30 March 2013

Is #Suspended #Coffee a Good Idea?


The post below was created on March 30th and I have been updating the story, with dated entries below.

However, I know that many of us might not have enough time to read this whole article, all the way down to the most important bit, so I'm putting the most important bit, here, right at the top.


We are very pleased to say that thanks to the Suspended Coffee post that went viral on Facebook, we have pledged to connect with London's only FREE homeless shelter, that is open ALL year round, Shelter From The Storm

We are encouraging you to donate any money that you might have spent on buying a Suspended Coffee to Shelter From The Storm, instead.

It's very easy and you know that the whole amount will be going directly to the cause. 

Shelter From The Storm tell us,
'We promise that your £2, the price of a cup of coffee, will go directly to providing food and drink to London's homeless.'

Please help them to help our homeless by texting CAFE13£2 to 70070.

ORIGINAL POST, March 30th:-

Is #Suspended #Coffee a Good Idea?

Suspended Coffee?

What's the BIG Idea?

The idea is that you can walk into any coffee shop, buy an extra coffee, a 'suspended coffee' and then that 'suspended coffee' isn't made but kept in reserve, for when a homeless person walks in, they can then say, 'Is there a suspended coffee here, please?' Then if there is they can have a free coffee that's already been paid for, by another member of the community.


This post has gone viral all over Facebook and people are loving the concept, it really pulls at their heart strings and you'd think that coffee shop owners and large chains would be rushing to support it wouldn't you?

They do NOT! But why NOT? When it seems like such a brilliant idea, an idea that pumps money into the coffee shop, makes people that pay for the coffee feel good and gives a little help to a homeless soul.


So is my partner and Co-Founder Gunter Hollenstein. Gunter and I have often spent many hours discussing the direction of our business, who we are going to help, how we are going to connect with our community, how we can help promote artists, what we can do to help in a crisis situation. How do we support local business? How are we going to help the local economy, how can we run our business more efficiently and greener? Long hours and discussion. 

When we heard about the suspended coffee scheme, we both had the same bitter taste in our mouth and a sadness in our hearts.

People have responded almost hysterically to this idea and in the last five days, I have been asked so many times to support the scheme, that I'm sick of saying no and giving my reasons. So this blog is principally to tell you why, although this idea seems like a good one on the surface, we would NEVER EVER do it.

People in our local community know, our customers and business connections know that we are very kind hearted and soulful in the way we run our business, so how could it be that we are so AGAINST this popular idea?

These are the reasons:

1/ Part of the spirit of owning a coffee shop is that you can pass support onto others when you can, both Gunter and myself enjoy doing that. We are not alone, several other independent Coffee Shop owners agree and I believe that the chains are also against this idea, even though it could potentially boost sales.

2/ I believe most people in coffee shops will give a coffee and a bite to eat, to a homeless person, without such a scheme being in place. We certainly do! Didn't really want to shout about that as I don't want the rest of you dressing up as you think a homeless person might look. Plenty of independents and chains do the same.

3/ That's what truly brings our community together, those little actions, that we don't need to shout about. I feel sorry that I've have had to mention it here, in explanation to my aversion to the 'suspended' coffee scheme. There doesn't need to be a scheme, as you know most people running coffee shops have a really big heart and sense of community. 

 4/ Do you really think that if a homeless person walks into a coffee shop,  they get turned away, if there is no 'suspended coffee'? I've heard of this idea but it doesn't appeal to me...Gunter and I see it as part of the pleasure of owning a coffee shop that if someone can't afford a coffee, they're homeless, destitute, depressed, we can offer them coffee, water, tea, soup and a little snack to take away.

5/ I really, really wouldn't want my customers to pay for what. I seeas quite a spiritual thing. It's because of our customer's support of us and our business,that we have a responsibility to share that success with others that need help in our society. Being in a train station and near to the job centre, we have a few 'regulars' who are homeless and down on their luck. I've tried to help some further by getting St Mungos involved, in certain cases too....but sometimes....it doesn't work. I feel suspended coffees would go against our ethos as a shop, it's something I just could not do. It would feel dirty to get money from someone and make a profit from someone else's misery. We are very firm about right and wrong in our little shop and that to me just feels so wrong. 

