Flat Caps Coffee: 2 (Kickstarter)

I was invited along for a behind the scenes look into a venture from another one of the North East’s individuals. This time, it was Joe Meagher, of Flat Caps Coffee. Joe has owned Flat Caps Coffee for a number of years and wishes to expand to be able to give what customers cannot get at the original due some restrictions, without breaking his brand’s ethos. I had a chat with Joe about his ideas for an expansion and what it could do for Newcastle, and invite you to have a look at his Kickstarter where you can get involved but also receive some fantastic perks in return!

Joe opened Flat Caps Coffee around 6 years ago and is almost completely self taught in his skills and techniques. He’s won countless awards in Barista competitions, usually held in London, representing the North and the North East and seems to be competing in something every time I blink. As well as competing, he’s always experimenting with brands and businesses (local and afar), as well as a couple of side projects (see Lola’s Coffee and Flat Caps Tonic).

As a coffee lover myself, I was interested to see what Joe had in mind when he announced that he was up to something, Joe is already a prominent figure in Newcastle for his contribution to our caffeine intake so I’m sure he was up to something interesting.

Flat Caps Coffee is situated underneath a shop at 13 Ridley Place in the centre of Newcastle. Once you’re there, you’ve found a perfect little hideaway underground right in the city centre but away from the hustle and bustle. A perfect place to sit and work or take a moment to get away from real life (they have wifi though, if you really can’t detach).

The main focus of the shop is the fantastic coffee, they offer a choice of around three different coffees to choose from at any one time which are served in different ways; from filter to frothy. It’s not at all intimidating for ‘lay people’ and is instead a ‘coffee experience’ for everyone. They don’t drown you in terminology (although, you should visit the Syphon) and Joe is more than happy to share his knowledge. The great thing about Joe and Flat Caps Coffee is the transparency about the progress and product, resulting in this Kickstarter campaign.

That being said, with the location that Flat Caps means that Joe has to be really restrictive on his ideas for the brand and expanding into other projects around fantastic coffee. He’s mainly restricted by the lack of control regarding opening times, as he can only open when the shop upstairs is open, and no outside space to offer a place for guests to sit on hot days.

More space for his dedicated customers to enjoy a hot drink, a space to hold events (coffee or non-coffee related), such as talks or classes could also be beneficial for the wider community of coffee lovers. Joe’s visions also extend to coffee festivals or tours, hosting competitions and inviting other connoisseurs from all over to visit our fantastic city – coffee tourism, if you please. When chatting to him, I could see he is very careful not to lose his ethos or take anything away from the original shop, instead expanding it into, someday, a place to put Newcastle on the map.

Joe has started a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the possibility of a second shop to offer things to customers that he can’t provide in the original shop. As his visions are more for a community; a place to hold events and talks, and to bring people up from the UK and wider, then I think a Kickstarter is a fantastic idea. The idea of being transparent in his expansion plans can be exciting and scary at the same time; it’s laying everything out but also inviting everybody to come together to share ideas.

Be a backer for the Kickstarter here and choose from some fantastic perks when you pledge:

£1 or more: For every £1 you pledge you’ll receive £2 in Flat Cap money to spend on coffee
£10 or more: Receive Flat Cap’s infamous Christmas card
£15 or more: Receive a personalised copy of the Northern Coffee Guide
£20 or more: Receive a personalised copy of the Newcastle Cook Book. – I went for this one!
£35 or more: Attend a Flat Caps Latte Art class
£35 or more: A Sensory Coffee Experience, a class on tasting the subtle flavours of different coffee
£50 or more: Name a table in the new Flat Cap’s shop
£50 or more: Name on the wall at the new Flat Cap’s shop
£75 or more: A home brewing class
£75 or more: An invite to the opening launch party at the new Flat Cap’s coffee shop
£100 or more: Basic Barista Skill Course
£150 or more: Intermediate Barista Skills Course
£200 or more: One on One master barista course with Joe
£500 or more: One year membership offering you free coffee for a year, VIP invitation to the launch party and more perks
£1,000 or more: Two years membership offering you free coffee for two years, VIP invitation to the launch party and more perks
£1,500 or more: Three year membership offering you free coffee for three years, VIP invitation to the launch party and more perks

Decaf Espresso Martini | #KatiesTakiBar

Happy Cinco de Mayo everybody! It’s been too long since introducing my Taki Bar to you before actually creating something with it to share with you on here. Things have been quite manic, and will be for the next couple of weeks. I actually have no tequila in my home bar at present, but I do have Kahlúa, a Mexican coffee liqueur. Bad timing though as I wondered whether DECAF Espresso Martinis would be possible (and easy) to make*. I’m removing the one Mexican ingredient, however: Kahlúa, and creating my own decaf coffee liqueur. If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and with the added energy from the caffeine, just swap the homemade decaf coffee liqueur back to the standard Kahlúa.

