Sharing a coffee at Zoe’s Coffee Shop in Great Dunmow

PUBLISHED: 11:51 11 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:51 11 March 2014

EXG MAR 14 heres

EXG MAR 14 heres


Zoe Brady tells us about an opening week she’d rather forget, the allure of the enchanting market town of Great Dunmow and how her next coffee shop will open on distant shores

Where do you work?

I am the owner of Zoe’s Coffee Shop in Great Dunmow.

What is your earliest coffee memory?

I remember being taken out to dinner to a restaurant by my grandparents. I was only about eight years old and the restaurant was probably a Bernie Inn, but it felt very posh to me at that age. After dinner, my nan and granddad ordered coffee and I said that I wanted a coffee too. Apart from the fact that back in the 1970s coffee didn’t exist like it does today, I didn’t even like coffee. It wasn’t great as an introduction to it.

What was your first ever job and where was it?

My first full-time job was being an office junior for Eagle Star Insurance in the city. I had failed my typing exam at school, but I didn’t let that stop me – hot footing it to the City of London where I was going to make my fortune. I worked for Eagle Star for eight years and progressed from office junior, where my duties included buying ground coffee beans and cigars for the big boss and filing. By the time I left, I had moved up the ladder and worked as a PA for a board member of Eagle Star. So much for my typing teacher, telling me I’d never make a secretary.

What was it about coffee and cakes which excited you enough to make a career out of them?

I have a passion for food. I love cooking and creating, and in particular I love good quality food. I was disappointed that I could never seem to go into a café and have really good food. Just because I’m ordering a cheese and pickle sandwich, why can’t it be an amazing cheese and pickle sandwich? That was what I wanted to change. I didn’t want mediocre coffee, or food, but I didn’t want it to be fine dining all the time either.

If you hadn’t made the coffee shop your business, where would you be now?

My husband is forever reminding me, if I had been smart, I would have opened this business in Barbados not England.

What do you love most about your job?

Two things: the people and the variety. I love meeting people and chatting to them, I like hearing people’s stories and getting to know my regulars, sometimes chatting to people who live on their own and it is their daily treat to come out and have a coffee. Running a coffee shop is a constantly changing job. One minute I’m a waitress serving coffee, another day I’m designing adverts and doing interviews, and on another I’m meeting people to discuss their catering requirements. No two days are the same, which I love.

Who works with you?

I have a fantastic team who I couldn’t do any of this without. Two ladies in the kitchen, Lucy and Grace, help me cook and prepare all the wonderful food we serve on the premises, as well as coming up with new ideas for our menu. Michele looks after front of house and keeps all our customers happy.

What is the most popular item on your menu currently?

Our Scotch eggs are very popular. We make all our food from scratch on the premises, using local producers wherever possible. We are currently making and serving a range of Scotch eggs; from the traditional sausage meat version, to black pudding and also a vegetarian option, made with potato, herbs and cheese.

Tell us a bit about you at home – where do you originally come from and how did you end up here?

I have lived in Essex all my life. I was born in Chigwell and met my husband, Matt, nine years ago when I moved to Brentwood. Dunmow found me really. I fell in love with the town immediately and the shop I found was a hidden gem. It needed a complete refurbishment, but I had a great feeling about it when I walked in.

Coffee shop tales, can you tell us about one you’d rather forget?

Opening week! If we could have filmed it and played it back, it would have been like a rather bad episode of Fawlty Towers. My husband had taken the week off and in my naivety I thought the place could be run with two people.

Can you give us three top tips for great coffee?

Use good quality beans, don’t skimp on paying for the best or you’ll never get good coffee. Secondly, use whole milk for cappuccinos and lattes. And finally, make sure it’s hot.

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