Opening in March 2017, Off The Ground started as a social enterprise cafe focused on combatting the effects of homelessness in Middlesbrough. In the proceeding 18 months, with the help of their customers, they managed to give away more than 1500 sandwiches, 280 litres of soup, 1600 hot drinks and over 150 kg of cake to those in need in Middlesbrough.
They’re currently working on a number of other exciting projects: a community fridge, which will help tackle food waste and food poverty; a programme of social events for those in recovery from addiction, bringing them closer to living an everyday life again; and a featured community group of the month, to bring the general public closer to the great things happening in their community.
We recently sat down with owner Josh, over a cup of coffee made using their house blend roasted North Star Coffee, to discuss why he chose a linea classic, and what he thinks of Middlesbrough’s coffee community and how it’s starting to grow, in line with development throughout the rest of the town.
“I wanted a La Marzocco in particular as it seemed like every coffee shop I visited and whose coffee I loved had one and after chatting to a few baristas and doing plenty of research, I’d heard over and over again of the linea classic being an absolute workhorse of a machine and very reliable, which seemed ideal from my point of view as maintenance wouldn’t be my strongpoint!
The North East in general is a little bit isolated geographically as well as culturally to some extent and the Tees Valley even more so really, so I think we’re at a really early stage with speciality coffee here. We’re working hard to bring speciality coffee to a truly working class town with a proper industrial heritage, which takes a completely different approach to opening a coffee shop in a big city centre with a lot of white collar workers, high quality accommodation and thriving hospitality culture – it really isn’t like that here at the moment, although I sense that things are changing with how our town centre is being used.
We’re one of two speciality shops in Middlesbrough and three that I know of in the whole Tees Valley region. There are a lot of people who are into coffee here, but there’s definitely an aversion to the holier-than-thou kind of customer service, which can sometimes seep into speciality coffee culture, so we have to embrace the fact that most people are new to this. The customer who’s ordering a caramel latte on their first visit can often be the same person who’s asking what origins we have on V60 a month later and quizzing us on varietals and processing methods. Newcastle is a different beast, to be honest, and is much further ahead than we are, but it’s a good representation of where we’re going I think.”
This post is part of an on-going feature, highlighting notable cafes throughout the UK & Ireland who use a linea classic. Come back next Thursday to read the new post!