OVER A BREW with… ELWIN COFFEE
We spoke with Ben from Elwin Coffee, located in the bustling setting of central London…
This week we spoke to the manager of Paper & Cup – Abby. Paper & Cup are situated in the epicentre of bustling Shoreditch. This unique coffee shop turn boutique charity shop is one of a kind as it works with Spitalfields Crypt Trust, a charity which helps people with drug or alcohol addictions and complex needs to achieve lasting recovery and a more fulfilling life.
Those who work at Paper & Cup are all volunteers, and do amazing work to help up-skill the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society- giving them a platform to develop and learn. The friendly and welcoming atmosphere was a great place for a brew, the coffee was great and the company even better. Enjoy my interview with manager Abby!
‘I started here in September, beforehand I was living in Bristol, after just finishing my degree at Bath Spa in Philosophy and Drama. Whilst I was in Bristol I worked in Body Shop and Ann Summers – so quite different, corporate retail essentially, but I have had previous hospitality experience beforehand and always been into my coffee. Annoyingly my final year was during lockdown which wasn’t the one!
When then got chatting about Bath Spa (as we had both studied there), but I won’t bore you with the details.
My Mum had previously worked for the charity and managed the shop in Hackney Central for a number years. She made it very clear I wasn’t going to be doing nothing after uni so she got me involved initially. I started off with just a couple of shifts during the week, but then I realised how much I enjoyed doing charity work and here we are. I was looking for a job, and was asked to work at Paper & Cup shortly after my interview’
It’s called Spitafields Crypt Trust, we support homelessness and addiction. We have a 16-bed men only rehab and all of the money made from the shops go directly into the rehab. The services it supports are gardening therapy, art therapy, movement therapy, cooking classes, woodwork and literally everything in-between.
The charity was actually founded in 1962, so it’s been knocking about for a while. The shop itself opened purely as a cafe and bookshop, around 10 years ago. After lockdown it was really hard to fund ourselves, so we started to introduce the clothing aspect. When I started working here, it was a bit of struggle getting clothes donated, but after some time it has slowly but surely started to pick up and now we have an amazing collection.
The great thing with it, is that if you’re waiting for a coffee, you can have a look around the shop and what we offer.
Everyone that works here is a volunteer, and those who are enrolled in the charity courses / programme also come over to work. Where the rehab is just across the road, it gives a great opportunity for residents to work. We have a barista training scheme which is great! Some of the residents that we have, have never been in formal work, and where they may have been in prison or in various different situations they’re not even used to being in a professional setting – so it’s a really gentle way of easing them into a professional workplace. It also gives them some great skills that they can take away for any future endeavours, they can get a reference and it works for everyone.
To be honest it’s been great you know, its been absolutely brilliant! We do get quite a few vulnerable people come in asking for coffee, but that’s what we’re here for and we want to help. When the residents come over, they actually help out if there is any trouble.
I feel they have a sense of pride when coming here which is amazing, as a manager it’s amazing to watch those working flourish, because some of them haven’t socialised properly and are really not used to these kind of surroundings. Watching them come out their shell and become more social and confident is great – the best part of the job.
When people do end up going onto their next step, they often come back and check-in and love to let me know how they’re doing and what they’re learning at the time. They even ask to make themselves a coffee, which I’m all for!
We are looking to expand, we’re in conversation with St Hilda’s which we’d like to do some kind of pop-up store with them. They’re going to be getting into coffee as well so it would be great to collaborate. We’re also thinking about setting up a Tea Bar in one of our shops, which has quite a big Asian following. Overall we want to expand the community and make it as inclusive as possible.
I think it definitely has, with our store, as it is a kind-of boutique you get all sorts of people getting involved which I don’t think would have happened 10-15 years ago. The items that we take in and sell has to be representative of Shoreditch. Because of the location we get some great brands in, and that gives us the opportunity to curate everything with the Shoreditch aesthetic. With doing that, we get people in who don’t usually go into charity shops looking for that higher end 2nd hand fashion. It’s worked out really well as it just brings more awareness to the charity and pushes footfall to the shop.
We are working with Three Quarter Coffee which is a local roasters, they roast on Brick Lane which has worked really well. It’s great as it’s so local they literally drop off the coffee on foot, which is really nice and green. We want to be as sustainable as possible which goes from our clothes all the way to our coffee.
Just support your local places. Your Pret’s and Costa’s have such a monopoly and their coffee really isn’t that good, we serve great coffee and support local, important causes!
Words and images by Curtis Connor
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