Street food isn’t an easy business. Nor is street drink. James Armitage made the first coffee on his sweet little Vespa Ape on Magdelen Bridge back in 2012. It was 18 October, he remembers — his father’s birthday. And a day so cold that he had to beg his wife to bring him down a hot water bottle. He dreamt that – one day – Jericho Coffee Traders would trade indoors. This week, James drives his Ape into the warmth of Westgate Social Street Food, with plans for a roaster in the New Year. Time to ditch that hot water bottle once and for all.
New Year is, appropriately enough, a time of change at Westgate Social. We are bringing Jericho Coffee Traders (with their legendary and banana bread) PLUS a rotating offer of Britain’s best street food traders to park up alongside the established operators. We find the best of the talent in the annual British Street Food Awards. We have a long relationship with Oxford. So it’s nice that, in our own small way, we’re about to play a positive part in the city’s food and drink culture. Starting with James and his coffee.
Jericho Coffee Traders are a small, local company. But only because they choose to be small and local. “It means that we can roast the beans in a way that accentuates the flavour of the origin” says James. “Big coffee companies need to churn out quite generic coffee. We can explore different varieties – different terroir. That’s exactly what we will be doing when we bring the Vespa ape to Westgate Social. And we’ve already got some great ideas for a Social house blend.”
When he unveils the new roaster it will only add to the theatre. Taking the Westgate customer from the hessian sacks of beans, arriving at the Social from all four corners of the world, to finished product – the freshest coffee you’ll taste anywhere. “Although you don’t want to brew coffee directly after it’s been roasted” says James. “The beans need six days to rest and de-gas before you grind, otherwise they’re too ‘bright’.” Who knew? James did. That’s why we’ve asked him to join Westgate Social Street Food of course!