It’s 10:05 a.m at Newcastle’s Quayside Sunday market, and although the market only began five minutes ago, it’s already teeming with potential customers walking past the throng of various food vendors.
After moving past several food stalls, I find the coffee vendor I’m looking for: Nina’s cuppa ‘n’ cakes to go. The “to go” part of the name comes from the fact that Nina isn’t serving coffee out of a regular food tent- she’s serving it out of the back of a van that she and her husband renovated themselves.
Nina's renovated van. She and her husband serve coffee out of the back
The Beginning of Nina's Cuppa 'n' Cakes To Go
Nina’s business began a number of years ago with her baking and creating celebration cakes as a hobby on the weekends. After being at a job that she didn’t love for thirteen years, Nina decided to quit her job and expand her cake business by throwing coffee into the mix.
“That’s how we came up with the idea. Do the coffee, but do it with cakes as well. And I said, ‘they just go hand in hand. If you have a coffee, it’s nice to have a cake with it.’”
Although Nina and her husband only began their traveling coffee van nine months ago, they’ve been able to secure a permanent spot at Newcastle’s Sunday market now. Nina beams as she discusses the number of regulars the van has started to receive.
“We’re getting regulars and they keep coming back. They actually look for us on the market, which is really nice to know. But know that we’ve got a permanent pitch, we’re in one place all the time, where as before we could be down at that end, we could be done at this end, so people would have to look to come for us.”
Nina mentioned that the Quayside market is her favorite venue they’ve worked so far due to its immense popularity within Newcastle and because all the traders stick together.
Each of Nina's minature cakes looks like a handheld piece of art
Learning How To Make Coffee & Expresso While Outside
With Newcastle being located in Northern England, my main question for Nina revolved around how she and her husband handled the unpredicatable weather on the Quayside, especially when it came to serving coffee or expressos.
Since the pair are newer to the coffee culture, she admitted there’s been a bit of a learning curve.
Some of the challenges have included “getting the right extraction times and the humidity can change the coffee.” She continued by saying “it’s a lot more complicated than we first though. We’re just training and that’s it. But we’re getting there, and we’re enjoying it.”
After our interview, I finally got in line to order a latte to quench my own coffee fix. One thing’s for sure- Nina has turned me into yet another regular.