The Cotswolds, just like most of the country, is experiencing an influx of independent cafes and coffee shops.
I’m not sure if we’re just looking for something a bit stronger or more exciting than the staple breakfast tea, or whether it is because we’re overworked and in need of a caffeine boost, or maybe it’s because we’re choosing local instead of the big chains?
It could be all of the above, it could be none of them. Regardless, it’s great for a coffee lover like myself to have lots of options to ‘drink’ local.
The crown jewel of this independent coffee ‘revolution’ is very local to me, based in an old pharmacy in the centre of Cheltenham, aptly known as The Coffee Dispensary.
Coffee Dispensary’s owner, Gary Marshall, opened up shop in 2016, providing a new and fresh coffee shop for the people of Cheltenham to enjoy. The good news, is that unlike some venues that suffer from ‘flavour of the week’ and lose trade fast, we all enjoyed this café so much that we keep going back!
They launched with good branding from the start, with a literal twist on the pharmacy icon and playing up the ‘dispensary’ aspect – something that really strikes a cord with my design heart. This flows into the fact they offer certain coffees by the bag to take home, so if you love their house ‘Dr Strangelove’ coffee, or any of the others on offer, you can grab a bag for your home or your office – perfect for those who live or work out of town.
The coffee beans come from the also independent Extract Coffee Roasters in Bristol. The ‘Dr Strangelove’ variety is single origin El Salvadorian beans, with almond, mulberry and cocoa flavours. There’s sweetness there too, making it an easy drinking brew for those who prefer it sans milk or extras, like myself. They also have 2 more house blends to try, with even more for takeaway bags.
Something that I truly appreciate, is that the café does not offer multiple large sizes in the high-street sense, that bloat the prices and encourage over indulgence in sugar. No grande or venti, or tall or small. Only one main size of coffee, accompanied by the ‘proper’ coffee short drinks such as espresso, ristretto and lungo.
The café also has a range of other hot drinks, ranging from truly creamy hot chocolates to a range of unusual chai lattes, including the fruity and warming turmeric chai – this seemed like an odd drink to me, but having tried some I was pleasantly surprised!
They offer a range of gifts and takeaway goodies too, with various brewing equipment on offer, as well as cold brewed coffee and chai from local producers.
They have no official kitchen on premises, so instead they bring in a small range of sandwiches, as well as a large selection of sweet treats on the counter. They have cakes sourced locally from Hetty’s Tea Party in Gloucester, accompanied by pastries from Salt Bakehouse in Stonehouse – who also supply the bread for The Sandwich Box!
I’ve had quite a few weekday business meetings in the café, as the atmosphere is always friendly while being stylish too - it’s ideal for it really, especially with the large range of drinks on offer to suit anyone.
However, they also operate a ‘no laptops on weekends’ rule, so it isn’t taken up by obnoxious people like me writing articles or someone working on their next-hit screenplay, meaning everybody gets a chance to enjoy the café on the busier days. This creates a lovely weekend atmosphere, of friends catching up, families walking their dogs in the town (super dog-friendly café, which is amazing), and even couples on coffee dates.
The friendly nature of their team, their brilliant selection of drinks and the café’s wonderfully cool ambiance make it a must visit for me. Next time you’re shopping, working in or just visiting the town centre, why not pop in to The Coffee Dispensary instead of a high-street chain? It’s 100% worth it.