6/ Look at how many people support the idea and would pay for those coffees....they are just the same type of person who, if they owned their own coffee shop, would give a free coffee and nibble to eat! It's human nature. 

7/To set up a scheme like this and get everyone to say 'ah' and get them to pay for coffees that they don't know are ever going to be provided stinks of scam and it's not necessary.

8/ Human nature says that the homeless person will get a cuppa.....and funnily enough, that is what the post is proving. There but for the grace of God, go I. I think most of us think like that and treat others how we would like to be treated.

9/ I was homeless for a while, right down at the bottom of the pile....I was lucky enough to be put into disgustingly horrible temporary accommodation...I know, as many of us know that these people are not scum of the earth, to be sneered at, we know any homeless person could be our brother, our mother, our father our sister our son our daughter, or ourselves. These are vulnerable times and we are all close to the edge....

10/ If you truly want to support these individuals, either ask what coffee they would like, and take it to them,.or make sure you visit your independent coffee store more regularly, in the knowledge that most of them would give out coffees upon request and at discretion to homeless people....and that by ensuring these coffee shops are running at a profit because you love them, they will naturally share back the love to the community without shouting about it! Book an appointment with yourself and 9 friends, to meet in your local indepdent coffee shop, buy them all coffees, introduce them to a great business, help the business to thrive, so they can keep trickling down the love and support that you have given, into their community.

That's sustainable!

What Do You Think?

Please let me know, please join in the debate, what do you feel? Please comment here. Can you convince me otherwise? xx

UPDATE APRIL 5th, 2012

Thanks to The Consumerist for their Blog, all about this Blog, which you can read, here.

At least one of the major coffee chains has been reported by a national paper as joining the Suspended Coffee scheme, I'll let you judge whether they have joined the scheme or not by reading the article for yourself, here. 

The great thing about the Suspended Coffee debate is that it has made the coffee industry, including ourselves look at more ways that we can help homeless people, it is something that we all need to look at very hard indeed.

So, we are very pleased to say that thanks to the Suspended Coffee post that went viral on Facebook, we have pledged to connect with London's only FREE homeless shelter, that is open ALL year round, Shelter From The Storm

We are encouraging you to donate any money that you might have spent on buying a Suspended Coffee to Shelter From The Storm, instead.

It's very easy and you know that the whole amount will be going directly to the cause. Shelter From The Storm tell us,

'We promise that your £2, the price of a cup of coffee, will go directly to providing food and drink to London's homeless.'

Please help them to help our homeless by texting CAFE13£2 to 70070.

Thank you for reading this far. If you have any thoughts about this, please join in the debate and comment below.

Karen. xx

Update April 7th

The article by Boughton's Coffee House, below, is the most balanced article that I have seen about Suspended Coffee so far, it quotes from this very blog post above, as well as having quotes from independent coffee shop owners that have taken on the scheme.

Read the Boughton's Coffee House article about Suspended Coffee, here.

We are looking forward to going to visit Shelter from the Storm, very shortly, to see their work.

Thanks to The Londonist, for also picking up on the Suspended Coffee Story and for referring to our blog, in this article, here.

24 March 2013

Low Gi, Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Muffins!

I am so excited! I have finally created a low GI, gluten-free and dairy-free muffin recipe!

These muffins are great for diabetic people, those on a low carbohydrate diet and those that have gluten and dairy intolerances, as well as those that just want to enjoy a healthy, tasty and nutritious snack.

I have just finished one of these muffins and I have to say it's the best tasting gluten and dairy free item that I have ever tasted.

The muffins I chose to make were Blueberry and Banana and I used a brilliant combination of gluten-free flours to create a really fluffy texture. The flour replacements I used were gluten-free flour made from potatoes and rice starches, quinoa flour, ground almonds and gluten-free oats.

The milk I used which was an excellent dairy-free replacement was Rice Dream Original. I have been trying to bake with Coconut Milk but it's been making the cake too dry. We normally use yoghurt in our cakes but as I wanted to make these dairy-free, I substituted unsweetened 100% apple puree, from Biona, instead.

