Brighton Coffee Festival loves to celebrate all things Brighton, and this time we visited one of the city’s hidden gems, Loam.
Words by Timothy Woodbridge
It’s a summer’s day in June. I walk down Sydney Street with the sun on my face, hope in my heart and falafel on my chin. At this time of year the streets are packed with tourists, exchange students and people with mullets (the locals). An array of vastly different people all united with a hate for seagulls and a love of humus. Each culture, background and tie-dye pattern makes the city a more interesting and beautiful place.
That’s the same feeling I get in Loam. Opened just over a year ago, the small pink shop is just off the beaten track–a lentil toss down Gloucester Road–and could be easily swamped by the almost oppressive yellow of Beyond Retro. You’d be forgiven for not knowing it’s there. But, in such a short time, it’s already attracted a large and diverse community.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word ‘loam’ is a ‘fertile soil of clay made up of sand and humus.’ A speciality coffee shop named after humus clay, does it get any more Brighton? The owners, Francesco and Delavieje, chose the name because it represents the shop perfectly – a beautiful mix of things in one place.
As I walk in, it’s clear that it’s more than just another coffee shop. Next to the bags of DAK, Curve and Sweven sits clay jars that would make a Greek god blush and a basket of socks – I’m in heaven. In every inch of the shop, it’s clear this is a wonderful mix of the owners’ cultures, skills and interests.
Francesco is obsessed with coffee and Dela with style. Like the Penn & Teller of coffee shops, their skills complement each other and create something utterly unique and delicious for eyes and mouth.
Francesco is a true barista’s barista. He says that he likes to keep things exciting for people by changing coffees every couple of weeks. At the moment there’s a Sweven coffee in the Mahlkonig E65S GBW and two beautiful DAK coffees available on filter. While he admits to favouring some roasteries over others, he likes to keep things fresh. Apparently, the fact that the Sweven bags are pink and white and perfectly match the interior is a complete accident.
His espresso recipes are like modified turbo shots. In the true spirit of Brighton, he says that he starts with a basic turbo recipe–a bigger ratio, lower pressure and quicker shot time than the standard–and lets the coffee decide from there.
Ever one to experiment, he has his takes on classic summer drinks. His take on an espresso tonic is the coffee sangria – a mix of tonic, cold brew and a homemade stone fruit syrup. And, to keep the beanie bikers and the pumpkin spicers happy, he’s dreamed up a cereal iced latte. Yes, you read that right. An iced latte but the milk is fused with cereal. I won’t tell you which one but I did get it first time, not to brag or anything.
When I asked if he ever thought about roasting he said that he’s currently having too much fun experimenting and trying new, exciting coffees. He’s not the only one who enjoys it, as I sit there, under some tasteful art, I see some of the most respected baristas in town pop in for a coffee and a chat.
But this is just one side of the story. Without Dela, the shop would be packed full of lycra. She brings the art, ceramics and pillows. Her touch can be seen everywhere. The fact that the soft pink shop front perfectly matches the white curtains and light wood furniture is all down to her. She’s also responsible for the feature wall that looks like an art installation. She also picks the bamboo socks dyed with food waste, the reusable wash clothes and she works closely with ceramicists to create the perfect cup for drinking coffee.
When I asked her where these mysterious talents come from, she mumbled something about a textiles degree but claimed it was all about taste and her creative mother. Her family culture runs deep in the cafe. One part of her family is from Iran and a large part of their quality family time was spent in coffee shops. She even helped run the family cafe when she was there.
The family’s influence can be seen throughout. Her mother makes the pillows, which are a piece of art in themselves. I tried to buy one but they’re harder to get than a Picasso. Her sister Avijé helps out in the shop and is a singer in her Jazz band, which explains the playlist. When a family member can’t do something, they work closely with people they trust. The lemon meringues, cheesecakes and most of the sugary snacks are made by an Italian baker in Hove but they often give their suggestions and feedback.
As I drink a 180-hour anaerobic pink bourbon coffee from Colombia while sitting on a cushion that looks like Mondrian got a job at HomeSense, I find it hard to separate the two talents. They’re a perfect mix. While they know their stuff they’re not nerds. I saw someone heaping the sugar into a lovingly brewed filter coffee and no one flinched, I might have had a small aneurysm.
The people who come in are part of a community based on culture, art and coffee. The shop is perfectly small so everyone gets the personal feel. The place is a real testament to what happens when different cultures and interests come together to fulfil one tasty dream. It would be easy to be arrogant about what they’ve done but they’re not those kinds of people. They’ve built a community of creative, classy, nerdy people, who all unite in a love of all things tasty and tasteful, and a hate for seagulls.