Over the last few years the UK has fast become a country of keen coffee connoisseurs. Gone are the days when the latte was something drunk exclusively by men in suits over networking brunches – it seems that everyone has an opinion on coffee drinking and a favourite place to get it.
Amongst the aggressively marketed super chains, Leeds has a rising number of independent coffee shops and the king of all of them is Laynes Espresso. Standing on New Station Street, the cafe is in perfect situ for commuters to pick up a cup on their way to work. Much lovelier than that, Laynes is a chilled place to meet, eat and generally hang out. It’s less ‘takeaway’ and more ‘take what you need’ – with a splash of warmth from the plaid-uniformed staff.
With just over a year having passed since they opened their doors, we chatted with ‘bossman’ and understated superstar barista Dave Olejnik (pictured above) about what running Leeds’ most loved coffee shop is like and how a passion became a caffeine-infused career.
Who are you and how did you get here?
I am Dave Olejnik, owner of Laynes Espresso. We opened 14 months ago with just me and Carl. Now we have Rosie and Sam too and we serve coffee, fresh breakfast and lunch and run classes 7 days a week.
For years I was a roadie and guitar tech. One band I worked with were based in Seattle which is renowned for its fantastic coffee. I used to hang out a lot at a coffee place called Bauhaus where the coffee was superb quality and the look was just awesome and I thought ‘I want one of these’. I’d worked for a short time in a coffee shop before so I had some knowledge so when I came back home I made it my mission to open one.
What do you think makes Laynes unique? What do you offer that other coffee shops in Leeds don’t?
When I started this the only coffee places in the centre of Leeds were the large chains really and to me they do not represent good value. At Laynes our idea of good value is about offering great flavour and the best quality. At these chains the idea of value is quantity – it’s like a bit of coffee with a bucket of milk.
For us it’s about keeping things interesting too and consistently delivering high quality products while offering something new. We change our filter coffee every week and our espresso changes every quarter at least, often with a guest espresso thrown in somewhere in between that period. Our focus is on quality rather than profit.
What’s your favourite brew?
Our single shot Piccolo which is 1.60 or whatever filter coffee we have on (2.20 to 3.00). I think the staff favourite we’ve ever had was an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe which was a single origin coffee and a real hit at the shop. My favourite thing to eat is the Grilled Halloumi and Salsa Verde Ciabatta (3.80).
What are your bestsellers?
The Halloumi Ciabatta and in terms of drinks the Flat White – we sell more of those than the lattes and cappuccinos combined!
We also produced a single origin coffee for Record Store Day a few months ago which was sold in the local independent record stores and was a big hit.
We run classes on Sundays – we’re having a bit of a break from those at the moment but they will start up again in August. Depending on the type of class they cost from 20 to 60 and the ‘Home Barista’ class always sells out way in advance.
What have been your most memorable moments since opening?
I think your first customer is always memorable. I didn’t know what to do with myself when our first customer came in so poor Carl had to step up to the plate! I remember as well my Dad managing to pour an entire can of paint on to his head when he was decorating the ceiling before we opened.
I think really the best part of being here is just every day. I do what I want for a living and that is priceless. It makes getting up at 5.30am worthwhile.
So who is Laynes?
My surname is Olejnik which is Polish and 9 times out of 10 will be pronounced incorrectly. It’s pronounced like ‘Olaynik’ but people really struggle with the ‘j’ in the middle. So I took the middle section of my name (the ‘lejn’ bit) that people keep getting wrong and changed it to the more English phonetic spelling… and hence Laynes was born!
What do you think makes Leeds so awesome?
There’s a few pockets of really creative people driving Leeds in a new direction at the moment, all those people coming together is going to make it an incredibly exciting place to live. What makes Leeds awesome is those people that have been working at keeping things interesting and exciting for so many years. Also, LUFC – WACCOE!
Where do you like to hang out in Leeds?
‘Hanging out’ hasn’t happened in a long time because of my commitment to the shop. When I get the chance I like to head for places like The Reliance, Dock Street Market, North Bar, The Well if there’s a decent band on and Brewbar Espresso if I fancy drinking coffee in someone else’s gaff.
What can customers expect from Laynes in the future?
I think we’re really looking forward to our classes starting up again this summer. Typically the industry is a bit secretive about making coffee but we want to educate people that take a genuine interest in it. Nobody says to a chef ‘oh I can’t believe you’re going to bring out a recipe book!’ and for us it’s the same thing. We don’t have any secret blends and we run a whole range of classes ranging from simple tasting and discussing to the science behind coffee making.
Finally, describe Laynes in 3 words…
Friendly, informative, quality.
Laynes Espresso is open 7 days a week just down the road from the train station.