In conversation with both Helen and Phil, it doesn’t take long for their enthusiasm for Bean & Bud to bubble up, coupled with an obvious business acumen for running the popular coffee house and tea shop. Their enthusiasm springs from a desire for adventure in life and the aim to have those adventures together. The commercial knowledge comes from 10 years in Switzerland where Helen was in the pharmaceutical industry and Phil taught.
Helen says: “Life was fantastic in Switzerland, but we just thought it was time to come back – it was about a feeling we had.”
Real coffee, which they first encountered years ago in New Zealand – was the focal point of that feeling and it led them to become owners since November 2018 of the Commercial Street establishment. Thus, their wish for a new adventure was fulfilled.
Phil sets out his thoughts on the coffee business. “It’s a proper industry, a genuinely interesting industry, an artisan industry with the highest level of specialisation,” he says with huge admiration.
“There’s an ethos in the ethics of sourcing the coffee and a level of honest integrity. We have single origin coffee, there’s no blend, it’s our USP, and we are able to trace the product back to the farm and the co-operative.”
Helen says about the Bean & Bud offering: “It’s of an internationally-recognised standard; the soil, the harvest, the processes, the transport are all quality checked.”
The coffee that Bean & Bud serves originates from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya and Honduras. With their Black, Green, Oolong and Yellow teas grown in Kenya, Malawi, India, China and Japan and with infusions and Hot Chocolate also on the menu, there’s a drink for every palate.
Both agree that the integrity within the coffee industry they admire so much is also very strong among independent coffee retailers and shows itself through the support businesses give each other.
Phil says: “The independents are all interconnected – in Leeds, Manchester Liverpool and here in Harrogate. We are all promoters of the whole idea of the independent scene.
“Chains will exist but there’s space for a vibrant independent scene and that means we help each other; we are not competitors and we’re not putting other businesses out of business. We have the support of other independents in Harrogate and it is nice.”
Following their arrival at Bean & Bud, they had great support from the other key players in the business, namely staff and customers. Helen and Phil lavish praise on the team at Bean & Bud. “They’re fantastic. They have expertise and an amazing knowledge of coffee,” Helen observes.
They also agree on the level of knowledge shown by Bean & Bud customers which helped them meet the challenges of being new owners of an established business with an established customer base.
Helen says with her retail head on. “We’re customer orientated. We know what one is and know what they like. We’ve experienced that illusive goodwill as they were glad we took it on and we’ve had no resistance and that’s incredible.”
She adds tellingly: “Only independents have core support. Once you get a little gem in your town you hang on to it.”
Clearly the coffees and teas that the many customers come through the door for are not changing. The food offering still consists of breakfast, lunch and all-day treats with locally-produced bread and ingredients. But the imaginations of Helen and Phil are fired up for bringing something new.
Helen observes: “We’re new to coffee but we’re not new to the planet. We are able to bring our own life experience to what we want to do. That previous experience means you can bring organisational abilities and a fresh pair of eyes.”
The result of that “fresh pair of eyes” sees the walls of Bean & Bud hosting a programme of exhibitions of works by local artists in the spring and summer. First to exhibit will be Natalie Dean who takes her inspiration from the countryside in North and West Yorkshire.
For Helen and Phil, their inspiration is coffee and providing their Bean & Bud customers with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Bean & Bud website: www.beanandbud.co.uk