When I lived in Rome (god how many of my sentences start like this at the moment), a morning coffee was a daily ritual, a necessity, a want, a habit. A quick espresso stood at the bar, taking less than three minutes in total to order and consume, was a sweet little kiss to start the day that lingered on your tongue for the rest of your journey to work.
In Italy (sorry) at your local bar, the barista starts to make your coffee as soon as you enter the door. They remember every regular’s regular tipple be it cappuccino, caffè latte or a simple caffè. The downside is that you can never change your mind. It’s as set in stone as the ritual itself. As an example, I was back in Rome a few months ago and happened to be in my old neighbourhood, where I hadn’t lived for at least four years, and popped into my old bar. The same barista was still working there, he asked me why I hadn’t been in for a while and commented that I’d changed what I drank – from caffè to caffè machiatto.
Coffee culture has boomed in the UK in the years I lived in Italy. But it’s not the same. I have no problem with the huge, international chains serving up their buckets of milky froth, but I do have more of an issue with the so-called authentic bars which don’t really know what they are doing. I don’t want a thousand choices – flavours/sizes/syrups. Too many questions first thing in a morning. I imagine the coffee is as good quality as they say, the machines seem to be the same, but oh my goodness they do make a meal out of it. Coffee should not take this long – it doesn’t have to be slow coffee to be good. In and out in three minutes. Get the job done. It’s the pleasure of a fleeting little coffee that I miss.
But, I’ve been back in the UK for a year and I am desperately trying to recreate the Italian coffee bar atmosphere now that I’m living and working in West Yorkshire. Here are some local favourites and I sincerely thank you all for your efforts.
22 Bank Street, Bradford www.tiffinweb.wixsite.com
Tiffin Coffee in Bradford is a gem. It opened just a year ago in the old wool exchange building, one of the most beautiful buildings in the heart of Bradford city centre. This independent coffee shop has a range of fairtrade and organic coffee and uses local Yorkshire roasters. Tiffin is a cosy, friendly place to stop, relax, work, use the Wi-Fi. One to support. Use it or lose it Bradford.
La Bottega Milanese
2 Bond Court, Leeds labottegamilanese.co.uk/
This Leeds city centre coffee bar gets a mention as my daily coffee stop on the way to work. The one where I’m most trying to recreate my Roman commute – the Italian barista helps. They do fabulous Friday doughnuts too – did you know that Italians eat doughnuts for breakfast called una bomba? I’ve inaugurated a new Friday tradition at work. They also do aperitivo spritz in the evenings. La Bottega’s mantra for their produce is “If it’s not from Italy, it’s from Yorkshire“. I might have to steal it.
7 Railway Road, Ilkley www.facebook.com/Emporio-Italia 01943 430005
Luigi from Calabria and his wife Sam own this super friendly Italian restaurant in Ilkley. It’s not a coffee shop, but I wanted to mention them for their attention to the coffee rules. They will serve you a cappuccino after a hearty pasta lunch, but they might make fun of you for it. Try their lunchtime specials, I discovered them thanks to the Italian group that meets there twice a month. Their polpettine in brodo (meatballs in broth) are some of the best that I have tasted. And make the after lunch coffee an espresso please.
Emily’s The Bronte Birthplace
72-74 Market Street, Thornton www.brontebirthplace.co.uk/emilys
I recently discovered Emily’s coffee shop in the birthplace of the Bronte sisters in Thornton village, Bradford. The coffee shop is housed in the very room the sisters were born, right in front of the wonderful fireplace. Coffee is sourced from local Bradford roasters Casa Espresso and they do a good brunch too. I was very happy to see n’duja on the menu. It’s well worth a visit after a walk along the Bronte Way or through the village itself. See their website for details.