Yesterdays market day was a day about Bread. Bread and Calvados (and coffee of course). Over the past 2 years of running my little stall at the Exeter Farmers Market I’ve got to know a fair number of regular market goers, some of whom stop for a coffee and a chat as part of their weekly local shop of fresh produce. Since stopping paid barista work to start my own roasting business this has been my one and only brewing day and chance to have that social interaction with customers that (most of the time) makes barista work fun and enjoyable.
One of the main benefits of being a market trader is of course the ‘exchange’ system amongst us. My regular fix on a Thursday is to swap a coffee for a Pastel De Nata (Portuguese custard tart) from the folk at The Almond Thief from Dartington near Totnes. Wednesday they announced that they wouldn’t be attending the market this week and I along with I’m sure numerous regular Thursday market goers were left wanting. I wanted my tart. Not only did I want my tart but I wanted my new favourite loaf of bread. Until 3 weeks ago I’d described their sprouting rye sourdough as possibly the best bread in the world. That changed by chance when my market neighbour (let’s call her Annie for the sake of argument) decided 3 weeks ago that she didn’t want her special order White Buttermilk sourdough tin-loaf and offered it to me. It’s become my new favourite and is definitely the best toasting white bread in the world.
After the initial shock had subsided that I wasn’t going to get either the tart or the bread I got on with the job at hand and served coffee in the best way possible. One of my regulars (let’s call him Julian for arguments sake) came along looking extremely pissed off and simply asked “where are they ?, couldn’t be bothered today or just late as usual ?” You get it Julian was a little miffed and so we discussed at length exactly how good their white buttermilk soughdour tin-loaf was and that a week without it was a disaster. Julian had his usual Flat White and off he trundled in a hump (he does a great impression of a grumpy bastard but he and I both know it’s a charade). I got on with serving coffee and thought nothing more of it.
Another regular (let’s call him Tom), is someone I first met on one of the Sunday club runs when wifey and I first moved back from Australia. Former competitive rower and pretty handy on the bike. Everything 100% including his recent passion for baking ! For the last 3 months or so he’s been working his way through Sourdough bread recipes and most weeks he brings me in one of his fantastic loaves in exchange for coffee. This weeks was a 70/30 wholemeal/white sourdough and given the lack of Almond Thief goodies I was understandably pleased.
Then there’s the other Tom, another grumpy old bastard, old-school coffee drinker who hates my coffee. He says he’s been drinking Espresso for 50 years and nothing I have served him in the last 2 has come close to that dark liquorice tobacco smoked syrup he enjoys so much on his trips to France. Every week he comes along and we go through the same routine. I serve him him an espresso. He immediately reaches for 3 sugar sachets, stirs, looks at me and takes a sip. His face squirms and then he tells me how bad it is, or perhaps it’s not quite as bad as last week. All this with a queue of my other customers standing by waiting for their turn. He frustrates me but at the same time I enjoy our sparring. He knows what he likes and appreciates what I’m doing. Last week he paid me a huge compliment and said that if everyone showed the same amount of passion for something that I do with coffee then we would all be richer for it. Then he handed me two small bottles of Calvados ! One bottle for me, the other for a good friend of mine Richard, the two of whom met a few weeks back and compared their Calvados love stories.
A couple of hours passed with me pulling shots for me regulars and selling some retail and I see Julian walking towards me. Smile on his face, brown bag in hand which he offered me. I took it and what should be inside but one of the Almond Thiefs white sourdough buttermilk tin-loaves. He’d driven down to Totnes to buy himself (and me) a loaf.
Now I wouldn’t say this happens every Thursday at the Famers Market but I’m already looking forward to next week.