Speciality coffee plays a significant role in modern day life. According to The British Coffee Association, the UK consumes approximately 95 million cups of coffee per day.
Pre-pandemic, the UK coffee industry accounted for over 210,000 jobs, with 80% of the population stating that they visited a coffee shop at least once a week. As lockdown slowly begins to ease, enjoying a barista-made coffee is likely to be top of many people’s immediate agenda. But of course, it will be a very different type of cafe culture we get to experience over the next few months, as social distancing measures limit the number of customers coffee shops can host indoors, and mean many continue operating on a take-out only basis for the time being.
“When we started learning about speciality coffee and experiencing what it was to work in the hospitality industry, we did it all for the love of cafe culture,” says Jamie McIlhatton, founder of Wirral-based coffee shop WYLDE. “The buzz of a coffee shop, with so many different lives and stories coming to reconnect and enjoy a common love of coffee and delicious food.”
Having only opened their doors in November 2019, being forced to shut up shop in mid-March was a blow. “It was a weird event to face having only been open for 4 months,” says Jamie. “We were still getting a grasp of what it was to run a coffee shop and build a community, but luckily those 4 months gave us a chance to meet people and the support we’ve had since then has been out of this world.” It’s easy to see the competitive online world now and feel that community culture has been lost, but Jamie tells me that couldn’t be further from the truth. “It’s very much there and always has been. If you bring something to the table that people gain an attachment to, they’ll support you in protecting it but it’s essential to be there, to be present and build those relationships. Me and Warren being on the bar each and every day, and not taking ourselves too seriously, has definitely allowed that to happen.”
The advantage of being a new business lies in being agile and willing to adapt.
Like many businesses, WYLDE have benefited from the financial support packages offered by the government, which have provided a safety blanket and time to plan. The advantage of being a new business lies in being agile and willing to adapt. “We had the energy to get our hands dirty and experiment,” says Jamie, “and stripped everything back to the old days of WYLDE, when we were called Wild Coffee Club.”
Jumping back into selling coffee beans for customers to brew at home meant spending a lot of time on social media and maintaining their engagement with their community. The pair showcased some of their favourite coffees from around the world, gave tips on how to brew the most delicious drinks and explored new ideas, the most successful being the launch of their Coffee Circle Subscription. Inspired by the Milkman model of old; they delivered coffee in aluminium tins, ground to demand and once finished, collected the old tins and delivered fresh batches. This model allowed them to reuse and refill, remove the waste produced from coffee bags and save money, whilst also re-introducing customers to a traditional and far more sustainable way of shopping.
With a background in Sustainability and Wildlife Conservation, encouraging his community to become more environmentally and socially responsible comes naturally to Jamie. The concept for WYLDE was borne in the woods. Having taken a trip to a local national trust site on the Wirral peninsula, Jamie and Warren unpacked their stove, a bag of locally roasted coffee and a stovetop, and set about brewing a few cups in the shelter of the trees. A week later they ventured out onto the shore amongst the sand and long grasses, using a large bit of driftwood to guard the flames. They had quickly discovered that exploration didn’t require long journeys. “Global conservation, for us, begins at home, on our doorstep. Supporting local businesses, our community and appreciating the natural beauty down the road. I actually work with other companies on a freelance basis to consult and support them in becoming more environmentally and socially responsible,” Jamie says, “so it was essential for WYLDE to do the same. It goes hand-in-hand with encouraging the reconnect to our local natural spaces, and in turn to rediscover the want and need to protect them.”
The WYLDE coffee shop environment has allowed Jamie to introduce locals to fairly uncommon practices, and show them why we don’t need much of what we’re used to. When it comes to policies in the shop, they work on an environmental but also a social standpoint. “We’re always transparent with staff and customers in the journey both I and Warren, my business partner, are embarking on,” he says. “Being open and honest about the downfalls, but showing the intent to improve along the way. Community is big for us and it’s essentially what makes our humble shop such a haven to work in.”
One ethos they strongly believe in is transparency; understanding the entire supply chain and journey through which a product has travelled before it reaches our hands. WYLDE want to convey this not only with their coffee, but all other products they sell in-store too. Presently these include lifestyle magazines Considered, The Preserve Journal and Penny, alongside bespoke handcrafted ceramic cups by Zara Ceramics, and Buttero leather coasters from Oldfield Workshop.
They connected with local Liverpool roastery Neighbourhood Coffee right from the start. “As soon as we walked through the door, I knew I wanted to build a working relationship with them,” Jamie tells me. “They were a super warm, welcoming team who I felt understood us. We wanted to provide really high quality coffee but to communicate it in an easily accessible and non-judgmental way. They encapsulate that ethos at Neighbourhood. They don’t make bold claims to be sustainable but regardless, they’ve pursued direct trade, transparency and improvements to packaging, so we’re super proud to be serving their coffee in our shop.”
⊗ Wylde Coffee, 86 Telegraph Rd, Heswall, Wirral CH60 0AQ. View map
All photography © WYLDE, used with permission.