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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Huckleberries for cake in Cromer

Huckleberries Cafe in Cromer
Huckleberries Cafe in Cromer

I arrived in Cromer at the end of a windswept adventure on my bike. There’s nothing like riding into a gale of a headwind to inspire a desire for tea and cake.

Despite living on the Norfolk coast for nearly a year now, this was my first visit to Cromer, so I pedalled around looking for the tell-tale signs of a good cafe. External appearance only tells you so much. I found myself peering through windows and looking for stacks of homemade cakes under glass domes or an enthusiastic barrista enjoying their art.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has actually visited Cromer that such establishments are thin on the ground. I, however, had arrived innocent of this state of affairs. There were no shortage of options for fish and chips or ice cream in a cone, but I was beginning to despair my dream of a moist, dense cake and steaming mug of herbal tea would remain elusive.

It was on my last circuit through town, heading for the train station, that I spotted the pale green exterior of Huckleberries (@hucks_coffee) on Church Street. A discerning consumer of cake just knows when somewhere is going to be a cut above the average, and Huckleberries did not disappoint.

There was a friendly welcome from the staff and plenty of well spaced seating in the relaxed interior of wood floors and pale colours. I sat upstairs, where there was a mix of tourists and locals reading the papers, but there is also more seating downstairs.

Ginger & lemon cake, granola bar & tea in a tea cosy at Huckleberries in Cromer
Ginger & lemon cake, granola bar & tea in a tea cosy at Huckleberries in Cromer

All of the cakes are baked on the premises and range from scones and fruit loaves to Bakewells and chocolate fudge cake. I opted for the ginger and lemon, a pot of Roobois tea and a granola bar, for a grand total of £4.85.

The cake was exceptional. Strong, spicy ginger, a dense and rich texture, topped with tangy lemon icing infused with lemon zest. The granola bar was also good: clearly homemade, moister than I was expecting and welcome after the miles on the bike.

The feature, however, which convinced me this is a cafe trying to go the extra mile was the knitted tea cosy and little shortbread biscuit left as a treat on the saucer. It is the little things that count and, as far as I could see, Huckleberries is the only place for the cake connoisseur in Cromer.

Google Maps link.