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Village Coffeehouse Embraces Sustainability
According to Boughtons Coffeehouse magazine "more and more coffee lovers are demanding drinks that are sustainable from bean to cup" and The Bank Coffeehouse is doing exactly that. By using only recyclable materials where possible, managing waste and ensuring coffee bean farmers are being paid a fair price, the authentic coffee shop which continuously develops in the heart of Alrewas is minimising their impact on the planet as well as improving the social and economic well-being of coffee-farming communities. So, as you take a comfy seat, enjoy the peaceful acoustic tunes and sip on their specialty coffee, you can feel at ease in knowing this coffee shop is doing its very best to be as sustainable as possible.

Judging the contents by its packaging
Although big brands such as Costa and Starbucks have been somewhat indecisive around the idea of paper straws, exchanging plastic straws and cups for paper substitutions is really the minimum coffeeshops can do to help the planet. Having mastered the use of recyclable products from day one, you may notice The Bank Coffeehouse going the extra mile when selecting their packaging. All drinks are sold in recyclable glass bottles, with many customers delighted to pour their refreshingly cold coke from a-now-unique cola glass bottle and even happier to be helping the environment. On top of this, the local coffee shop avoids plastic milk cartons at all costs, and instead takes the old-fashioned option of having all their milk delivered first thing in the morning in glass bottles. Isn't that a blast from the past! Even better, if you have a reusable coffee flask, they are more than happy to pour your coffee straight into there and you're good to go.

By all beans
The Bank Coffeehouse have their specialty coffee beans delivered all the way from Dark Woods in Yorkshire, ensuring customers are getting the very best tasting coffee as well as being completely sustainable. Whilst making sure their customers love their award-winning coffee, knowing the coffee-farmers who produced it are being paid a fair amount is also vital to them as a business. Their coffee suppliers trade directly with the farmers and are spending more on their beans in order to produce high quality coffee. According to Caffeine magazine, by buying directly from the famers, "the coffee is bought for a price three to ten times higher than that of the commodity market". The benefits of this are that the coffee roaster knows exactly where their beans are coming from and the farmers are getting their fair share of profit. And because The Bank Coffeehouse has a strong relationship with their roaster, they too know exactly where their beans are coming from, just ask! Oh, and guess what kind of packaging they use to store their beans…

Managing waste
You may not realise it but food waste also has a big impact on the environment and businesses who put measures in place to reduce this, make a real difference. The Bank Coffeehouse is careful in predicting the right amount of food products needed on a weekly basis to ensure as little as possible is going to waste, in fact very little is ever left behind! As well as being strategic in how much food they order in, the food left on your plate when you finish goes straight into a separate food waste bin that is quickly consumed by some very hungry chickens at home at the end of the day. You may wonder why they get to be so lucky… well, if you've ever ordered The Bank's popular avocado and egg on toast then maybe you'll feel a little grateful to them too!

The Bank Coffeehouse is only a small independent coffee shop but is making a big contribution to the planet and it's proving to be beneficial to business too. As they continue to develop, they look for new ways to be sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint whilst always putting their customers first… as if we needed any more reason to love them.

by Alice Reilly
Former village bank finds tasty new way of serving public
"Because everything gets better with coffee". It is quite some boast, but one that a new, recently opened cafe in the heart of rural Staffordshire is more than happy to make. The Bank Coffeehouse, situated on the main road running through the middle of the beautiful village of Alrewas, near Lichfield, would appear to be thriving on the back of its 'coffee at all cost' approach. It was certainly enjoying a good trade on the day that I popped in while waiting for my wife to have her hair done across the road. The Bank, which opened in May this year in what was a former shop and also a bank - hence the name - not surprisingly specialises in serving freshly roasted coffee, as well as locally sourced food.

In the modern age of largely soul-less coffee chain brands, it is literally refreshing to find an independent outlet like this which clearly seems to put the emphasis on customer satisfaction. Whatever the former bank and retail premises may have looked like, the owner of The Bank, Jane Reilly, has done wonders in fitting out the interior with a variety of separate, comfortable seating areas, including a pleasant looking hideaway spot at the rear which remained occupied throughout my visit. There is no shortage of available seating inside without ever feeling cramped for space, even when a group of cyclists - who seem to regard The Bank as a vital re-fuelling stop - popped in during my stay.

Although I was just having a coffee - a 6oz or 8oz Americano at just £2 a cup - The Bank also provides an appetising menu with all the food found from local suppliers. This includes bacon and sausages from Coates butchers just across the road in the same village and a selection of jams and cakes which are made in Alrewas. The menu ranges from bacon or sausage sandwiches and locally made soup to jacket potatoes, scones with jam and cream, and Cornish pasties with a speciality filling. In addition, there is a range of coffees and teas starting at just £1.80 a cup, with a reward card scheme whereby you get a free drink when you collect seven stamps.

by Tony Collins, from the Weekend Notes
Artisanal Coffee with a Community Twist
This summer, in the heart of rural Staffordshire, a remarkable coffee shop quietly opened its doors. I've been coming in for my morning coffee since it opened. Here's everything you need to know.

Surfing the third wave of artisanal coffee that has swept across the globe in the last few years (we have the Aussies and Kiwis to thank for our flat whites and long blacks), The Bank Coffeehouse is a speciality coffee shop to rival the best that any big city has to offer.

Proprietor Jane Reilly has a bold vision. One that is less about profit and more about purpose. A much-needed third place for the local community. Airy in the summer, cosy in the winter, welcoming walkers, cyclists, boaters, dogs, and babies to come in for a drink and a chat in a place that feels like home.

