Baraka: Coffee in the community
If money was no object and you could do anything with your time, what would it be?
By David Skivington
This is something that we all wistfully contemplate from time to time, but for Nick and Linda Castle it was a question they did more than just discuss. They allowed themselves to dream — and dared to take action
For Nick and Linda Castle, the vision was to meaningfully connect people in Garforth — the community they loved. And so Baraka Coffee House was born.
Baraka, meaning “blessing” in Swahili, is a social enterprise that lives up to its name. Nick says: “It’s a coffee house with a difference. Our goal is not only to make great coffee, but to try and help the community thrive. There is so much going on locally, and we wanted to add something different alongside all that is great in our neighbourhood. We wanted to provide somewhere informal with nice coffee for people to chat and share their lives.” What’s more, Baraka donates all it profits back into community life.
The contributions it makes to community life in Garforth are varied and creative, ranging from free English lessons for those to whom English is not a first language, to donating to school galas, raffles and community associations.
The innovative couple also organise a number of annual events. Linda explains: “Every summer we facilitate a few trips, known as Baraka Outdoors. This gives anybody local a chance to come along to something like a family fun afternoon or a kite flying trip, or a walk in the Dales. At Christmas we enjoy hosting a carol singing event. Last year we got a big stage and a local brass band and had a good-old Christmas sing-along. We also open Baraka on Christmas morning, not to make extra cash or because we can’t stop working, but because on Christmas Day, it’s so important to feel part of something. People come in family groups, others pop along on their own, but once through the doors everyone is warmly welcomed and it’s free drinks for all.”
Baraka also aim to make its trade as moral as possible, by using coffee which is ethically sourced and Fair Trade loose-leaf tea. They have planted six trees around Durham to offset the wood used in the coffee houses’ furniture and make sure all packaging is fully recyclable, if not biodegradable: even the paper towels are made from recycled office paper.
Even all the milk is bought from the local milkman, totalling around 25,000 pints a year. Baraka also employs 14 part-time staff and around 20 volunteers. This results in a diverse range of employees, from work-experience pupils to an 80-year-old couple.
"Our goal is not only to make great coffee, but to try and help the community thrive"
Baraka recently celebrated its fourth birthday and has begun to expand: there is now a Baraka Express in the library: it’s a peaceful meeting place, with floor-to-ceiling windows, which gives a great view of Main Street, where people can relax or watch their children in the play area.
This summer was also the first time that Baraka took its delicious drinks and food out and about to local galas and festivals, including the Playground Party during the Garforth Arts Festival. The stall allowed them to show off the Baraka ethos and to offer a friendly, dry place amidst the showers!
Nick and Linda have also taken over the Book Shop and Stationers, sometimes selling the work of local artists and supplying many of the local schools with their resources. However, as Linda says, their desire for growth is not so that they can take over Garforth: “It stems from the importance we place on community and local business. If we can help, we will. The aim is not to make Nick and I rich (it won’t), but to help keep our community alive by thinking creatively about what we can do.”
As this creative thinking continues, hopefully more people may be inspired to ask themselves what they would do with their time if money was no object and they dared to follow their dreams.
40 Main Street, Garforth, Leeds LS25 1AA.
0113 286 3534