Latte

Back in September 2016 I decided to get a coffee machine for the shop so that we could host a Macmillan's coffee morning, but also with view to keeping it in the shop afterwards. One of the main reasons we wanted to do it was to give visitors an extra reason to come to Avenue Mews, making it more of a destination worth the detour away from the main broadway area. Ever since the LocalGallery (which used to serve coffee) closed down a few years ago, we've missed having this extra dimension to the Mews.

Me making coffee

I_always liked the idea of having a coffee machine as a social thing, I love talking to our customers and having friends pop in for cups of tea when we're open on a Saturday. Plus I'm a big fan of classic cafes and mid century British cafe interiors. We've sometimes considered using the classic cafe idea as a basis to style the interior of the shop anyway. Although we didn't take this angle with our current shop interior, I still liked the idea of paying homage to the cafes of 1960s Soho etc.

Of course commercial coffee machines are not cheap, in fact buying one, new or second hand, was way out of our budget. The other option was to rent one, but even that (considering we are only open one day per week) was too expensive, because we had no idea how popular it would be, and we would have had to have sold quite a lot of coffee to cover the costs. The other issue was space, we only have a small shop counter and most commercial coffee machines are huge. So I did some research and decided the best thing to do was to 'test the water' with smaller, more affordable machine. We settled for a Dualit machine with a 50's look stainless steal body.

I got it just in time for the Macmillan's coffee morning back in September, installed it in the shop the same morning, watched a few youtube tutorials about how to steam milk and got stuck in. I immediately realised that it would take a lot more practice before I was making latte art or even just a decent cup of coffee. For the first few months, every time somebody ordered a coffee I had a little nervous breakdown inside, freaking out that I didn't know what I was doing ( and rightfully so because I really didn't). The machine isn't as powerful as a fully commercial machine, so it can take a bit longer to make each drink. And whilst I was no stranger to drinking coffee, I'd really never contemplated the difference between 'micro foam' and 'froth' or what made a good coffee vs a bad one.

At first it was a mission just getting the milk to go frothy at all, and then (many youtube tutorials later) I came to understand that bubbly froth is so England 1994 and in fact what you are supposed to have is 'micro-foam'. The milk should end up the texture of thick double cream and have no bubbles and be kind of shiny. And when you are steaming the milk, the milk must 'roll' in the jug. More practice ensued and I can now confidently foam milk to a London 2017 standard (hooray!). I'm still practicing my latte art, which at the moment is still looking a bit abstract expressionist, but I'm getting there....

The next thing for us to think about was where people would drink the coffee, after all we are a vintage shop and not a cafe. We built a bench to go outside the shop, and a little window seat for perching at, plus a few other little chairs and nooks inside the shop. But the drinks are basically on a take-away basis (though you are welcome to stay at the shop if you want to),

We decided, since it takes a little bit longer for us to make the coffee (because we only have a small machine) we would keep the prices low, so we just charge just enough to cover our costs and thats all.

The main thing for us is, it adds a little something extra to the shop, a visit to Avenue Mews is a visit to Muswell Hill's 'creative hub' and should be an experience, not just a quick in-and-out of the shops. The Mews is a community space where you can spend time, bump into friends and neighbours, chat about vintage (with me!) and now you have an extra excuse to 'hang out' with us even if you are not planning a vintage shopping spree.

Come and test out my micro-foaming skills on Saturdays 11am(is) to 5pm(ish). If popularity grows enough we'll get a faster machine!


One of the youtube barista tutorials available online

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