An adventurer, storyteller and writer with an insatiable curiosity for the fresh, the bizarre, the brilliant. Exploring life in North East England and elsewhere.

Mint Hobo: Candy and Stardust (of the black liquid kind)

Mint Hobo: Candy and Stardust (of the black liquid kind)

It was in the green fields bordering the River Tees that the vision came to Cat. She saw the goat at first, a sprightly creature running up and down the footpath ahead of its owner, chewing vigorously on something red. Following in his heels, there was a cocoa-dusted man wearing a white tunic and trousers, a shepherd’s staff in his hand and mobile phone in the other. Intently searching for something. Chewing. Both chewing. She asked them where they were headed to, upon which they told her they were on a quest to Yarum, the place of fish weirs, floods and wealth, in search of candy and stardust (of the black liquid kind).

We’ve all been there. We’ve all craved the perfect cup of coffee ... at an inconvenient time. A time when the perfect cup was either a) unattainable (and we had to make do with generic, shoddy cups), or b) we had no idea where to look for it. Well, if you happen to be in or around Teesside, you only have to follow the Tees upstream, past Captain Cook’s HM Bark Endeavour, all the way until you spot the majestic stone bridge of Yarm. Somewhere along the cobbled High Street you might spot a gingerbread man: the guardian of the North East’s mecca of coffee.

Mint Hobo located on 30 High Street, Yarm on Tees

Mint Hobo located on 30 High Street, Yarm on Tees

Mint Hobo, a wonderfully aromatic chapter in the life of it owners, Steve and Claire, is one of the reasons why Yarm should be a ‘must-stop’ for all travellers on the north-south route. In fact it is a ‘must-stop’ for anyone who appreciates a well-crafted cup of coffee.

The gingerbread man will lead you to the place of candy and stardust

The gingerbread man will lead you to the place of candy and stardust

But what makes a great cup of coffee?

‘The cup you love,’ according to Steve, one of the most attentive baristas around, and who like any serious artist loves nothing better than the perfection of his art. He will go the extra mile to determine what his customers love, allowing no compromises in the creation and recreation of these individualised cups of coffee.

It is not about having your name written on the cup itself, but about tasting your soul in its contents.

Steve at work: a barista who clearly loves what he does

Steve at work: a barista who clearly loves what he does

During my visit there, Steve took me through the process of producing that stellar cup of espresso. Of the six coffees available that day, I chose the Brazilian and the Ethiopian for my tasting session.

Brazilian and Ethiopian ground coffee beans (can you tell the difference?)

Brazilian and Ethiopian ground coffee beans (can you tell the difference?)

Ancients roots. Advanced technology. Perfection.

Ancients roots. Advanced technology. Perfection.

Black beauties: The Brazilian - a slice of pecan rye toast topped with caramelized rhubarb. The Ethiopian - hints of green tea soaked figs with a touch of cinnamon

Black beauties: The Brazilian - a slice of pecan rye toast topped with caramelized rhubarb. The Ethiopian - hints of green tea soaked figs with a touch of cinnamon

The quest for and deliverance of an impeccable product might be at the heart of this intimate coffee house, but Mint Hobo is not just about the coffee (in all its glorious disguises). It is also about creating a couple of square metres where no one is treated as a stranger — a bubble of home where you’ll be welcomed as an old friend. It is indeed nothing like a coffee shop, it is a coffee house.

And it is perhaps its name that captures the essence of Mint Hobo best. A place meant to refresh you — with uplifting coffee and other treats! — to change the course of your day, your outlook on life and increase your Combat Power in the 2 minutes that it takes to place your order. And above all to provide you with a second home. As Steve says, ‘you are the hobo and we want this to be your home …’

The beginning of a legacy?

The beginning of a legacy?

Mint Hobo uses locally produced organic products. What's on offer? Scones, brownies, teacakes, coffee cake, other cakes (including gluten-free), artisan bread, fruit, eggs...

Mint Hobo uses locally produced organic products. What's on offer? Scones, brownies, teacakes, coffee cake, other cakes (including gluten-free), artisan bread, fruit, eggs...

Truly an exceptional coffee house, using only the freshest single-origin coffee beans — a throwback to the origins of coffee, those authentic cups filled with the work of god and perfected by modern technology, and perhaps reminiscent of those first coffee bars where people from all walks of life mingled, exchanged gossip, discussed politics, wrote poetry and shared their stories over the most popular beverage in the world.

Ordered before. Will order again:

Decaf and blueberry and lemon gluten-free cake

Decaf and blueberry and lemon gluten-free cake

Latte and killer home-crafted biscotti (that put all other biscotti to shame)

Latte and killer home-crafted biscotti (that put all other biscotti to shame)

Bridge Diary 1.1 — Infinity

Bridge Diary 1.1 — Infinity

Part II: Velvoir — Pirates of the Night

Part II: Velvoir — Pirates of the Night