As part of our forthcoming Best of Bristol’s Coffee Shops feature, we found out more about the ethos and story behind Wise Beans in Stokes Croft. Georgina and her husband Said started their business a year ago, and have learned that when it comes to following your passions, it is often a case of taking an educated risk, and literally learning as you go. With Wise Beans still thriving today, and with big plans for the future, it seemed the wise thing to catch up with Georgina over a coffee…
You’re obviously very much into your organic and ethical produce at Wise Beans — can you tell us a bit about your personal inspirations to open an organic cafe in Stokes Croft?
My husband Said and I founded Wise Beans together, manifesting our shared passion for what we call ‘real’ food. Growing up with flavours a world apart (myself on a farm in East Anglia and Said on a farm in Morocco) we have both been privileged to enjoy fresh, locally grown and seasonal produce, prepared with love by our mothers with their ancestral recipes. Stokes Croft was a natural choice for us. We love how vocal and active Stokes Croft is, as well as its independent enterprise, community spirit, art, live music, and well-being. Wise Beans is about simplicity, honouring the natural ingredients, and being creative. We aim to strip back to the authentic vibrant, earthy flavour. We’re use the best produce, with the most life-force, grown without toxic chemicals, in a way that nourishes the soil instead of damaging it. We want all our food to be free from bad karma and to promote only feelings of satisfaction and well-being, not the opposite. So sweet treats and cakes are really important. The Ayurvedic belief is that the sweet flavour is important for warming the spirit. We try to keep our sweet selection almost sugar free and with options for all diets, so you really can have your cake and eat it!
We are new to the catering industry so Wise Beans is a serious learning adventure. Said has a background in venue and live music management so he really knows how to be on the ball operations-wise. I also have experience in event and design management, and a love for creating harmonious space. I think we both just inherently knew that success would lie in working really hard and being totally focused on the integrity of our vision; which I hope shows and has helped build our loyal customer base.
What makes for a successful cafe/coffee shop? Is it as much about the atmosphere and vibe, as it is about the food and produce?
I think a successful coffee shop has to have the whole package; the vibe and the food. We are out there to really make an impact on somebody’s day. Our hope is for Wise Beans to be an uplifting experience, with flavour and nutrition that is second to none and an atmosphere that you can’t get enough of. Our space is really an outward reflection of the whole food philosophy, and when a cafe is an authentic expression of somebody’s own personal vision it gives it soul. Stokes Croft already has this in abundance and people here are really open to this kind of food and place. Music is a core ingredient, we play what we love and if you like our tunes you can follow Wise Beans on Spotify. Also behind the scenes we are powered by renewable energy, use LED lighting and create very little food waste (all of which is composted, including all our cups, lids and straws).
When I visited a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to sample your raw rocky road – it was delicious. How does your chef find his inspiration and do you use ingredients sourced locally?
Said and our chef Alex are culinary magicians. Alex just has that raw natural foody talent, which coupled with a personal love for wholefood and a background with organic, local and seasonal produce, is everything we hoped for. Everything in the Wise Beans kitchen has either been grown locally or is sourced through an ethical supplier based in or close to Bristol. Our organic milk comes straight from the farm (Bruton Dairy) and our coffee via Ethical Addictions has come the shortest possible route, giving the best possible deal to the growers. The ethics and sustainability of our venture is totally fundamental to everything we do; we simply could not make negative waves in an already chaotic ocean.
Stokes Croft is really central to Bristol’s creative and collaborative spirit – being truly independent at heart. Do you enjoy browsing all that Bristol has to offer when not at Wise Beans?
Stokes Croft really feels like the heart of the city’s strong independent spirit which permeates far and wide. We love to browse St Nicks market but we would really recommend Easton, where there is such a beautiful cultural synergy and some authentic independent food spots.
How does your coffee shop act as a meeting place for people to come and share ideas, or collaborate? Does the space really lend itself to this?
It’s really important to us that the space supports its inhabitants and doesn’t overwhelm or suppress. Space to breathe and move, light to see, somewhere nourishing to the senses. Wise Beans seems to work really well whether you’re working quietly on your laptop, catching up with friends, reading some wisdom from our book collection, or feeding hungry little mouths. Our customers have so much to bring to the table and we’ve always wanted the Wise Beans ethos to be a talking point. We hope to raise awareness of food origins and natural health and to help create change about the way we all live in general; putting ‘real’ food back as a major focal point in everyday life. It’s a really powerful way to bring people together, we are all connected to each other and the earth through food. This connection should be celebrated.
Wise Beans is located in Stokes Croft and is open Monday to Friday 9am – 6pm, and Saturday 10am – 5pm.