Heading down the ‘road’ for Grey Seal coffee

One of the many joys of living in the Glaven Valley is riding the farm tracks to pick up local produce. A favourite monthly jaunt takes me over the fields from Blakeney to Glandford to restock on coffee at the Grey Seal Roastery.

They’ve been supplying us with beans for our home coffee machine since they opened a few years ago. Each month, they select a new variety to try. This time it was a fruity, bright Ethiopian roast. Last month we had a double batch (a kilo of their award winning Three Bean and a kilo of a lighter, experimental Burundi) to slake the thirst of eight of us on our annual Watch House stay.

One of Grey Seal's award winning coffee roasts
One of Grey Seal’s award winning coffee roasts

If you get chatting to the owners at the roastery, the depth of their knowledge and passion for their craft becomes apparent. On my last visit, I was treated to a science lesson which took me deep into the chemistry of how coffee forms its character during the roasting process.

Small wonder these Norfolk-based producers are now attracting international attention for the delicacy with which they bring out complex flavours from their beans. They’ve transformed my own taste in coffee from the traditional, heavy and dark towards brighter and subtler notes.

Coffee and cake on a recent trip the Grey Seal café at Sheringham
Coffee and cake on a recent trip the Grey Seal café at Sheringham

There are now Grey Seal cafés in Blakeney, Wells, Sheringham and Cromer, as well as their original home at the Art Café in Glandford. Well worth a visit to try exceptional coffee produced by expert baristas (their buns and cakes – all baked in-house – also come highly recommended).

Our ageing Delonghi Magnifica 3300 espresso machine
Our ageing Delonghi Magnifica 3300 espresso machine

We make our coffee at home with an ageing Delonghi Magnifica 3300. Received as a present about ten years ago, it is truly ‘the gift that keeps on giving’. Not a morning goes by when we don’t wake up excited by the prospect of enjoying an espresso produced from freshly ground coffee.

Feeding the morning caffeine addiction
Feeding the morning caffeine addiction

When it developed a fault a few months ago, the team at the Grey Seal not only helped us get it up-and-running again, they also provided a tutorial on how to service it ourselves. I was able to install a replacement pump without having to send it back to the manufacturers and a serious caffeine crisis was duly averted.

Grey Seal beans ready for grinding
Grey Seal beans ready for grinding

The beans go in the top and then you set the dials to adjust the grind, the quantity of coffee desired and the amount of water used in the brew. The lever for the steamer has long since snapped off through over-use and has been replaced with one I whittled from a bit of oak.

A little homemade 'modification' to our coffee machine
A little homemade ‘modification’ to our coffee machine

If all goes well delicious, fresh coffee is duly produced with a satisfyingly mechanical whirring of cogs and clunking of machinery. I find it strangely mesmerising to watch in slow motion…

Coffee

 

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Grey Seal Coffee – Wells

How better to warm up on a cold grey morning then visiting the newest site of Grey Seal coffee? We have been fans of the Roastery since it opened, so we were excited to see their new digs in Wells-next-the-Sea.  

   
The new place has all the rustic charm you find at the Roastery itself as well as the Blakeney site.  Just the cosey sort of place to take refuge on the North Sea in winter.

   
    
 
The Portuguese tarts are a must try! 

I also noted the mod cons including outlets for electronics and USB ports. A nice touch in a region with very little mobile phone service. 

  
With local knowledge and attention to detail on top of Amazing coffee I’m sure it will be a hit!

  

A trip to Norwich

Norwich is a great city. Where else could a trip for a car service become an adventure in food? Today was a day of exploration and we were not disappointed.

We started our morning by dropping off said car and heading to Strangers coffee shop. The cakes are very good and the barista really knew his stuff. We had a chat about natural processing and how it can infuse the coffee beans with a fruity flavour. The macchiato had strawberry notes to it which was a world away from your average chain. The enthusiasm for his subject was clearly in evidence.

