North Star Coffee Roasters - Leeds
5:30am. An earlier start than i’m normally used to. I lay in bed for a while, attempting to muster the energy to pull myself from the covers. I need coffee. I consider pacing myself however, as today is going to be a coffee-laden day. My heavy eyes convince me otherwise.
Coffee #1 (The Wake Me Up)
A tepid shower soon shakes off the last claws of sleep. I’m feeling surprisingly fresh. Aware that my housemates will be fast on, I tiptoe into the kitchen and quietly fill the kettle. I’m tempted to save time and use some instant but decide that I need the good stuff. Out of the fridge I pull an almost depleted bag of Taylor’s Lazy Sunday. I’ve just got just enough for a cup.
Coffee #2 (The Roadie)
Its still dark when I leave the house. A fox eyes me up and the milkman offers me a cursory nod. I navigate the quiet streets, my suitcase wheels making an obnoxiously loud noise for this time in the morning. Fortunately the Northern Line is running a good service. I get to Kings Cross in no time. I’m tempted to fix myself a Latte for the train. Starbucks has a broken machine. Pret has a daunting queue. I eye up the departure board. Leon it is then.
Coffee #3 (The Warm Welcome)
The bright sunshine that greets my arrival into Leeds fails to offset the Northern chill. Collar turned up against the cold I head out of the station where Ben and Scott are waiting for me. Team assembled and cameras in tow, we make the short journey to a collection of small industrial units on the outskirts of Leeds. Its not obvious which one is North Star, but we soon spot their signage and head over to the entrance.
We’re greeted by Krag and Ellis. Founders and coffee enthusiasts. Their space is in no way industrial. Production at one end and showroom at the other, its got all the character you’d expect from a relatively new start-up. Ellis asks us if we’d like a coffee. It would be rude to refuse.
Coffee #4 (The Education)
Despite the relatively small space, theres plenty to film. Hessian sacks of beans are piled in one corner and act as the start of a production line. Then there’s the roaster - lovingly referred to as Roxanne. Whirring away the whole time, she’s intermittently inspected by Krag who notes down timings and measurements on a clipboard. Next to her is the packing table where North Star branded bags are filled and sealed - ready for shipping.
We want to know more about their process. Where they source it. How they roast it. How they create unique blends. The guys kindly offer us a coffee tasting session (also known as a cupping). We accept the offer eagerly.
Cupping is a three stage process. First you smell the ground coffee. Quick taps on the side of the glass accompanied by short sniffs. We compare notes on the flavours we’ve picked out. The variety is surprising. I scoff when Scott picked out notes of baked beans. Apparently this was indeed correct. Clearly I have a lot to learn.
Second is the ‘wet fragrance’. After brewing the coffee for a specific amount of time, you push away the grounds and dunk in your spoon several times. To be honest, its a lot more subtle than i’ve made out. But essentially you’re trying to release the aromas from the brewed coffee. In trying to do this though, I mainly succeed in making a mess...
Finally you taste. With one swift movement, you bring a small amount onto a spoon and ‘shlurp’ it into your mouth. This is the best word I can think of describing it. Proper tasting requires the coffee to be experienced by all parts of your tongue. As you can imagine, we failed miserably at first. (Around 4:15 in the following video...)
With a bit of practice though - we were on our way to becoming coffee connoisseurs.
Coffee #5 (The Interview)
Krag and Ellis are young but they know they’re stuff. The two of them have come into this business on different paths. Ellis could be described as a coffee apprentice. Starting out as a barista, what was initially just a way of earning money soon became a passion. He understands the ‘science’ of coffee - how it should be combined, roasted and prepared.
Krag has visited coffee farmers in far off countries where he gained a fantastic insight into ethical trading and the sustainability side of the coffee and cocoa industries. When he saw that Leeds was lacking its own micro roasting industry he took the opportunity to set up shop and compete with the more established roasters down south.
Together they’re a formidable team. Knowledgeable, driven and charismatic. It was a lesson in how success does not always require years of experience. Leaning nonchalantly against their coffee machine, I was in awe of the mini coffee-roasting empire the two of them were building.
They control all aspects of their product. Not only do they source, produce and deliver their coffee, they also train wholesale customers on how to prepare it. Its all about ensuring that when you and I head to a North Star stocked coffee shop, we’re enjoying a well made North Star coffee.
On top of that, they’re busy. Really busy. Growing popularity and critical acclaim means North Star is flying off the shelf. Almost at full capacity and with the just the two of them running the show, they’ve got plans to expand. A new ‘Roxanne’ (Roxanne MKII?) and a workshop assistant will ensure the North Star guys can keep producing for their ever expanding customer base.
Coffee #? (Time to stop)
By the time we left, I could almost feel the caffeine coursing through my veins. Nevertheless we’d had a fantastic morning learning about an industry we’d previously known very little about. We headed back into Leeds to grab a quick bite to eat and review our footage. Having sampled plenty of their coffee, we definitely recommend you head over to North Star’s website and sort yourself out with some quality beans or grounds. Being the handy bunch we are, why not fill in the details on our homepage and grab a cheeky 10% discount off North Star products. You won’t regret it