Sweet Hot Chocolate, Perfect Bean Coffee & Happy Swimming Memories

I remember as a school kid going to Belper Street Baths in Blackburn, getting showered and changed as quickly as we could, then racing up the changing room corridor clutching soggy towels to the poolside cafeteria for treats and drinks after our school swim. If you didn’t get there fast, all the best stuff like the Highland Toffee would be gone. I was a speedy kid and never missed getting a bar 😉

Belper Street Baths
Belper Street Baths, Blackburn

The other month, someone Facebook posted a 1980’s photo of our gang outside Belper St, wet hair, big grins and the epitome of what public baths should be – kids running riot in the holidays, burning energy and spending all their cash on tosh.

Kids Outside Belper Street baths, Blackburn
My gang in the 80’s

Hundreds of kids swim every month at Withy Baths and the idea of them gulping down a delicious hot chocolate after a swim on a cold day is just brilliant, adding new memory flavours into the recipe of recollections you savour when you’re older. It’s not just about the size of the pool and modernity of the facilities, which is something councils miss the point of in their race to close down historic pools all over the country. It’s about the heritage, the whole experience, the soul of the swim. Stuff you can’t recreate in a steel and glass box.Gorgeous Coffee Stop in Heritage Baths

A lot of time & effort has gone into creating an all new, gorgeous little refreshment area at our heritage Baths and we want our drinks to be of the same high standards, to offer our kids, gym & swim members, swimming lesson parents, visitors and baby massage mums a great coffee / hot chocolate drinking experience.

The latter certainly deserve it, this little lot of bouncing babies who visit us each week are a handful!!

Baby Massage at Withington Baths

So, the first step. When choosing the perfect bean-to-cup coffee machine for your cafe / coffee stop / gym / shop, firstly pick the best person for the job. Preferably a coffee drinker. Unlike me. Yep, a non-coffee drinker researching and choosing the coffee machine might seem an odd choice but at least it ensured plenty of research and a lot of questions asked!

I had seven objectives:

  • A nice looking machine to serve up to 100 cups a day
  • The best tasting bean to cup experience we could afford
  • Several tasty coffee options plus amazing hot chocolate
  • A charge of no more than £1.50 per cup to our members & visitors
  • Reliability & consistency of product and service from the supplier
  • Priced around the £1000 mark
  • Coin operation mechanism, with change given, as our coffee stop isn’t always manned

That was a lot of boxes to tick for one little machine and sometimes you need a bit of luck to help you along….

Although I don’t drink coffee, I’m partial to a hot chocolate, the stronger the better. If the spoon actually stands up on it’s own, I’m in. If you’ve ever stood on the touchline of a cold Sunday juniors football pitch, fingers numb and teeth chattering, a good hot chocolate can mean the difference between seeing that crucial goal and retreating to the car with the papers. My best & most memorable was from a little garage in Manchester, well priced, not watery like many vended chocolate drinks, sweet, thick and creamy. I figured that if their hot chocolate was that good, their coffee must be a similar standard, right?2015-08-28_0005I headed back to the garage on a recce and found the machine was made by Tchibo, a German company with great online reviews of their machines and coffees. Their rep Tim came out and I was really impressed by his knowledge and up front way of dealing with our requests. Pretty much all the above requirements were ticked by their budget end Cof-Fino machine, pictured below. Black & white coffee, expresso, cappuccino, caffe mocha, latte and hot chocolate, plus hot water for teas – seriously, when all there’d ever been at Withy Baths were instant granules, this was FANCY 🙂

Tchibo CofFino

There are way fancier machines on the market of course. I looked at several but there is a big jump up in price to nearer the £2000 mark, and then a leap to £4000 for something deluxe, which we just didn’t need. Lots of people locally gave advice & opinions on taste of coffees at venues, bars and restaurants close by. It’s a great idea to ask other local venue owners which machines & coffees they chose and why. I got some interesting feedback which put me right off one supplier and if you don’t ask around, you won’t get this type of invaluable help. For our budget and for what we needed, the Cof-Fino is the perfect choice.

Taste is everything and they have various beans available, like other suppliers, with lots of options. Their prices were actually a bit lower than other companies I looked at, plus cup & lid prices were better too. We’ve gone for a caramelised bean for a smooth flavour and our machine arrives next week. Plus, the branding of their blue & gold cups even compliments our Love Withington Baths style so the designer in me is very happy about that.

So, as we try and create new and fabulous memories in our wonderful Baths, this little coffee machine which has ticked all the right boxes will help us along the way!  Come see us and have a drink in our new Coffee Stop soon x

Withington Baths Coffee Stop
With Baths Coffee Stop

Thanks for imagery to:

Lancashire Evening Telegraph: http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/11522318.Reality_of_life_in_the_coal_mines_brought_into_focus/

Blackburn Past : http://www.blackburnpast.com/2010/05/corporation-baths-belper-street.html

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