Near the bottom of Grove Hill Road, a stone’s throw from the station and a short stroll from both The Grove and Calverley Park, is independent tea and coffee merchant Perk and Pearl.
“I just thought this was the perfect spot”, said owner Joe Lloyd. “And it felt like there was a gap in the market for this sort of thing.”
And what sort of thing is that? There are clues in the name: perk is a colloquial term for a percolator, pearl a type of Asian tea. But though we are dealing in caffeine here, this is not a café and it’s not a shop.
“It’s a shop with seats,” explained Joe.
That might seem like a trivial distinction, but it’s really quite important. Perk and Pearl is all about offering the customer a slightly different experience to those they’ll find in mainstream coffee shops.
Perk and Pearl first opened its doors in 2013, the product of a life-long love.
“I’ve always loved tea and coffee”, said Joe.
“There’s a box of old photos in the attic. In nearly every picture I’ve got a mug of one or the other in my hand.”
This love took Joe to the original Whittard of Chelsea via stints with Laura Ashley and the National Trust. Eventually earning the status of master barista, he set his sights on running his own shop.
Since November 2013, he’s been doing just that, and doing it alone.
From logo to layout, website to decor, Joe is behind it all. He’s also on his own behind the counter, from open to close, six days a week.
“It’s really nice,” he said. “I’ve got to know the customers, some of whom have become friends. And I’ve got to know my business. I’ve learnt so much. If I’d just stuck someone in here behind the counter it wouldn’t be the same.”
The personal touch appears to be paying off. Joe said: “We’ve built up a nice loyal following. And once they’ve discovered us and got to know us, they like to experiment.”
This experimentation is enabled by Joe’s commitment to helping customers find new favourites among the variety of beans and leaves on offer. He encourages visitors to breathe in any and all of the jars that line the shelves, and will brew up a cup of anything anyone wants to try.
The products themselves are all responsibly sourced, explains Joe, so it’s just the caffeine content that might keep a drinker up at night.
Joe imports his beans from India, South America and Vietnam, before sending them to an artisan roaster. This is a weekly process, which ensures the products in the shop are always fresh.
“It’s better to buy little and often with tea and coffee,” as Joe reveals.
But Joe sees Perk and Perl as more than just a seller of tea and coffee. “It’s an experience,” he said.
And like all the best experiences, it’s multi-sensory. The scent of the tea leaves to take a visitor to exotic shores. Coffee to wake the taste buds. Music in the air to set the mood – and a miniature art gallery.
The aptly named, ‘Mind Your Head Gallery’ was the changing room of a women’s clothes shop in a past life. In its latest incarnation, it serves two of Perk and Pearl’s goals: To enrich customers’ experience, and to engage with the community by promoting and support local people.
Previously inhabited by puppets and interactive poems, the gallery is currently home to the work of Daniel Uckfield, a local abstract artist who, suffering with mental health issues, turned to painting as therapy.
As well as hosting local artists, Perk and Pearl also runs events. Joe recently stripped out its carefully assembled contents to make room for Last Word Suppers, a local supper club which champions local people and produce, with a caffeine-based five-course meal. Using ingredients from Mr Lloyd’s store, the courses included gunpowder green-tea smoked duck breast, coffee-brined roast haunch of venison and jasmine-cured mackerel.
Local businesses are also supported on the CommuniTEA notice board by the door, where people are encouraged to advertise and share their ventures and events.
“I think it’s important to be part of everything,” Joe said.
“I try and get involved with local businesses and individuals, and actively promote what they’re doing on social media.
“I’m pretty prolific on Twitter. It really helps me get my message out there. I try to be natural with it. A lot of business profiles are very dry and clearly not run by the people themselves. I try to be me. That’s the main thing.”
Another of Joe’s initiatives is coffee-making workshops. These are available to anyone, hands-on, three-hour sessions with the master barista.
Looking to the future, Joe is focussed on building the brand while retaining its independence.
He said: “When I was creating the store I wanted it to feel like there could be more than just one, while still feeling unique.
“Ultimately, I’d like to have one or two more shops. And to develop a retail product so other places can sell Perk and Pearl.
And while he’s got this far on his own, he admits he may need a little help to go further in future, adding: “I suppose eventually I’ll have to train someone else up!”
HISTORY OF THE COFFEE SHOP
1475 The world’s first coffee shop, Kiva Han, opened in Constantinople. Coffee was so highly prized at this time that a woman could divorce her husband if he didn’t provide her with enough. Served strong, black and unfiltered.
1529 The Turkish army invaded then fled Vienna, leaving bags of coffee beans behind. Franz Georg Kolschitzky recognised their value and founded a coffee house. He introduced the concepts of filtering and of softening the drink with milk and sugar.
1652 The first English coffee house, The Turk’s Head, appeared. It was founded by two Turkish servants, who left the English trader of Turkish goods they worked for to go into business on their own.
- Known in England as ‘penny universities’ because of the cost of a coffee and the upper class demographic they attracted, coffee houses became a business and networking hotspot. They spread throughout Europe and over the Atlantic to America.
- For centuries, coffee houses mainly served standard coffee. This all changed when Achilles Gaggia invented the commercial piston espresso machine in 1946. The modern coffee house was born with the Gaggia coffee bar in Italy.