Originally planned for a May 2020 opening, Quaff East were finally able to open their doors last September.
Quaff East is a neighbourhood café, with a heavy focus on great coffee, great food, and even better people.
Centred around wanting to build a place for their community, David and Eleanor have created Quaff East from the ground up, in the middle of a pandemic, whilst raising their newborn baby, Delaney. No, we’re not quite sure how they’ve done it either!
We sat down with David to find out more about their origin story, how COVID has thrown spanners in the works, and his creation of a cream soda espresso.
How did Quaff East come about?
So, the business is joint owned and run by my wife and I, however, the real reason Quaff East exists is the boss - our seven month old daughter Delaney.
Six years ago, my wife and I found out we were unable to have children. Due to an operation I had when I was a lot younger, it was impossible for us to conceive naturally. At the time we both worked as teachers. Long hours, lots of stress and only really seeing each other to say good night and good morning was tiring enough, but now we were going to go through what turned out to be the toughest experience we had ever been through, IVF. Trips from Norfolk to London and Cambridge, operations and tears made us realise that we needed to find work that led to a lot less stress. I started working in coffee, which is a passion that helped me to wind down and something I could get excited over, and my wife went to work in a cake shop, where her passion for ingredients and food was nurtured. However, the one thing that didn’t change was the hours.
We decided that after five years of the IVF process that if it worked we wanted to enjoy our time as a family. We were so lucky that the IVF worked first time. Our plan was to open a shop in May 2020, have a great summer, employ someone and have Del in October 2020. But there was a little thing that stopped this happening…the pandemic. We ended up opening in September 2020, three weeks before Del arrived.
What have you learnt about running a small business?
Community is key. Family is everything.
In the eight months that we have been open, we have found the nicest, warmest regulars who are now friends. Or rather, they’ve found us!
We worked really hard to create a space where everyone is welcome, where the coffee is wonderful, the food is tasty but the atmosphere feels more like a second home.
How have you and the business had to flex with COVID? What does post-lockdown look like for you?
Well, we had no pre-COVID! We hit the ground running with restrictions in force. We had to open in September, with the shop needing to start making money. When the January lockdown came I felt this sense of responsibility to close, as I did not want to be a reason for anyone to come out. However, we stayed open and had so many people come in saying they are grateful that we were there as we were the only conversation they had in a day. It started to feel like a service, one I was more than happy to offer.
Post-lockdown is looking great. When we first signed for the building in February 2020 I had a clear image of a place where there was always a buzz, where people came to work, meet, laugh, break news, chill, read and everything in between and its starting to feel like that on a day to day basis. I can only see it getting better too with more and more people in the area finding us and becoming friends.
Why Husk & Honey?
We have a food ethos here at Quaff; it has to be local, independent, traceable and tasty.
Husk & Honey, in a weird way, fills all of those. We are about 5 miles from Hodmedods, a grain supplier we knew H&H worked with. As soon as we first made contact with H&H we knew they were right for us. The communication was so welcoming and warm and the produce is to the highest level!
What's your personal favourite H&H product?
The Oat & Nut granola is going into most of our Granola plates at the moment. Paired with some amazing produce it makes for a wonderful breakfast, but to be honest, I have been recipe testing at all times of day and there really isn’t a time of day where this doesn’t hit the spot.
What other products from your store do you love shouting from the rooftops about?
Our lunch menu is predominantly centred around New York styled bagels. One night I couldn’t sleep and dreamt up the Hot Sin Spring Roll Bagel. It's four vegan spring rolls, with hoisin mayo, rocket, cucumber and spring onions. It’s the best vegan sandwich I could imagine. Its crispy, fresh and aromatic in a warm chewy bagel. People think I’m weird but then they try it…
The coffee here is the heart of the shop. Our house coffee comes from The Gentlemen Baristas who are possibly the nicest set of human beings ever, making some wonderful, ethical coffees that suit all preferences. They have just released an Ethiopian coffee that tastes like strawberry and rhubarb. It’s beautiful. I have been using it as a cream soda espresso; a double shot of espresso in a glass with ice and cream soda.
What goes into your selection of products for your store?
The people behind the company make a huge difference, as does traceability and sustainability. Obviously taste is important, but it’s all about making sure that the produce is sourced fairly, treated with respect and that the company really care for the product.
What are you currently excited about?
I am really excited about seeing the business and the baby grow and evolve. We have exciting plans for the future, both professionally and personally. I also really miss Cornwall. We normally go every year and haven’t been able to for a while!
What do you wish you could have told yourself this time last year?
A year ago? Keep going. You’ll get there.
Two years ago? Life is really goddamn short. Stop putting things off and do it. Jump off that cliff and build your wings on the way down.