*The fact we have a blog post on it, means this is really easy to make.

I was inspired by Carly and Leon‘s laughing fit where Leon had managed to kid Carly into thinking she was having decaf espresso martinis all night. I was originally sitting there laughing along with them at Carly finding out, on camera, that “They don’t do espresso martinis!”. I was sure that making your own decaf espresso martinis shouldn’t be too hard, as the only thing caffeinated ingredient in them is the Kahlúa, espresso and coffee bean garnish (if any). Therefore, we need to make a new decaf coffee liqueur and think of an inventive decaf garnish. It’s super easy to make, but just takes 4 weeks to rest. I’m going to say now, that even though you’re not going to “still be wired at 11am” as with a typical espresso martini, expect a sugar-rush, these (as with most alcohol) are still FULL of sugar! You’re allowed a treat though, right?

Funnelled into a Kilner clip-top bottle, with a rustic brown tag and tied in a raffia bow, it could make a perfect present!

To Make the Decaf Coffee Liqueur

500ml water
150g white sugar
150g demerara sugar (or just 300g of sugar, I thought I’d be fancy)
3-4 tbsp instant decaf coffee (depending on how strong you would like it)*
200ml Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum (or any other dark rum)
Vanilla extract/1 x vanilla pod

*Quantities may be slightly different for freshly ground coffee.

Put the water, sugar(s) and coffee into a pan and bring to the boil, simmer for about 15 minutes. Do not add the rum until the mixture has cooled, as the alcohol has a lower boil temperature than water. Add the rum and the vanilla or vanilla pod and stir once cool and decant into an airtight bottle. Leave to rest for 2-4 weeks before serving (it’s the kind of thing that gets better with age), occasionally giving it a shake/stir/mix. If you’ve used a vanilla pod, remove after no more than 4 weeks.

Bottle it up and label. If you’re going to be making a lot of liqueurs or syrups, it’s a good idea to label what you’ve made!

To Make the Decaf Espresso Martini

50ml vodka (I’ve used 7 times distilled and filtered Lithuanian Vodka)
35ml homemade decaf coffee liqueur (Made using the recipe above)
25ml cold decaf espresso

Fill your martini glass with ice to chill, pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake the crap out of it to make the creme top. I’m expecting a fantastic creme from Carly & Leon as I’m sure they have exceptional upper body strength! Empty the martini glass and pour your cocktail through a strainer. Garnish with decaf coffee dust, hot chocolate, vanilla or Star Anise (pictured).

I’ve had a radio show, I’ve had many blogs before, you could say I’ve had my fingers in many pies. Always wanting to get involved in the goings on of my own community, often, to keep my eyes wide open. One project, in 2013, was //NEMusic. I was in 2nd year at university and sitting in my apartment, bored of listening to the same old pop songs. I’d always been interested in live music and local talent, but for a 19-20 year old 2nd year student living away from home, I was completely in the dark as to what the North East had to offer.

I started //NE Music on a whim one evening, probably procrastinating, with no prior knowledge about the local music scene other than a few mates in bands. Once I had delved into it, I was overwhelmed at the hordes of talent coming through to my mailbox everyday. I was also lucky enough to start //NE Music at a similar time that Helen Armstrong was starting @NorthEastHour. I have a post on it here, however it was such an amazing way to network with other businesses. That’s where I found the Digital Youth Enterprise, and I became their first guinea pig. (I don’t think they’re running any more, either!)

I hosted a successful gig, promoting 3 local bands, and am still in touch with many of them (even if they’re no longer in a band anymore) and can call many of them my friends. Truth is, //NE Music didn’t fail. The opposite, in fact, I returned back to university after Christmas to enter my second semester of my second year (which is an absolute bitch of a term) and I got so overwhelmed at how quickly it grew. I had to make a decision to hold back a little as I needed to focus on my degree, other people had a lot more time (and money) than me to put behind promoting bands. It never meant that I stepped away from supporting them from a personal standpoint, though!

