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

 

Buying late night dinner at Creake Abbey Food Hall

Creake Abbey Food Hall & Cafe
Creake Abbey Food Hall & Cafe

It was Thursday night and the cupboards were bare. We were wondering what to do for dinner when I remembered I’d seen a post on Twitter earlier in the day from Creake Abbey Food Hall, saying they were open until 8pm on a Thursday.

We’d been meaning to go back after acquiring some delicious local lamb (and not so local olives) on their opening day last month. It seems such a good idea to have a late night opening once a week, and rare among the local delis, so we jumped in the car and headed down.

We arrived just as they were closing up but Steve, the owner, and Tom, the manager, couldn’t have been more welcoming. A glass of wine was offered almost the second we walked through the door (a Mexican white, surprisingly good, and they also have a red from the same producer).

They chatted about how things have been going since the opening and showed us around the cafe.

Eventually we remembered we’d come to buy something for dinner and chose some of the meat balls from the well stocked butcher’s counter. They had minted lamb and spicy beef, so we took a handful of each.

It was then that I noticed the pie: a great hulk of pastry and meat, with a thick wedge already cut. It turns out it is made by the landlady of the pub near owner Steve’s village, close to Halesworth in Suffolk. According to Steve, it won recognition at a local food fair and deservedly so.

Made with chicken and pork, it had a wonderfully herby flavour, spiced with plenty of pepper. The pastry, so key to the success of any pork pie, was thick and hearty.

We added that to our list and, suffice to say, it was stuffed in faces before we’d finished the drive home.

It is good to see this new venue growing. The range of produce is interesting, from local favourites like Candy’s Chutneys, to an extensive and well curated butchery counter.  Combined with the warm welcome, the location among an already established collection of shops at Creake and smart ideas like late night shopping on a Thursday, they look set for deserved success.

We’ll be back to try the cakes in the cafe, some more of the olives, their great selection of meat and maybe even the eclectic wine choices.

Google Maps link.