For the sugar, I used a small amount of raw cane sugar, with a low GI Coconut Sugar.

I am so exceptionally pleased with these muffins and feel they are a real break through in my dairy and gluten-free baking.

Hope you can pop by and try some soon.

Please let me know if you have certain foods you can't eat and what kind of cake you'd like us to bake for you, just by commenting here.

Keep happy and healthy. Xx

20 March 2013

What did very small-businesses get from this #Budget13?

Picture by Anne-Marie Sanderson

After the excitement of ITN News coming round and filming us for the budget and our 10 seconds of Prime Time TV, once at 6pm and then again at 6.30pm, let's look at what the budget really brought for small businesses.

1/ £2,000 NI relief

Businesses can claim relief for NI contributions of £500 a year for up to four employees. This is something that the Federation of Small Businesses have fought for and they are really pleased.

However for small business owners, like myself there are already massive financial barriers to employing someone, or even taking on an apprentice. The budget has not changed that situation.

2/ £10,000 threshold before tax.

This could help people feel like they have a few extra pennies for spending in their small, local independent businesses, so this could trickle down to the small business owners.

3/ Corporation Tax brought down by 1%

Some small businesses are run as a Ltd company, so this could help them, many micro businesses are not Ltd and have a different trading style, so this won't help them directly.

That's It!

I'm not an economic expert but they are the only three things that I can find.

So, seeing as the really small businesses of Britain have NOT been particularly highlighted or helped by this budget.....

I pledge to keep up my SHOCK Cash Mob Campaign, to help small businesses boost their profits and profile.

19 March 2013

5 Great Uses for #Yogi #Classic Herbal Teabags!

A teabag is not just a teabag, especially when it is a Yogi Classic teabag.

The Yogi Classic Teabag is an extremely extraordinary teabag indeed. For a start, just the sublime scent of it's warm, comforting spices is incredible, with cloves, cinnamon and ginger intermingling in a delicious dance of aromas as I draw the scent up into my nose....ahhhhhh! Always so comforting, so homely and warming.

The Yogi Tea Classic blend of spices is exceptional above any other spice-blended teabag that I've ever experienced because it has a superbly balanced blend of the herbs, resulting in a sweetness and heat, that I've never experienced in any other spice based product, it is absolutely unique.

So, of course I find other ways of getting to experience this special blend of herbs and spices in my life, beyond what they were intended for as well as, of course, still enjoying an excellent cup of herbal tea, which leads me to first use, for The Yogi Tea Classic Blend Teabag.

1/ An exceptionally fine cup of herbal tea.

Place the bag into a tea cup, preferably a branded 'Yogi' tea glass, actually, just to add to the experience, then pour just boiled water over the bag. Enjoy the steam rising up and breathe in that wonderful mixture of spices but hold it there, don't drink it yet! You must wait the allotted 7 minutes before allowing yourself to take even one sip. I'm not sure what you're meant to do in these 7 minutes, other than wait but hey, it could be a good idea to find out from +Cathy Underwood , Director of +Yoga4mums if there is a special pre-tea drinking Yoga position you could practice in public, without too much embarrassment, whilst you wait for the full flavour of the tea to develop.

The great thing about waiting those 7 minutes is, I find, that the tea is just the right temperature to enjoy and the flavours beautifully infused. The taste of the tea is instantly warming, nurturing, healing and comforting, with a sweetness I can't find in other herbal teas and a full flavour of cinnamon, that feels almost chewy in my mouth. Just wonderful, a simple and pure enjoyment.

2/ Apple Pie in a Tea Cup (Thanks to +Kareen Cox for the name suggestion!)

You get a Yogi Tea Glass, or your normal mug or teacup, pour in some apple juice, then pour that apple juice from the cup into a pan on the hob and gently heat it. When it is hot put the Yogi Classic teabag in and wait until it's the right temperature to drink, again 7 minutes might work here.

We sell this concoction in our shop and it is very popular but you can also take the time, just to make it yourself at home and to enjoy it. For me, it's almost like slurping an apple strudel. what I really love about it is that it's incredibly tasty and yet it is so simple, just apple juice and that special tea bag, no added sugar, nothing else and it is so deliciously YUMMY!

