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