Charlie Green talked to brothers Matthew and Martyn Jakeman, the proprietors of the speciality coffee bar Stage Espresso & Brewbar which recently opened on Great George Street.
Where did the idea for the venture come from? How long has it been in the works?
Basically, we’ve both always enjoyed coffee; we’ve always been quite passionate about it. About three years ago, we did our barista training just out of interest and it just grew from there. It started off as more of a drunken idea; we were sat having a few pints and thought it’d be a good idea to open a coffee shop. I (Martyn) moved up to Leeds about two years ago, and since then we’ve been able to push forward with it all.
What made you decide to open the coffee bar in Leeds?
It has a really nice independent scene; everyone likes to buy locally-produced goods and get out the way of the chains. I (Matthew) spent my time at uni here and I loved the city, so I’ve been here five years now, and over that time, Leeds has just gotten better and better; it has more bars, more restaurants and it’s really starting to see much more of a quality-driven market.
Could you tell us a bit more about the coffee bar and the kind of produce you’re selling?
Our main focus is speciality coffee. We’re having our coffee supplied by a company called Union Hand-Roasted; they’re based down near London and they’re one of the pioneers in speciality coffee in this country. They’ve been around for 15 years I think, and they have a really good relationship with farmers all over the world and help them improve what they’re doing. For us, their company philosophy fits in with what we’re about. The main focus is the coffee but we’ll be doing small food bits for breakfast and for lunch. What we want to do further down the line is eventually hosting a bit of live music and some film nights to make it more of a social venue instead of just a coffee shop. We’re also looking at other roasters as well and thinking of doing cupping events. So people could come down, pay a small price for a ticket and try a range of different coffees to really show what difference there is in coffee. I think more and more now people are realising that it can be more of a speciality, much like wine is, and much like the Craft Beer revolution that’s happened.
It’s great to see independent ventures opening in Leeds, but are you worried about certain chains like Starbucks and Costa?
I think with Starbucks and Costa, it’s much more of a brand. We’re much more quality focussed. The stuff we’re serving will be better-prepared; it’s more of a handcrafted drink. Particularly in the area that we’ve set up in, there are none of the big-brand coffee shops around here; they’re all down in the city. There are a few independent coffee shops opened around here now, and it’s great to see the streets of Leeds developing a lot more of an independent scene to it.
What would you say sets your coffee shop apart from the others?
We’re mainly focussing on single-origin coffees, so instead of buying a blend, every coffee we serve will be from one farm and one producer, which gives so much variation in taste and potential. The plan is to have guest espressos and brews, so we’ll have two or three different coffees on at one time, and have different methods of making it to show what difference it can have.
(Image: Stage Expresso Brew & Bar Facebook)