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Pilgrims Coffee House & Roastery

With a lifelong love of coffee, the founders originally lived above their shop on Lindisfarne, off the Northumberland coastline. Now they commute to this idyllic Island with life governed by the tides, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Coffee – 100% trial and error

North easterners Andrew and Victoria set up their coffee roastery and café on Holy Island, just off Northumberland in 2006, originally living above the shop and using a ‘tiny little roaster’. 

Now they commute across the causeway from the mainland south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, crossing one of Britain’s loveliest stretches of sea to serve coffee on the island settled by missionary St Aidan in AD635.

‘I always loved coffee,’ explains Andrew, ‘I worked for a while in Australia with a Lebanese guy who was a great barista. Then my mum rang to say this place was for sale.’ Andrew’s parents and grandparents both had shops on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, to give it its full name, and he knew it well. Six months later, he and Victoria got together and set about turning the former bric-a-brac shop into a café.

‘Coffee-wise I was using high-quality Italian-style beans,’ he says, ‘Until I tried speciality coffee in Edinburgh one day, made by Artisan Roast, and it completely changed my mind.’ 

After trying coffee consultants early on he realised it was ‘100% trial and error – there are so many variables, you have to work through it yourself.’

Pilgrims Coffee House & Roastery Pilgrims Coffee House & Roastery
Pilgrims Coffee House & Roastery

Tidal time-table

Meanwhile, they were joined by Becky and Johnny, who help manage the café. Both couples plan around tides and school times to get to work; there’s a futon in the room upstairs, just in case. 

Victoria and Becky produce the delicious home-made cakes, the bread comes from artisan bakers Bread & Roses in Alnwick and they reckon that ‘about half the menu is vegan - not intentionally, just because that’s what we make.’ Andrew’s sister makes fudge just around the corner and his cousin has started a gelato business. 

The tiny roaster is long gone and so is its 1kg replacement (‘I was roasting in the garden shed four days a week, 12 hours at a time’), supplanted by a 10kg Turkish monster. Originally, Andrew was roasting 800 kilos of beans per year. Now they get through 10 tonnes of fair trade, sustainable coffee, roasting in the café’s yurt.

‘Holy Island is really special,’ he says, ‘I’m not exactly local, I wasn’t born here, but I feel I belong. I think a lot of people do. I surf, and I’ll be sitting in the water waiting, just looking at the coast or the horizon - and there’s just no better place, really.’