Maude’s Quality Coffee and Quirky Man Caves in Leeds

Just as Batman has his bat cave, Maude Coffee Roasters have the arches of Leeds. Both unassuming exteriors, which once inside, house something a little unexpected. Ok, so Maude definitely aren’t fighting crime from beneath the rail tracks, (well not that we know of) but they are crafting the base of quality cuppas for an army of coffee connoisseurs.

Without as much as a sign outside, it’s easy to overlook the arches as nothing more than storage spaces. But when one of Maude’s founders, Matt Van Elkan cheerily popped his head out to meet us, it’s safe to say we were soon trying to subtly scoop our chins off the floor as we ogled the space within.

Behind the metal doors is a cross between a science lab, coffee shop and the friend’s flat which everyone ends up hanging out at. Full of interesting pieces of equipment, noises sporadically erupting from machinery and the low rumble of a train occasionally going over-head, the set up seemed like one of the coolest lairs in Leeds.

With so many exciting pieces of equipment, it was hard to stick to the socially accepted rule of look, don’t touch. Instead of running the risk of inadvertently breaking an integral piece of kit, we plumped for asking Matt about the science behind all his tech. However, it turns out that the science of a good roast starts well before the beans even arrive at their door;

“There are a multitude of variables which we have to consider, like where the coffee is grown, what’s within the soil, moisture content, the altitude it’s  grown at, the genetic varietals. There are lots of things at farm level that we take into consideration. Even the rainfall you get within a six week period will reflect on how that coffee is going to taste.”

Once the beans arrive in Leeds, a systematic decision on how to best bring out the beans characteristics needs to be made;

“We consider all the farm factors and make a judgement on what temperature we need to start and end the roast at and how quickly we transfer energy from the roaster to the beans. We want to reveal the true nature of the coffee, without masking it with anything.”

All pretty standard stuff for a roaster so far we guess but it’s when Matt whips out a refractometer to shine lasers through the coffee, the level leaps to another level and Matt admits they probably take a more scientific approach than most.“Every batch of coffee that we roast, we test. We cup the coffee and test it on a sensorial basis but then we also use refractometers and other methods to test things like the solubility.”

From using all these processes together Matt builds up an elaborate web of knowledge about the bean and how it’s goes from a seedling to a coffee cup.

As we sit with Matt for at least an hour, passionately speaking about getting the best coffee, trying new processes and why roasters should work directly with coffee farmers, it’s obvious that we can barely scratched the surface of what goes into this elaborate process in the time we have. But the most intriguing looking piece of kit in the room still hadn’t been mentioned. An imposing piece which looked like a mix between an hour glass and a complex set of test tubes, the contraption was an impressive sculpture in its own right;

“That’s a cold brew dripper.” Matt explains, “They’re made in Taiwan and they slowly drip cold water over coffee over 12/13 hours to make a cold black coffee drink. We tend to test the coffee in that and then we brew it on a larger scale in beer tanks.” Just another string to Maude’s coffee bow, along with training, installing and supplying coffee for a variety of cafes and coffee shops in Leeds and further afield.

Like everything else at Maude, from the processes, to the interior, the age of the talent behind it follows their surprising trend. At only 21 Matt has achieved a lot more than the average Joe and his comrade, Benjamin Peter-George Beagles isn’t much older. This mix of youthful enthusiasm and a mature wealth of knowledge and experience makes for an extremely exciting and innovative business. In all aspects it proves that we should take heed of the age old saying and never judge a book by its cover!


Words: Louise Fletcher

Photography: John Slemensek

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