Bold Street Coffee is five years old. Question: how did we cope without it? From the get go, coffee evangelist Sam Tawil was on a caffeinated quest. Delivering us from the evil goldfish bowls of frothy milk served downtown. From our standpoint, he did that with the very first cup of flat white we tasted. It was like we were an alien, introduced to a strange, intoxicating brew. Who are you, and what have you done with the Vente Lattes, we wondered, awe struck.
So, half a decade later, we get coffee. There have been others in their wake, of course. Some great. Some Natasha Hamilton. But Bold Street is still where the buzz is at. Which is appropriate, really, as the joint has played no small part in giving not just its punters, but the top end of Bold Street itself a much-needed, single-estate, fair-trade, responsibly sourced kick up the arse.
“Yeah, there’s definitely been an improvement up here,” Tawil muses, polishing his steam wand to an impressive sheen. “More quality shops have opened and, more importantly, they seem to be staying open!”
“I chose Bold Street because I’d previously worked in the Coffee Union that we took over with Bold Street Coffee. I liked the cross section of people on the street and I knew it had potential, even though the shop wasn’t very well run at the time.”
When Coffee Union ground its last arabica bean, Tawil went to work, sourcing beans direct from the growers, opening BSC five years ago this week. Now we survey a street which, in the last 21 months has welcomed a poetically proportioned 21 new businesses.
“It’s great,” Tawil says. “There are a lot of businesses being opened by likeminded, similar aged people who want to offer a better quality service and product. Consumers expect a bit more and are willing to either spend a bit more, look for something a bit different or support independent businesses,” he adds.
So what next? How does Tawil want the remainder of his first decade to pan out?
“I want to see the Council improve the aesthetics of the street. They say its a conservation area, and they come down on you like a ton of bricks if you try and make any changes to the look of your building. But there are no guidelines on what they actually want. I don’t think even they know…”
In line with our discussion the other week, Tawil thinks pedestrianisation – handled sensitively – could be a bonus. But with a caveat: “I’d rather it was left as it is unless they were committed to really make a nice job of it and invest an appropriate amount of money in it. My fear is whether they would actually do this.”
Ultimately, though, Tawil’s sure of one thing: “It should, and can, stay a chain free zone. Most of the units are too small for chains, I think, and as long as the current business keep paying their rent it should be fine. I’m sure if the council wanted to secure Bold Street’s character this they could work with landlords and the businesses to make this happen.”
If our current overlords want proof that there is another way to jolt this city back to life than identikit developments and supermarket-led regeneration schemes, they should really suck in what’s bubbling up on Bold Street.
Sam Tawil pic: Has Bean Coffee