31st May 2019 in Community
If you’re a food-loving coffee drinker and you’ve been in the Cathedral Quarter recently, chances are you’ve had a chat with Juliet Eyles.
Juliet is Head Barista in one of the Cathedral Quarter’s newest coffee shops, Curated Kitchen. It’s been open for just over a year, but this cool and quirky little cafe in Cathedral Buildings on Donegall Street is firmly established as one of the CQ’s hottest spots for coffee and food lovers.
Juliet has been with Curated Kitchen right from the start, working previously in District Coffee on Belfast’s Ormeau Road. She moved from her native Lincoln to Belfast in 2017 with her partner. “He’s from Northern Ireland,” she explains, “It’s the old cliché – I moved for love!”
Her passion for coffee was already firmly in place before she made the move. “I’ve been working within the speciality coffee industry for about four years. It wasn’t something I planned for; I wasn’t a really regular coffee shop goer and then I started working in one and that was where the love for it evolved – from working with the product and understanding how broad the industry is.”
As well as front-of-house, Juliet has also been behind the scenes of the coffee industry, working for a time at a coffee roaster in Lincoln. She agrees that getting to know coffee from bean to cup has informed her work.
“You start to understand what other people are going through in order to create the right cup and it was very interesting, especially how the roast dates affect the taste of the cup. Depending on the coffee, what you find is after it’s been roasted, it might have a certain [flavour] profile but then as it ages, it starts to change.”
This scientific approach led her to work in Curated Kitchen. Although she enjoyed her previous role in Belfast, she said that she was looking for something more closely aligned to her passion and priorities.
“I decided I needed to do something a bit different and more towards what I wanted to be doing – and I found Curated Kitchen! They had lots of similar interests and good cookbooks, plus the different guest roasts.”
Curated Kitchen is well known for the unique approach to menus which inspired its name. It curates its dishes from the best of the world’s cookbooks and every week the menu is taken from a new cookbook.
What you might not know is that the coffee is also curated. The team compiles a carefully-researched shortlist of coffee and every few weeks, they undergo a blind taste test, select the best and this becomes their ‘guest roast’ for the next few weeks.
While ‘locally sourced’ is important, they will look right across the world for coffee, cookbooks and ingredients, the idea being to offer customers the opportunity for as many new and uncommon experiences as possible when it comes to food and coffee. Juliet says she enjoys this opportunity to use her knowledge to communicate with customers when it comes to their daily cup.
“It’s allowing people to explore different types of coffee – that’s very much a conversation we have whenever someone asks for a filter coffee: ‘This is a slightly lighter roast, it could be floral, it could be fruity, are you expecting that? If not, do you want to try it or something else that you might prefer?’ It’s about having these conversations and trying to match the coffee to the customer.”
Apart from a two-day brewing course, Juliet says most of her training has been on the job. As well as honing her latte art skills this way, she has also built up an impressive knowledge of the science of coffee, something that is clearly encouraged and nurtured in Curated Kitchen.
“If we get some coffee with a short roast date, we will keep tasting it each day and make micro adjustments to the espresso accordingly. So, some adjustments would be adding a gram more of coffee, so from 18 to 19 grams, or it might be the volume of water – we might change the brew ratio of coffee to water.
“Those are really small measurements but it does make a difference – we had an event here with Jameson’s Whiskey where I was able to discuss those aspects about coffee with them and we did a tasting session.
“I would pull an espresso that I wouldn’t necessarily serve because it would be too short in time and then I would serve them an espresso that had been too long in time and they could taste the difference. So, it’s all those little changes that you make that make a difference. That was what got me interested whenever I started working in coffee – those little subtleties.”
Other than coffee, Juliet’s key passions include food and her adopted home. After work, she loves nothing more than cracking open a cookbook (more often than not, one liberated from Curated Kitchen’s vast selection!) and trying a new recipe with her boyfriend.
One rather lovely thing about Curated Kitchen is that this is something you can do too, by utilising their Lending Library, a vast collection of all the cookbooks the cafe has used in its 13+ months in business. Juliet explains: “We take your name, a couple of pounds for The Cathedral [Belfast Cathedral] and then you can take a book home, borrow for as long as you like and bring it back. It allows people to take the book home and try the recipe themselves if they have enjoyed the dish.”
When she’s not cooking up a storm or carefully brewing coffee, Juliet likes to spend her downtime enjoying what her new home – particularly the Cathedral Quarter – has to offer.
“[Northern Ireland] is actually a really easy place to fall in love with; there is so much going on.
“I definitely think Curated Kitchen fits in well to the Cathedral Quarter; it is quite a quirky part of town. I really like that I’m working in this part of town because there’s so much more going on here. My walk or my commute home is always a lot nicer when I think that I could possibly stay and go to something, or stop off and meet a friend before going home whereas that wasn’t so much an option on the Ormeau Road.
“It’s meeting for a drink and then that drink turns into a trad session, maybe at the Duke of York – and you’re sitting enjoying live music. I’ve been to the Black Box a few times, been to a couple of arty events my friend has had, including a showing of her illustrations – and I’ve also been to a couple of gigs. The music vibe is huge this end of town.”
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