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If someone asked you to name a few things for which Lancaster is renowned, I doubt ‘coffee’ would pop up anywhere on that list. However, in the future, you may well wish to add it, because Lancaster’s very own Priory Hall has recently won the coveted Five Cup accreditation and Best Flat White accolade at the annual Beverage Standards Awards. To put that first award into perspective; out of 211 entries, only eleven outlets received the Five Cup accreditation – as stated on the BSA website, these awards are “the Michelin stars of the hot beverages industry.”
Having already won their first national award with another Five Cup certification of The Music Room (located on Sun Square) and Best Filter Coffee in the UK in 2010, this is clearly a validation of their superiority in coffee making. The management of the company is a family affair. At the reigns stand husband and wife Ian and Sue Steel; however, they have delegated the day-to-day running of their cafés to their two sons, Caspar and Maitland. The Hall, opened in November of 2012 and situated on China Street, brings together the family’s passion for coffee, their penchant for innovation and their drive towards ultimate customer satisfaction.
It also acts, conveniently, as a way of bunching together the various arms of the company, as Priory Hall is adjacent to the coffee shop, which sells 60 variations of coffee and 150 different teas, some of which are on the menu at Priory Hall. Suffice to say, for caffeine lovers this place offers a complete and sumptuous experience.
However, though the coffee and tea combination is evidently something which is very important to this establishment, it is by no means their sole talent. I earnestly encourage any newcomers to try their luxurious hot chocolate, made from 63% cocoa solids, and topped with wonderfully sharp latte art. In addition to this, their baker has ample freedom to experiment, even going so far as to create a delicious Parsnip & Pineapple cake! These concoctions are a brilliant testament to the inventive stream running through all facets of J. Atkinson & Co. They have, of late, also begun serving sandwiches, ensuring both sweet and savoury options are available, and, amazingly, offer a range of beers.
Besides the lure of the delightful food and drink, your attention may be drawn to the films projected onto the wall above the bakery, or the various pieces of information about the coffee dotted around the building – the eagle-eyed of you may also notice QR codes on displays or sacks of coffee, which, if scanned, provide you with an extra bit of knowledge about a particular product. Those of you wishing to do a little more research via social networking sites will be pleased to know that they are on twitter (@coffeehopper), and that each of their three commercial venues in Lancaster has its own Facebook page, just waiting to be liked. They have also ventured to create a J. Atkinson & Co. App.
Having been run by the same family since 1837, the Steel’s accepted a substantial challenge in purchasing J. Atkinson & Co. back in 2005. Ian and Sue have made remarkable progress for a couple who have had no previous experience in the beverage industry. If you haven’t yet sampled the delights of Priory Hall, The Music Room or the J. Atkinson & Co. shop, you’re missing out on a trio of Lancaster gems!