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Lunch brought another discovery at the Iron House. The soup of the day was pulled pork and chorizo with a hunk of home baked bread. Marek chose the pulled pork in a brioche bun with home made coleslaw and fries. After ordering the server walked past with what looked like mouthwatering chunky chips so we had to add that to our order. The result was very satisfying. So much so that I was disappointed to not have any room left for any of the amazing cakes on display.

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Finally we took the scenic route home, going through a new village, Itteringham. Situated on the banks of the River Bure, we were pleasantly surprised to find an interesting looking pub and village shop. As it was tea time we stopped in the Little Village Shop; the “smallest cafe in Norfolk” for a cuppa. Inside were all the basics one could need from a village shop but with a few extras. The cakes were homemade by a lady in the village. The flour for the bread was from the Letheringsett Mill where we buy our flour. Local Norfolk favourites such as Aspalls cider, Norfolk Cordials, and Adnams were also on display. Linocut cards from local/well-known artists and felted crafts covered the walls. We were so pleased to discover this hidden gem to round off our day!

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The Funky Mackerel, Sheringham

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To continue our winter revival we finished our costal path walk today, starting in Cromer. We decided to walk along the beach as it was low tide and finished in Sheringham where we sought lunch at The Funky Mackerel Cafe. Dog friendly and overlooking the sea, this cafe was fun and relaxed serving significant portions of freshly made simple food. Espresso based coffees and cakes finished off lunch before we set back out again to Cromer. On the way back we took the coast path which went iand through beautiful woodland.

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The Grey Seal: artisanal coffee, brought to you by the folks from the Art Cafe

Forgive the gap in posting. There has been a lot of turmoil this last month. The floods left an impression on our coastline and the tragic American military crash came close on its heals. But today we would like to speak on a positive note.

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Brought to you by the fine foodie folks at the Art Cafe, comes a new coffee experience, The Grey Seal. Across from the Art Cafe itself, it only opened last week but we were excited to have a try. We walked over Wiveton Down to work up an appetite and were greeted by the smell of delicious coffee. There is a roaster on site, the only one we are aware of on the north Norfolk coast. The choice of espresso based drinks was great, but the difference was in the various other coffee options.. Marek tried the air press, while I went for the theatrical siphon. You also have a choice of different single source coffee beans, so the mix-and-match possibilities seem endless. We both had the home roast and compared the taste. Mine had a lighter fruity flavour while the airpress produced a richer bolder flavour, all from the same beans!

The cakes provided were of the same high quality we have come to expect from the Art Cafe, which is currently closed for the season . Rounding out the menu are various other teas and homemade soup. Dogs are welcome. A great stop on a winters walk. We wish them much success.

Highly recommended!

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Coffee restored

Using Sugru to fix the coffee machine
Using Sugru to fix the coffee machine

Disaster. The steam lever on our trusty coffee machine snapped. After a brief realisation that what we’d assumed all these years to be metal was actually plastic, the wider and infinitely less palatable truth dawned: no more morning coffee!

I set to work with an old piece of oak, salvaged from a bed headboard bought for £1 at Fakenham auction, and an amazing fixing putty called Sugru. After cutting, planing, filing and sanding the new lever into the right shape, the Sugru (the red stuff in the photo) is applied as a flexible putty. It is then left overnight and sets rock solid, bonding the wood to the broken plastic.

The new wooden lever is actually easier to control and much more tactile.

Morning coffee restored!

Time for Tea

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Back to the lovely village of Heydon, Norfolk. This time we are going for a spot of tea and cake at the fantastic Heydon Village Tea Room.

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Tis is a very traditional tea shop with gingham, florals, and a large picture window overlooking the picturesque green. Today was bright sunshine and several people were picnicking on the lawn across the way as we entered. On the menu were scones in many unusual flavours and I went for the fig and apricot, which had a hint of all spice. Marek went for a large wedge of one of their many cakes as usual. The decor was sweet and modern and their shop in the back was full of local delights. Definitely worth a visit to this little hamlet for tea and a tour of the church and grounds.

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