In November 2018, a group of TUCO members from across the UK joined together in Manchester for a two-day study tour on all things coffee. The tour aimed to enhance the knowledge and practical skills of those already working with coffee in their day to day roles. The group - made up of delegates from Aberystwyth University, Bishop Grosseteste University, Sheffield University and Leeds College of Music were led on the tour by Bewley’s Head of Coffee and all-round coffee expert Graziano Moroni.

The study tour commenced at TUCO HQ, located in the centre of Manchester with a Cupping Experience Course. Coffee cupping, also known as coffee tasting, is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. It is a professional practice which explores the differences between beans from around the world. This professional technique will help delegates back at their institutions to assess the quality of the beans they use though evaluating coffee bean characteristics.

Understanding basic tastes and characteristics of beans can help you to ascertain where different coffees can be used in certain coffees sold by their institutions. Studying coffee in its basic form also helps to appreciate the finer points. Cupping is a great evaluation tool for those who source coffee beans, giving them confidence in the quality of bean served to customers.

A month on from the Study Tour, Gareth Lowe from Sheffield tells TUCO; “we intend to run a customer 'cupping/tasting' course in the future to engage customers with what coffee is all about. We will probably tie this in with Fairtrade Fortnight or UK Coffee Week as an additional point of engagement and help explain what we do and why with our products.

cup north tour

After a quick lunch and networking opportunity, the group headed onto the busy streets of Manchester for a walking coffee tour. This tour provided delegates with an opportunity to explore the city’s most successful and vibrant coffee shops in order to gain inspiration and ideas to take back to their retail units at their own institutions. Amongst others, the group visited Takk, a coffee house and ‘creative space’ in the Northern Quarter. Takk is inspired by Reykjavik, Idle Hands; a coffee shop focussed on giving customers the coffee experience, and who state that ‘Coffee is great. There’s no excuse for making, serving or drinking bad coffee these days.’ They also visited Federal Café, an Antipodean haven serving an extensive list of hot and iced espresso drinks throughout the year.

One delegate from Bishop Grosseteste University told TUCO: ‘the layout and ambience of some of the shops we visited gave us some ideas for future planning’.

Gareth Lowe from Sheffield University found that one of the highlights of the tour was seeing what else coffee shops offered as part of the overall experience; “Those with a high level of food output alongside great coffee are always interesting to look at and try. [It’s] amazing how many are also offering craft beers and wine alongside coffee and food, turning them into all day social venues which is great for commercial business and fits more with a student lifestyle than a typical 'pub' perhaps.” 

cup north tour

Following the walking tour, the group enjoyed an evening meal at Croma. Dinners always provide great networking opportunities for members to get together and chat about how they run things back at their own institutions. It is often listed by members as one of the most useful parts of TUCO study tours and events as it allows members to share their ideas and success stories with each other. As a delegate from Leeds College of Music told us; ‘The coffee tour was very enjoyable, being able to get multiple ideas to take back to the university while being able to network with other universities you may never get a chance to meet’.

The group spent the night in the heart of Manchester City Centre and just across the road from the TUCO offices, at Motel One Hotel. Motel One is an ideal spot for any TUCO member requiring accommodation for a TUCO meeting or day course, as we hold a corporate contract that can be used by all TUCO members. The contract offers a 100% free cancellation policy and a great price of just £57.50 + VAT per night. (for more details please email [email protected]).

Day 2 of the Study Tour started with a hearty American-Canadian breakfast and second networking opportunity at Moose Coffee, one of the most popular coffee and breakfast hot-spots in the city.

cup north tour

With full bellies and heads full of new-found inspiration from the cupping course and walking tour, the group then headed to Victoria Warehouse to attend Cup North – an independent coffee festival aimed at educating consumers on the value of speciality coffee and other related markets.

cup north tour

During the Cup North Festival, the TUCO group were able to speak to exhibitors, witness competitions at the cupping lab, engage in the #Reusable debate and attend the ‘sensory school’, amongst many of the other themes of the event. Delegates entered the event as a group and eventually split into smaller groups to allow them to explore the areas that they were most interested in.

cup north tour

“Thank you for a great two days. I really enjoyed the experience, and this gave me some useful ideas that will help us develop in the future.”

– Delegate from Bishop Grosseteste University

“Great to meet fellow university operators. Always useful to compare how varied the operations are across different universities.”

– Delegate from University of Sheffield

“My knowledge of coffee was not that great, but I feel now a lot more well informed and be able to take back this knowledge and inform my fellow colleges. There was nothing that I didn't find useful as every opportunity you were learning about coffee or networking.”

– Delegate from Leeds College of Music