3/ An extremely healthy and tasty breakfast!

This is also served in our shop and is especially good for you, if you are on a gluten-free, or dairy-free diet as we use gluten-free oats and coconut milk. Again, you can make it at home easily. It's a great snack before bedtime as well as for breakfast.

Warm up some coconut milk on the hob and put in the cinnamon tea bag, take away from heat and let the flavours seep out, for around 5 minutes.

In the meantime, get the gluten-free oats and pour them into a bowl, then pour the spicy warm milk into the bowl but don't let the teabag go in! Put a dollop of sugar free apple puree into the oats and swirl around.

It is so delicious and nutritious, I love food that tastes good and is good for you!

4/ Clothes Sachets.

Yes, hang those little teabags up in your wardrobe and not only will your clothes smell warm and spicy but although we humans enjoy the scent, moths do NOT like it at all! Result, sweet scented, moth-free clothes!

5/ Car Scent! 

This idea was suggested by Roz Lishak of Character Bakes! You could make a delicate little thing out of material, maybe a heart-shape or something and then put that yummy Yogi Tea Bag in. Imagine how much easier it would be to deal with other people's rubbish driving when you have that calming smell in the car, everything in the world would seem right, wouldn't it and then it would all slip off, like water off a duck's back! Sigh.

And once you've finished with all those tea bags you've been using, don't waste them put them on the compost heap!

Yogi Tea Bags, Coconut Milk, Apple Puree and Gluten-Free Oats are all available to buy in our shop. Yogi Tea glasses are free with every purchase of two packets of Yogi Tea.

Try to get to us before +Garry kousoulou , as he is a Classic Yogi Tea fiend!

Please let me know your thoughts by commenting underneath.

And if you liked this article please share your discovery with others by Tweeting, Facebooking or Google Plussing. Thank you.xxx

18 March 2013

#Budget2013 Small Business Wishes

Many business owners believe that they need money to grow, or expand their business in the form of loans but I believe that can easily put more pressure onto the business, especially when the cheap interest rates that should be available are just not passed onto us when we buy a loan but are only passed onto us, when we want to try and save our money.

So, I don't think throwing money at small businesses and causing more debt and bigger expenses is the way through these difficult economic times, I believe that we must use the resources that have been created by these circumstances.

What resources are these?

1/ Empty Spaces.

Leaving shops empty, or sticking pictures of pretend businesses over the windows, does not help to create a cohesive community.

Either make these spaces into homes or free business spaces.

The budget needs to enable councils to let entrepreneurs, local groups, volunteers and so on use these empty spaces by brokering a deal between the landlords and the potential tenants, where the tenants have to leave as soon as a long term tenant appears.The councils have the contact details of the landlords, as these are the ones that would have to pay the business rates, when the property is empty, after a certain time.

Business rates need to be brought back to zero for these temporary tenants, for 6 months, after that time, they should have enough idea of whether the business is sustainable or not.

2/ People

There are now several people that unhappily have no work but would be willing to learn and to work but how can small businesses employ them, when keeping the business sustainable and cashflow healthy in these times is a balancing act in itself? Why not match these people and their talents and desires to apprenticeships, or job roles that suit them and they still get paid unemployment benefit or the business receives funding directly for this job creation, the small business doesn't have to pay but the person that's looking for work with be contributing to a small, local business and in turn, helping to regenerate the local economy.

There are apprenticeship schemes at the moment but they mainly target young school leavers, rather than unemployed people, also the business is not given the money directly and has to wait for it to be paid to them after laying it out.


Come on! It's obvious, if the parking charges are so high and people can't just park for half an hour, pop in and buy something, then people are not going to use the shops in the town centre. Parking charges have to go completely, or the charges must be very much reduced, what about 20p for each 30 minutes.

If people spend their money on the parking they can't spend it in the shop. Parking costs more than a coffee these days, how rubbish is that for a business like mine!

