In the spotlight: Bar Bar Black Sheep

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Who has missed their favourite cup of coffee from their favourite independent coffee shop?

Yes, me too. Before lockdown, we were spoilt for choice in Milton Keynes with so many hidden gems serving great coffee.

I did manage to find the coffee beans my local coffee shop use to brew at home but it’s not quite the same experience. It’s not just the coffee I miss, it’s the interaction with the people there and the atmosphere that comes as an add on to your coffee order. Or is it the other way around?!

So, I have been missing my favourite coffee in my favourite coffee shop during lockdown. It is the coffee served at Bar Bar Black Sheep in Wolverton, just around the corner from where we live.

Helping the community

Bar Bar Black Sheep is a social enterprise which means they give back to their community, with funds being well spent on events, workshops and people in the local area that need it the most. One of many great things that the team at Bar Bar provide is suspended coffees, which supports anyone who needs a cup of coffee. You can purchase a suspended coffee when you order and in turn someone can redeem it when they need it the most. A lovely idea.

Their coffee is ‘caring in a cup’

I tried a cup of coffee at Bar Bar for the first time a few years back when we moved to Wolverton and from the very first sip I was won over.  I have had a lot of coffee since then but, in my opinion, it is the best coffee I have tasted. But where is the coffee from? I asked about the coffee on my second visit to Bar Bar and Danny told me the story about Redemption Roasters.

Redemption Roasters are a one of a kind coffee roaster, being the world’s first behind bars coffee company which operate barista academies for justice sector institutions in the UK.

They were approached by the Ministry of Justice to help tackle re-offending by offering social and expert skills to offenders to help them upon release.

“We already know that prisoners are 50% more likely to re-offend if they leave prison without skills and a job. And we definitely know that in specialty coffee people need exceptional skills.

We don’t just source coffee ethically; our entire roasting and coffee education process is socially impactful. The result is a finely crafted cup of coffee that raises the bar for everyone.” – Redemption Roasters.

This not only resonates with me on a moral level but also on a personal one as the particular blend of coffee that Bar Bar use is from Aylesbury Prison, a place where my local Sunday football team would play twice or even three times a season a few years back.

Lockdown closure

Like all independent coffee shops in Milton Keynes, Bar Bar closed its doors back in March due to lockdown and the uncertainty of normality put a question mark over whether they would ever be able to reopen again.

I caught up with Sian, the Manager at Bar Bar, via email to find out how they are doing and wanted to know what she misses the most about the coffee shop in Wolverton.

“The things I miss are of course the familiar faces. We have many regular customers from all walks of life with whom we have a special relationship with, I think. There have been so many afternoons that I have been able to have some interesting discussions with our customers, even to the point where others enjoying their coffee have also joined in. Sometimes these chats go on all afternoon and that is one of the things I love about our shop, is that people feel comfortable and relaxed enough to open up and discuss interests with strangers.

I also miss our groups and activities, the buzz of people coming together. There are also the basic things I miss, like structure and routine to my day and, of course, the smell of the coffee, making it and drinking it!”

I totally agree Sian! I certainly miss the simplest of social interaction like a ‘hello’ or even a ‘how are you’ whilst having a coffee, especially as someone who often works alone. These basic forms of communications, many of which would have taken for granted a few months ago, will certainly be on a lot of people’s ‘I miss the most’ lists.

Bar Bar Black Sheep is back with a new look!

The wait is finally over as the Government announced that coffee shops can reopen again from 4th July (today). It’s great news for the team at Bar Bar and exciting news for regular customers who have missed the coffee and conversations.

Sian and the team have been very busy the past few weeks as they took on the task of refurbishing the coffee shop. It is still the safe and welcoming environment it was before but with a new look, it’s warm, artistic and just the right amount of quirky.

Here’s a gallery of the new décor and layout…

bar bar black sheep coffee shop milton keynesinside of bar bar black sheep independent coffee shop milton keynesart exhibition at bar bar black sheep coffee shop in wolverton

We wish Sian and the team at Bar Bar all the best for the reopening and look forward to grabbing a coffee in the coming weeks.

Keep up to date with Bar Bar Black Sheep by visiting their website: blacksheepcollective.co.uk or follow them on social media; Facebook: @barbarblacksheepmk and Instagram: @blacksheepbarbar

Becca & Stu