I didn’t want to just promote bands, nor review them (what gives me the right?!), so I was at a loose end. I still am a little bit, I have my long term plan but I’m not quite ready to announce that yet (and won’t for a while, it’ll be worth it though!). In the meantime, //NE Music has teamed up to create //NE Music & Film. We’re returning, but in a much smaller capacity (for now) than last time.

Are you in a band? Introduce yourselves: here

Old School.

The part of the site for //NEMusic isn’t quite ready yet, but we’re already all over Facebook and Twitter! I would really appreciate if you could give us a like and a follow! Also, as we’re seriously reminiscing now, see below for an interview I did almost three years ago, highlighting my big plans for //NE Music (the first time round). NOTE the websites and social media (and the monthly nights) don’t exist anymore!


East Asian Staple Ingredients

I love Thai and East Asian food and it’s really really easy to cook. I was asked recently a few months ago what you should get in (fresh, herbs and cupboard) for when you’re first starting out experimenting with Thai cooking. Then a few months later, I decided that it would make a very informative and colourful blog post to create a shopping list of east asian staple ingredients that you can get! I hope it inspires a few of you into experimental cooking with healthy and tasty ingredients. See below for a Thai Red Prawn recipe with many of these ingredients that I have used for years, first established from good old Jamie.


Fresh Ingredients

Fresh Ingredients

1 – Choy Sum | 2 – Pak Choy | 3 – Fresh Chillies | 4 – Citrus Fruits (Lemons, Limes…)

Choy sum and pak choi are most commonly used in Chinese cuisine but you can get Thai varieties, I often throw them into a stirfry with some oyster sauce. They’re really good in Vitamin C and don’t smell like something has died like regular cabbage! You can throw fresh, red chillies into anything to give it a kick, they really are a good staple to have (and you can use as much or as little as you want). You’ll also find SO many uses for your citrus fruit too, even if you don’t cook with them! Lemon is good for cleaning, and you cant have a rum and coke without lime!

Other fresh ingredients to get: edamame beans (a popular side dish in Japanese izakaya restaurants), eggs (for Pad Thai, or frying with noodles-inspired cooking), morning glory, papaya, mango and/or dragonfruit (you can make an AMAZING papaya salad!). Have a look in your local Chinatown and see if you can find some Gyoza. You can freeze them and use some when you want, but its better than filo pastry for making Sui Mai (My favourite!) and steam in a bamboo steamer.



5 – Controversial Coriander | 6 – Lemongrass | 7 – Ginger | 8 – Kaffir Lime Leaves | 9 – Garlic

Firstly, for those who didn’t quit reading this blog at the sight of coriander, it’s a scientific fact that around 10% of the population have a gene that makes coriander (cilantro) taste like soap. For the other 90%, coriander can be a useful herb to have in the fridge (preferably fresh), you can use it in curries or as a garnish. As you can see I have freeze-dried lemongrass in the photo, I would actually recommend getting it in a paste-form, it would be A LOT easier to cook with. Same goes for ginger, and you can even get cheat garlic and ginger from your local supermarket.

Other herbs and spices to mention would be chives and basil (pictured).



10 – Coconut Milk | 11 – Oyster Sauce | 12 Nam Pla (Fish Sauce) | 13 – Soy Sauce | 14 – Coconut Oil

It may seem like a lot, but often you can create your own marinades or flavours combining a couple of proportionate tablespoons of some of these together (including hoisin sauce!). Coconut oil is, as I’m sure you’re already aware, a healthy alternative and an anti carcinogenic. You can also get sesame oil in the cupboard too as sesame is also a commonly-used staple flavour.

Other things to get: peanuts (for Pad Thai)

Try this recipe!


a load of prawns, as many as you want

2 stalks of lemongrass (or a couple of dollops, I dunno, two tsp?)

