Bean and Nothingness
Q: What inspired you to start your own business and did you have any goals in mind?
A: I planned something like this for a good few years before I started, it’s become more of the coffee shop than it was meant to be, we are going to start pushing more of the creative and community side of what we do. I come from a background as a youth inclusion worker, a community development worker, teacher – so I kind of brought that with me to the space.
Q: Have you always been in Hull?
A: No, I spent 10 years living outside of Hull, with 7 of those living in South Korea. I kind of brought a lot of that influence to the place too – I guess why it looks as different as it does and some of the things we do is the influence of spending time outside of Hull. A lot of the food I do has an element of fusion to it often, from the places I’ve been and things I’ve picked up from those places; for example my carrot and coriander soup is actually a carrot and Thai infused soup. Earlier I did lighter soups in the summer, and a lot of those came from my travels.
Q: Do you tend to use seasonal produce?
A: Yes, I’m trying. I base it on what ingredients you can get and what people want, people don’t necessarily want a heavy soup when it’s hot. I’m now in the transition of starting to think what I’m going to do differently as winter comes in relation to soups – it’s even been suggested that I step into the world of stews! I’m not sure yet, we’ll see.
Q: Do you mostly use locally sourced produce?
A: As much as I can, yes. Again, it depends on what’s available. Where I can, even if it’s not necessarily fresh I try to go to local markets. I shop a lot on spring bank for example. I’ve just recently started doing a houmous and tabouli salad plate, and pretty much all my ingredients from that I source from the local markets.
Q: Did you find it difficult to find local places; did you research them or just come across them?
A: I walk everywhere, particularly up Spring Bank. But if I don’t know of a place, somebody who comes in will suggest where to go or try. It’s partly local knowledge, but partly chatting to people and listening to ideas of where to go.
Q: Do you have an interest in sustainability?
A: Yes, it’s something we’re always trying to move towards as a business. One of my ethos’ is not just the sourcing of local food, like my coffee is roasted just on English Street, river city. Even down to the music we play, its local music. My cups and lids are compostable – I don’t know why other places don’t, the ones I saw were cheaper than the ones that weren’t compostable or biodegradable, so I find it strange that everybody doesn’t do that. As a team we have an ethos of doing what we can, so we offer plant-based milks, but we even try to think about which ones we offer. We push oat at the moment, as environmentally it is one of the least impactful milks. I don’t do soy or almond either. I’m starting to see that more and more people are coming in and asking for oat milk straight off the bat, rather than asking for soy and being told no. Oat works in most drinks and is one of the most environmentally sound milks to have.
Q: What do you think the barriers are to being sustainable, do you think it would be cost?
A: I think it possibly is. Cost is one factor when looking at sustainability, but I think the costs are reducing now. I think the ability to be more sustainable in coffee shops is easier because it’s becoming cheaper, and the more that people take on these products the cheaper it will be. I think people just don’t bother, they fall into a default and usually choose soya milk so that’s what people expect, but we like to offer a range.
Q: On the subject of sustainability, do you have an interest in reducing food waste?
A: Yes I do, actually I’m quite obsessive about it! It really upsets me when I have to throw anything away, but I rarely do to be honest. It’s hard producing food but only producing enough that you think you are going to sell. I mostly get the balance right, and if anything I often run out of something than make too much. I would rather run out and apologise than be left with a kettle full of soup at the end of the day – but to be fair, we end up taking it home. When we did a salad bar and it didn’t take off, we ended up eating salad for a week! I do my best to keep that balance going. I only have one domestic sized bin and we don’t often fill that in a week – I think as a business that produces waste, we are doing okay.
Q: Do you have a favourite dish you like to make?
A: I make some vegan samosa rolls – they are really popular, for some reason they just clicked with people and I do get people coming in specifically to buy them. I enjoy making them as they’re really easy to make and I got in the habit to get up every other morning to bake them fresh, it’s quite a nice thing to do.
Q: Do you serve meat, fish, and eggs?
A: No, we are pretty much 99% vegan. Our flapjacks are registered as vegetarian so we can’t say we are 100% vegan, and we do offer cow’s milk for the non-vegans. But, the food I make is all vegan – we tend to keep it under the radar as when I used to have vegan written on my window it put people off. People often came in and saw my food was vegan and asked, “Well, what can I eat then?” and I’d say all of it! We produce food that everyone can eat. We avoid allergens as much as possible and even do gluten free options on some of our cakes. We kind of twist the narrative a bit and move it away from being ‘vegan’, and instead make it so people can come in and be 99% they can have something they can eat – that’s what I’m trying to do.