4/ VAT

The tax for the end user. My business is not the end user but still has to pay large amounts of VAT, as our turnover is not high enough to register, not paying the VAT on their rent would be an amazing help for small businesses like ours. No one wants the extra time and hassle in registering to be a VAT business if they don't have to and people need to be encouraged to spend, the public need to have more pennies in their pockets. I've heard about the concept of helicopter money, where lots of extra money is printed up and then thrown out of a helicopter but then the value goes down and you can buy less with it because there is more about. So instead of helicopter money, why not slash the VAT back to 10% or maybe even 5%, reward those in business by giving them bigger margins to play with and reward those that are still spending, by making things more affordable! If less people are buying because the VAT makes it too expensive, then bringing the VAT right down, should increase sells and reverse the trend to stagnate.

5/ CashFlow

3 month credit terms need to be made illegal. All small businesses must legally be paid within 14 days if they agree to giving credit. No large businesses should ever be able to get away with waiting 3 months before paying and this includes councils.

More From Me:

Whatever the budget brings, I'm sure that with our optimistic way of looking at things we will see the positive in any perceived negative and whatever happens on Wednesday we will continue in our campaign to help small, local, independent businesses not just to survive but to thrive!

#IFE13 Show Highlights for an Independent Coffee and Healthfood shop owner!

My 5 Top Products at The International Food and Drink Event at the Excel Centre, 2013.

The five following products are the ones that interested me the most at the show and I'd be very pleased and proud to stock them in my shop. Discovering the products is only half the journey though, as a small independent company we have to work together with the producer and our wholesalers, to see if we can get the product delivered in the small batches we require, as we have the minimum of display space and we need to keep our cashflow healthy and our business sustainable.

Top 5 Products

1/Quinotto by Urcupac. Stand N3555a
Did you know that 2013 has been declared International Year of Quinoa by the UN? And quite rightly so, quinoa is a fantastic replacement food for those carbohydrate laden foods such as rice, pasta and potatoes. The product is pre-washed, which makes it more convenient than usual and the range of different mixes uses only natural ingredients with out an e-number, flavour enhancer, or yeast additive in sight.
At the stand, I tasted a most delicious mushroom style one and it was so delicious I really did want to grab the whole terracotta bowl and eat it all by myself!
I want to stock this product in the retail/healthfood section of my shop, as I believe it is a convenient, easy way to enjoy a food that is extremely good for celiacs, diabetics and healthy eating addicts.

2/ tingz by Peppersmith. Stand N1465 
An innovative, new product that has won the show's award for Best New Confectionary/Snack.
The Award Winning Peppersmith, N1465
Personally, I don't believe in selling sweets, a bit of licorice is ok but I just cannot bring myself to stock pure sugar confectionary. Perhaps it's because my Dad was a Dentist, perhaps it's because I have a great sense of responsibility for our customers. On a personal level, I think sweets are nasty things that should never be given to children, especially not mine, however, I have just allowed my two children to nosh their way through these. The marketing leaflet tells me, 'Seriously good for teeth.' So that's one concern out of the way. They are actually seriously tasty too and I stood talking at the stand for ages, just so that I could keep popping these Strawberry and Vanilla flavoured delights into my mouth. There's also an Orange and Mandarin flavour too.

The presentation box is eye-catching and the two monster characters, one of which is named Floyd are very endearing. I reckon adults and children will enjoy this product, I'm so confident about this, I took the unusual step of ordering some for the shop, right away.

3/ Dark Chocolate with Clove by Zaabär. Stand N3440c
What a beautifully presented stand, with tastefully wrapped slabs of chocolate in a pearly, grey packet, with a name label wrapped around the middle. The unique thing about this product is an exceptionally long shelf life, due to the special foil wrapping and the amazing range of flavours, in their purest form. In front of each row of wrapped chocolate bars are cute silver tins, with chunks of the chocolate inside and silver tongs by the side, with which to take a sample. Some examples of the unusual combinations were dark chocolate with Lavender, or with Thyme, or even with licorice. What I enjoyed was the simplicity of balancing the taste of one herb with the extraordinary taste of the beautifully made Belgium chocolate.
Dark Chocolate with Clove and lots of tasters to try, Zaabar, Stand N3440c

Going to that stand and being allowed to sample all those delicious chunks of flavours was the stuff dreams are made of, in fact, when I'm an old lady in a rocking chair looking back on my life, that's one of the experiences I shall live and relive again.

