Public Speaking: Catalina Gutierrez, coffee expert

‘It makes me feel attached to the things I miss about Colombia, like the warmth of the people’

A passion for roasting: Catalina. Photo: Tom Kihl
When a vast coffee shop and organic food store was first mooted to be opening in the forlorn old Furniture Xpress on Kentish Town Rd, it sounded a touch ambitious.

Thankfully, Natural Food Store silenced sceptics with keenly priced salads, an extensive range of ethical groceries – and serious coffee and cake. We grabbed a chat with the coffee-obsessed manager for the lowdown – in her own words.

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Creamy macchiato. Photo: SE

• I have a passion for every part of the coffee-making process. Back where I’m from in Colombia I’ve spent time roasting beans with the farmers. Now here in London I’m gaining an understanding of how the very last bit of the supply chain works, and I’m finding that English people really care deeply about what they eat and drink. Not just how it tastes, but how it is made.

• It’s important to share my knowledge with the farmers. I return home every year for a month to work back on the farms. I see how the people that produce the product have very little idea what is happening in their industry outside Colombia in terms of the end consumers and money. I hope by bringing this knowledge back to them, we can experiment with new blends and ideas.

• Coffee gives me a connection with home. It makes me feel attached to the things I miss about Colombia, like the warmth of the people and my mum’s soup. But having been here for ten years, I love London as well, and in life you have to compromise.

Efficient and friendly: the staff at Natural. Photo: Piers Hartley

• I came here for an education. I always dreamed of coming to study graphic design at the University of the Arts and to learn English, and I’ve achieved both. Now I work six hours a day serving coffee, then the rest afternoon on freelance design work. It’s a very rewarding and entertaining lifestyle. I get to meet lots of new design clients from the shop, too. I’ve just finished work on branding an organic soap for a customer, so I really look forward to being able to see a product with my design on sale in the store.

• My job is to make sure every single shot is perfect. And for our customer service to match. I may be trained as a graphic designer but I take my coffee very seriously. I used to work at Doppio just across the road, but it’s been great to move here. People really like that we are bringing good organic coffee to the area, freshly roasted from Union every week. We’ve been recruiting recently and bringing in people to train with us to learn about great coffee has become a real pleasure for me too.

Cafe and food store in one. Photo: SE

• This place is full of artists. We have history and architecture students working here at the moment, and plenty more have been trying to get involved. They need time to interact with other people after the long hours of study or creating their studios. It seems just about everyone dreams of running a little community coffee shop, so it’s a popular choice to want to work here.

• We’re keen to push people’s boundaries. In 2017 I want to focus on single origin coffees, which have a lighter roast and a lot of fruit and acidity – they can really change your perspective. We’ve got a new Japanese chef creating salad combinations that will go well with these, and we will offer more filter coffee, too. There’s a massive range of groceries on sale here as we’ve got a lot of space, which not everyone has discovered yet. That includes a big back room to use for future workshops and other events, so there are exciting plans for when I return from my annual trip to Colombia.

Natural Food Store, open daily till 8pm, 136-138 Kentish Town Road NW1

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