2 cloves of garlic (or a few flicks of Lazy Garlic)

Kaffir lime leaves

handful of fresh coriander (unless you think it’s the devil)

tomato puree

red pepper

1 tbsp Nam Pla (that’s fish sauce)

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

A wee bit of ginger (tsp of the lazy stuff?)

tin of coconut milk

a lime

a fresh red chilli, or two, or three. whatever tickles your pickle throat


Bash the lemongrass, ginger and garlic and chop the chilli and peppers and whack it in your food processor with your kaffir lime leaves, coriander, tomato puree, nam pla, soy sauce and sesame oil. Whizz it up to an almost-liquid consistency, if you struggle, put a bit of the coconut milk in with it*. Cook your prawns in a wok (with whatever other greens you fancy – sugar snap peas?) with a little bit of your curry paste. Once cooked, throw in the rest of your masterpiece with the coconut milk and simmer.


*tasting the thai red curry at this point is pretty rank, it’s stone cold.

A Loyalty Card Birthday Freebee Spree

As I am sure you are already aware, it was my birthday last month. I promise, I will stop going on about it after this post. Until next year anyway. I recently went on a shopping spree with the sole intent to see what I could get for being such a loyal customer to… most of the shops on the British high street. Materialistic, perhaps, but also a bit of an experiment. Do loyalty cards really pay off for your birthday? Do these big commercial places really look after you, especially on your birthday, as you do them with your loyal custom?

Space NK

Space.NK emailed on my birthday to say that I had a complimentary NARS Audacious mascara to pick up when I went in store with my email and my N.dulge card or used a unique code given to me on the email on their online store. As I decided to have a day out mooching around the more luxurious shops, I popped in to Space.NK.apothecary and gave them my card.

Instead of the mascara (of which, I had plenty anyway), they gave me the Kiehl’s Iris Extract Activating Essence Treatment (40ml), an anti-ageing liquid concentrate that hydrates the skin to be used in addition to your skin care routine. With LHA and sodium hyaluronate, it exfoliates and smooths the rough texture of skin over time.

As I am no skin expert, I am not entirely sure that this is the perfect product for me, a risk that comes with getting a generate freebie for your birthday.


*Collect within 28 days, no purchase necessary.

The Body Shop

An absolute favourite when it comes to offers and loyalty, although I was left a little confused some months ago when they changed the loyalty card over. The new Body Shop loyalty card is much nicer, no longer scrawled in sharpie but I wasn’t sure why I had two at one point and whether my loyalty from the old card was transferred to the new. That aside, they still honour the £5 to spend “during your birthday month”. As my birthday is 28 March, I was unsure whether this meant prior to my birthday, just the entire month of March or a month after my birthday (my shopping spree was in the first few days of April).

I didn’t really know what I fancied at the Body Shop this time, I seemed well stocked up on my favourites so thought I better treat myself to something I don’t usually buy. I perused the make up counter as I have a lipstick I’ve been using almost every day and picked up another one (colour crush 235) and took it to the till when I learned that they were currently promoting a ‘buy one get one half price on all makeup and skin-care’. Not going to decline on one of their frequent offers (get me every time, they do), I also picked up the Honey Bronze highlighting dome in 01, I never use highlighter and frankly terrified of any kind of cream blush, highlight or bronzer, so thought I would give it a go since I had the voucher.

Both the lipstick and the highlighting dome with the offer and the voucher came to all of £9. Not really going to complain about that.

*Use within 1 month after your birthday, with qualifying purchases only.


Another email popped into my inbox on my birthday from Paperchase, saying they had “credited my card with £5 birthday money”. Not one to turn down free money, I decided to find the tackiest notebook (sorry, paperchase) to act as a cocktail recipe book and guestbook for Katie’s Taki Bar “patrons”.

It wasn’t until I was at the till before I saw a girl with the perfect, miami-vice looking notebook, exactly what I was looking for. The book was also the cheapest, cheaper than my voucher, so I then needed a pen to go with it. They don’t match at all, which I guess is kind of the point. The notebook and the pen cost me all of 25p (30p if you get a bag of course).

*Valid for 2 weeks, will discount from your first shop after your birthday automatically whether you want it or not (I believe).

ASK Italian

I had the email from ASK Italian first, as early as 9 March. This offer was for a £20 spend when you spent £50 dining in the restaurant. When you think about it, this is a very good deal, it could buy a bottle of prosecco to accompany a nice meal or give a decent discount to a group of friends having a nice post-birthday lunch.

That was our plan: 5 ladies and one baby. We headed to our local shopping mall where I am sure it was in the corner, it had also closed down in our local town…

It’s a story anyway, maybe next year!

*Use by the date on email, minimum £50 bill.