It's very unusual to taste a chocolate that successfully combines a winter spice flavour, it always, always sounds better than it tastes, however, the Dark Chocolate with Clove that I discovered on this stand really, really worked. So scrummingly spicy, so much so, that my cheeks blushed, mixed in my mouth with the bitter, earthy notes of the chocolate. My tastebuds couldn't believe the way the flavours interplayed with each other on my tongue, the sweet, the bitter, the texture all intermingling to produce something as close to an orgasm, as you can get standing in an exhibition hall, in public!

I do apologise to the stand owners, if you run out of the Dark Chocolate with Clove, I did sample much more than my fair share.

I believe the only way they could encourage me to go away was to give me my own bar to take home.
I would like to place a small order of this product, I know it's not the massive order of their dreams but I know that where the independents lead, the others will follow.

4/ Coco Mojo by Coco Mojo Ltd. Stand N1606
This is exactly what I mean about functional food. It's actually a drink but it's so full of good stuff that you'd be foolish not to drink it. Between you and I, I absolutely hate the taste and smell of coconuts, so when they offered me a taste of this drink at their stand, I had imaginations of not being able to swallow it and having nowhere to spit it out, I could just imagine the look on my face putting anyone passing by off visiting the stand entirely.

Luckily, they gave me a carton to try at home. It's a combination of coconut milk, coconut water, tropical fruits and botanical herbs and it's the best coconut water based drink I have tried so far. It has a creamy, smooth taste, with a herby zing.

I can see this selling well, standing in my fridge by the coconut water that we already stock. It's a real crossover drink that will appeal to both adults and children, with lots of natural energy, hydration and immune-boosting properties.

It's a brand new product just being launched at the IFE Show now, when it becomes available, we hope to be one of the first stockists.

5/ Dark Chocolate covered Golden Berries by Pacari Chocolate. Stand N3555
Beautifully packaged in a cute box, which protects the product and makes it a great little gift too.
The covering chocolate is dark and hard as you bite into it, cracking open to reveal a sweet and sharp tasting, chewy centre, which is actually the very nutritious, Golden Berry.

A really unusual tasting product, which I feel would fit well on our shelves and I hope to be able to arrange a small order.

Best Stand Display

Honeybuns' beautiful stand N1113

Honeybuns Stand N1113
This stand is so beautifully presented with teapots hanging across and wooden spoons and retro styled packaging and the cutest little string of bunting I've ever seen. The Director works closely with her brother's coffee shop, to see what point of sale is effective and uses that knowledge to develop excellent point of sale support for their customers. Their stand is visual proof that it works, it's absolutely gorgeous and supports their brand of homebaked, gluten-free cakes, with no compromise on taste. We already stock one of their products but having seen the strength of their point of sale material, are thinking of stocking a few more of their lines. Their Brownies are particularly delectable.

Best Stand

Olives Et Al. Stand N1319
I'd love to stock olives in our shop, as a snack but we just don't have the room for a great selection of olives for people to try and then buy. Maybe we need to get an olive shop in the future! But in the meantime, on a personal level, I love this stand.

They are generous with the tastings and allow you to help yourself with no pressure, which is great for building up the product presence at the show and developing a relationship with potential purchasers, even if as a member of the public, rather than a professional stocking up. I was honest with the ladies on the stand and said I wouldn't be able to stock their product but on a personal level, I think they do the best olives ever. I am passionate about olives and can rarely be friends with someone that does not also enjoy the taste of olives. I think people that enjoy olives are often eccentric and just my kind of people. So, this of course was my top, personal favourite stall of the show. Those smooth, shiny olives, so gorgeously good for me and full of protein. My top tastes from this stand were the shiny little black ones from Australia with a sweet raisin taste and fleshy meat, the bright green ones, nutty and buttery flavour and then the little sun blushed cherry tomatoes, sweet, juicy and a slightly sharp, clean after taste.

Olives Et Al at Stand N1319

If you visited The International Food and Drink Event 2013, please let me know your highlights by commenting here. If you're going to the show, or exhibiting at the show, ENJOY! xxx