But it's not just locals like me who are excited about this little gem in the Midlands, customers are coming from further afield, many of them returning time and time again. Word of mouth has worked its mysterious magic.

I grew up in Alrewas, the village that the coffee house calls home. It has a close community and real respect for its history and heritage. It's fitting therefore, that the handsome building which used to house the Midland Bank that served the local community for many years, is now The Bank Coffeehouse.

Jane started from scratch with the interior, working closely with local joiner Lea Thomas to create a space that feels both open and intimate. In fact all of the work was carried out by local tradespeople, with many villagers giving their time and expertise for free, including the design of the logo you can see emblazoned on the front wall of the building.

The food, too, is all locally sourced or homemade, even down to the jams, with Coates' Butchers across the road supplying their award-winning meats. From a small kitchen next to the counter, Jane and her team serve a simple menu made with quality ingredients.

This attention to detail runs throughout the whole operation. They try hard to recycle as much as possible, using compostable takeaway cups, getting milk delivered in glass bottles, and keeping the coffee grounds for villagers to use on their gardens.

Speaking of which, let's talk about the coffee.

Jane got her passion for superb coffee from Paul Meikle-Janney, Managing Director of Coffee Community who has been her consultant throughout the whole process. He's an old hand in the coffee industry, judging competitions and working with some of the best baristas in the world. It was through spending time with Paul that Jane realised how amazing coffee could be, and how she could bring it to this small village.

The Bank uses coffee from Dark Woods in Yorkshire, specifically their Under Milk Wood blend. It is made from specialty grade Arabica beans sourced from family estates across the tropics, always delivered to the coffee house within 2 days of roasting. It won a 3-star award and the "Golden Fork" in the 2016 Great Taste Awards for the best product in the North of England, and also won a great taste award in 2017.

Such a special coffee needs a classic machine to get the best out of it. The Bank's La Marzocco does a superb job of extracting the depth and smooth caramel richness of Under Milk Wood.

I'm back in Alrewas for the summer before I return to the bustle of London. Right now I'm enjoying the pace of life here, the community vibes, and the long leafy walks along the canal. But every day starts with walking my dog to The Bank Coffeehouse, ordering an oat flat white, sitting at the table near the counter, doing my morning emails, and enjoying the ambient chats of the locals.

If you find yourself in the area, or already live here, get down to the Bank. You won't be disappointed.

by Jim Ralley, a travelling writer and entrepreneur living in Europe
The Bank Coffeehouse Coronavirus Blog
The 16th March marked the beginning of the rapid changes to businesses following the spread of COVID-19. The Bank Coffeehouse was no exception. After extensive research into policies and procedures, we quickly started putting measures in place to reduce the risk and keep our staff and customers safe. Alice's hands were as worn at the tables with the amount of soap and disinfectant used between servings, customers were rest assured no tables were left un-wiped. As the social distancing policy came into play, tables were placed 2 meters apart and the sofa area was named 'Corona Corner' by the customers as we all tried to keep an uplifted atmosphere despite the uncertain times. We would welcome the daily chat between the 11am 'working from home' dads club (2 meters apart of course) about how coronavirus would change the world.

Mother's Day weekend bought the dreaded but inevitable café closures ordered by the government and with a quick turn of events, 55 afternoon teas booked for the Sunday became takeaways as we made sure our customers could still have a special day in the safety of their own homes. Only 4 days later, the country was ordered into a lockdown. At this stage we were given the option to remain open for takeaways. However, one thing that hadn't changed through all of this was our number one priority being the safety of our customers and staff. Remembering what was most important to us, The Bank Coffeehouse closed.

Nevertheless, we couldn't rest that easy. As the Alrewas Coronavirus Help Team was set up on the 25th March, we became the hub for distributing food to the vulnerable and those isolating. We began providing food boxes and essential food items on a non-profit basis. Our suppliers were still able to deliver everything that had run out in supermarkets – pasta, toilet rolls, bread, milk and Heinz beans amongst other items. This seemed the perfect opportunity to offer these supplies to those in need. From the 5th April we started a food bank collection box outside to make up food boxes for people who were struggling to pay for food for one reason or another. Alrewas and Fradley Charities funded any extra food needed to ensure no one in the village went hungry.

Everyone who could, chipped in. Coates Butchers donated mince and eggs. Gill at Amber House B&B turned the mince into cottage pie and we distributed it to the elderly. A light hearted moment during this process was when one of our distributers caught an elderly lady waving through the window with hope to catch someone's eye. She expressed she was very grateful but was unable to bend down to pick up her cottage pie – it seemed we needed to think this through a little more. As well as these lovely people helping, Pam, who worked as a school dinner lady until she retired some years ago, is making 18 cakes a week! These are being distributed to families, frontline NHS staff and as a treat to those in isolation. Just when we thought 55 takeaway afternoon teas was a lot during Mother's Day weekend, we managed to make 60 for Easter weekend which were delivered on people's doorsteps as a rare and welcome treat.

Now we are receiving heaps of food bank donations, around 70 households have received food boxes and donated food, and the demand continues to increase due to limited delivery slots available at supermarkets. We are offering ongoing support with lots of calls coming in via the Coronavirus helpline from people who need a full food box to those just in need of a loaf of bread.

From the Midland Bank 20 years ago to a ceramic café to a coffee shop to a food bank and perhaps next it seems… a supermarket. The Bank Coffeehouse continues to be an evolving hub to meet the needs of the community with grateful support from the village.

by Alice Reilly, April 2020