8am: Oat milk latte. Flat white muffin. Artful shot of that hype-worthy cup against the neon sign.
We won’t lie: thinking of our pre-COVID trips to Shoreditch Grind on the way to the office fill us with an almost-embarrassing sense of longing. If we properly examine that feeling though, it comes from a very valid place. It’s less a frivolous wish for a hot bev and a treat and more a desperate yearning for normality.
With the arrival of COVID and the restriction of our work and social lives to the home, that seemingly fleeting element of our day has been revealed as a vital part of our routine. A light-hearted chat with our favourite barista that sets the mood. A chance to quietly mull over the day ahead as the espresso machine roars into life. Call it suspended animation in a pink-hued no-mans-land between domestic demands and a b2b Google Calendar.
Here in London, our daily exercise trips have been an opportunity to keep that soothing ritual going. For those of us who live alone during lockdown, these stop-offs are especially important as a safe source of human connection - and excellent caffeine.
We caught up with Sam, Head of Beverage Training and Development at Grind and to tell us about his coping mechanisms, the importance of normality in a not-so-normal world and what you should be brewing in 2021:
Building a five-minute coffee making ritual into our day has definitely elevated our lockdown mood. Have you established any rituals while WFH and what’s getting you through?
One of the things that have really helped me, all the way back to the OG lockdown, is the combined importance of routine and having a dedicated WFH space. For me, it's about keeping regular going to bed and getting up times, and really making the space I work from home in welcoming. I have always felt there is a real connection between a neat physical space and a neat mental space, and the bonus of separating your WFH space from your space at home. Something I have been getting into recently is 'circadian runs' - running or walking while the sun is rising, which is really easy this time of year as the sunrise is about 8 am. It really helps you come into the day, and I'm going to keep it up as the sunrise gets earlier.
Grind has remained open where possible throughout lockdown, how important was that structure for your team?
In hospitality, we all work really hard because we genuinely love what we do, and we love making people smile. That coffee first thing on a Monday, that cocktail when you really needed it, those perfectly poached eggs - putting a smile on people's faces is of the reasons we love working in this industry. It has been really challenging pivoting how the businesses have been able to be open in line with the ever-changing government regulations, and our number one priority has been to keep the team, and the guests, safe. The ones who are still working are happy to see their regulars, happy to be making coffee. Go and speak to them next time you are in a Grind!
Taking a trip out for coffee is one of the only opportunities for social contact. Have you heard from Grind fans who’ve found it reassuring to see you safely open for business? What role can that touch of ‘normality’ play in our everyday?
What's been really heartwarming about this whole process is seeing our regular customers finding some kind of 'normality' with our at-home ranges, we've had a flood of messages where Grind is getting people through home-schooling their kids, heading to those A&E nightshifts and generally just trying to get by with a bit of normality and routine to this new lifestyle. One thing that's great about people is that we all adapt and are great at growing through what we go through.
How did you keep your close-knit team engaged, motivated, and feeling connected?
Our fabulous team of General Managers take centre stage here, organizing zoom drinks and quizzes, regularly updating the teams on what we are doing as a business, and doing everything they can to ensure the team feels as supported as they can. We have an online e-learning app that we use to teach the team about how to make coffee, how to make cocktails etc, and one of the things I have been busy doing is constantly trying to add content to keep them engaged and stimulated.
If Dalgona coffee was the first lockdown trend in coffee, what do you think should be big in 2021?
Dalgona was fun to make, and really played into the 'hypervisual' trend we saw on social media in the first half of last year, but I am glad its not front and centre anymore, mainly because it was all about using really low-quality coffee (it's Instant Coffee, after all) and it was loaded, and I mean loaded, with sugar.
I think the move toward higher quality, more ethically sourced coffee in the 'at home' section is something we have already seen this year, and something we will continue to see growth. Just look at our fully compatible coffee pods - Great Coffee Doing Good.
And finally, what’s bringing you hope?
'This, too, shall pass' has probably been the phrase I said the most in 2020. I think it really highlights the fact that things will get better, and all we can do is take it day by day. Also, the Jewish folklore of the origin of the phrase, that King Solomon was feeling depressed, got all his wise elders together to help him, and they made him a ring that said 'This, too, shall pass', to look at whenever he was feeling blue, is just great.
What To Do Next:
If you’re lucky enough to have a Grind in your home neighbourhood, mask up and visit for your coffee fix. Remember to say a big ‘thank you’ to their brilliant baristas!
Up your home coffee game with Grind’s compostable pods here. They ship worldwide!
Get your Grind fix with DIY brunch recipes, signboard excellence and competitions over at @grind.
Stay tuned for a Grind prize in our big Blue Monday giveaway coming soon...
Join the conversation over on our HANX Life forum here.