By Julia Klinger
I had the amazing opportunity to do an interview with the British couple who are the owners of The Goat Herder- Espresso Bar near McDaniel College. Corinne and Dave are both ever so friendly and welcoming. Corinne, is originally from Windsor and her husband Dave is from London. They both make a huge effort to create a great vibe in their recently opened Espresso Bar, the success of which can be measured by the great confirmatory feedback from their guests as the coffee shop is always full and buzzing. Indeed, I have tasted some of the goodies they offer: the Prosciutto-Cheddar-Ruccola Wrap, which was delicious and a double shot of cappuccino, which was excellent as well. They both love coffee and Budapest! The following is my conversation with Corinne, conducted while Dave was rushing round and running the show.
How long have you been married to your husband Dave for?
We’ve been together for the past ten years. And we have been married for seven and a half years. Originally from the UK, we’ve lived in Portugal and Australia, and we moved to Budapest last June. We love travelling and recently spent six months backpacking our way overland along the old Silk Road from Shanghai to Venice. We travelled 20,000 km by bus, train and hitchhiking. It was winter and temperatures got down to -25 ˚C, but it was completely amazing.
What is your profession?
I’ve been working with learning and change management software for the last 15 years – working in marketing, sales, partner relations and developing new channels to market. Dave was doing the same, which is how we met. We decided on a change of career, as we wanted to follow our passions…..coffee and food. Opening an espresso bar has always been a dream. So now our profession is “Owner/Manager of The Goat Herder” – so much better!
How did you decide to come to Budapest?
We came to Budapest for a weekend break nine years ago and we really loved it. We came back every so often, built friendships and couldn’t help but notice how much the city was progressing. With each visit we saw a positive difference. We love the architecture and history of the city, but it’s the underlying creativity and culture that most interests us. Budapest has some fascinating characteristics and really interesting people.
Prior to moving to Budapest we had been living in Australia for 4 years. The coffee scene there is incredible – completely inspiring. They focus on both coffee and food in equal measures and have very high standards. The espresso bars are customer focused, energetic and fun.
When we decided to open an espresso bar, it made sense to do so in a growth location. A place where we could make a difference. A place with a relatively young but growing coffee scene. This and our love of Budapest made the decision to move here easy.
So that is how you opened up the coffee shop…
Yes, we moved here in June last year and spent quite a while searching for the right location. A friend of ours has just completed his studies at Szent István University, and recommended we take a look at this area. He was frustrated by the lack of good coffee and food! It was perfect for us.
We wanted to open in a place where we could be part of a community – laugh and joke with our customers, as well as provide a social place where people feel relaxed and happy.
Do you actually speak Hungarian?
No, it’s incredibly difficult. Noemi has written little cards for us with Hungarian phrases and words and I’m supposed to learn one every day, but it’s not going that well. But we will learn it…..one day!
Did you have any difficulties in Hungary?
The bureaucracy is something to get used to. The paperwork is too much. But I have to say, the councils and government departments have all been really nice to us. Quite empathetic of our lack of language skills.
And when did you then open up the coffee shop?
January 12 – just over a month ago.
Did you have any difficulties with finding the right location?
Yes, we spent probably two months walking the streets, walking around figuring out where the right location was. Trying to work out where is the vibe, where should we be.
Why is “The Goat Herder” the name, you chose for your coffee shop?
Because legend has it, that in the ninth century it was a goat herder called Kaldi that discovered coffee. His goats became excited after eating the raw beans. So our name is a tribute to him!
For our Hungarian customers we should probably have the translation of Kecskepásztor written somewhere.
How did you decide upon the products you want to offer?
We offer a combination of our favourite things. We like everything to be as natural as possible, so we make almost everything here, including the hummus, the pesto and the cakes. We make fresh soups every day, plus wraps and sandwiches, fruit salad and bircher muesli.
Do a lot of Hungarians come in to your Espresso Bar?
Probably only 20 percent of our customers are Hungarians. We have a lot of international students. It’s very multicultural, which we really like
What do you enjoy most about your business?
The people. The espresso bar has a great energy, and we really love that. It’s a fun place to be. We have a really great team and we genuinely enjoy coming into work each day
Where have you tasted the best coffee of your life, like ever?
Well, that would be Sydney, an espresso bar just outside our office. They serve fantastic flat whites – they’re addictively good.
Were there any mistakes you made? Any surprises along the way?
On setting up the espresso bar? Not too many. I think it’s hard to source materials in Hungary, and had we have known that, we might have given ourselves a bit more time to get everything right.
How is your café unique?
That’s a tough question. I would say the fact that we pay equal attention to our food as we do our coffee is fairly unique here. Plus we really care about customer service and quality.
Our coffee is single origin from Nicaragua. It’s roasted locally in Budapest and we’re really specific about what we want the taste to be like. Fortunately a perk of the job is “quality control” so we get to taste test!
What is the customer experience you hope to create?
A positive, energetic and fun atmosphere. A place where people can come and have tasty healthy food and great coffee.
If you were a customer at your own coffee shop, what would you order from the menu?
For breakfast I would order Bircher Muesli. My coffee choice would be either a cortado or a flat white. A cortado has an espresso with a little bit of steamed milk – it’s a nice short drink. A flat white has a double shot and is served in a 5oz cup, it has a nice milk to coffee ratio. For lunch, probably the soup – Dave makes amazing soups, full of flavour.
What advice would you give someone, who is about to open a coffee shop on their own?
Be prepared for hard work. It’s important to be involved in everything, to ensure quality and consistency. It’s great fun though – we wouldn’t change it.
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