‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind’.
It’s a passage from the New Testament that is poignantly painted on the wall of this little coffee shop.
For a brief stroll away from the independent Bean and Leaf Coffee House in Coventry city centre is a Starbucks, the largest coffee chain in the world.
I’ve been to the Broadgate venue dozens of times through the years, not knowing about a hidden gem located just a few hundred feet away in Hertford Street.
But, in this battle of David and Goliath, there is only one winner when it comes to the Google rating battle.
In fact, nowhere else in Coventry can match Bean and Leaf’s 4.9 (out of five) rating. It is also a finalist in the inaugural Foodie Awards for the region, in the ‘Best Café/Coffee Shop’ category.
Why? What are they getting so right? Having spotted the establishment has remained open for the majority of the global pandemic, I went in search of Coventry’s number one coffee shop.
I’ll concede it wasn’t easy, given how tucked away it is within the pillars of Hertford Street, but after doubling back on myself I found it beside Coventry Electricals with a modest, dinner-plate-sized sign above and a few tables and chairs placed outside. But I had arrived, and in the need of a late-morning fix of caffeine.
Of course, at this stage in the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, there’s nobody eating or drinking inside, but during my time in and around the Bean and Leaf, there’s a constant trickle of people arriving to grab a coffee and something to eat.
The decor is stripped back with a concrete floor, large glass frontage and very little fuss. Your eyes are almost naturally trained towards the produce. A simple hot drinks menu overhead continues the theme, of being simple, without pretense, and, excellent value for money.
Often, when frequenting a city centre coffee shop that isn’t one of the ‘big names’, you’ve got to brace yourself for higher costs and with it, with a sprinkling of nonsense to try and ‘differentiate’ from the chains.
There was none of that here. ‘Black’, ‘White’ and ‘Other’ splits up the main drinks menu, but there’s a host of other options elsewhere including a long loose leaf tea menu.
I ordered my drink of choice; a flat white. At £2.60, it’s fairly priced so I opted for a cinnamon bun for an additional £2.50.
The coffee arrived and it was a thing of understated beauty. A sturdy paper cup, diminutive in size but with an appealing heart shape on top, crafted from the pour.
So it looks great and didn’t break the bank. But how does it taste? It was the perfect flat white. Velvety smooth to drink, packed with strong coffee aromas but with delicate notes of additional flavours. It was a coffee of distinction that was blissfully sipped away in a shaded area just outside, watching on as Coventry wakes up from this crazy time when small luxuries such as this were taken away from us.
Breath of fresh air
The cinnamon bun provided an ideal accompaniment. The crispy, sugar-coated exterior gave way to light pastry to rip and consume alongside the coffee.
A perusal of the sweet and savoury options that are on display do not attempt to overpower you with ‘handmade’ this or ‘bespoke organic’ that. You can genuinely come into Bean and Leaf and get a coffee and lunch for around £5 – which is pretty exceptional for a city centre-based, independent, coffee shop.
There’s a few nods to other independent suppliers too, with produce on sale, such as drinking chocolate and sweets. Typically, it’s not ‘in your face’, but set to one side.
The whole experience was a breath of fresh air. There’s a place for chain coffee stores, and I use them frequently. They’re successful for a reason.
But, having spent 30 minutes at Bean and Leaf, absorbing the surroundings, learning about their produce with a few leading questions and consuming some for myself, the words on the wall did ring true.
I did feel renewed, and left with a spring in my step for the rest of a sunny Coventry day.