Nestled in the shadow of Launceston Castle, you will be able to find independent coffee shop Liberty Coffee.
Run by local man and overall coffee enthusiast Ben Statton, it’s understandable why the hours could soon slip away in this cosy shop with its soft, neutral tones, airy ambience and soothing whirr of the coffee machine as Ben and his team conjure up delightful little cups of rich coffee, along with light bites made in the kitchen downstairs, using family recipes.
Since December 2013, Liberty has served locals and visitors to Launceston its speciality coffee on Northgate Street. Ben, whose family once ran the popular bistro cafe Jericho’s on the floor above his shop, told Launceston Life how Liberty Coffee came to fruition.
“We had to be barista trained for Jericho’s, so I did my barista training with Origin Coffee in Helston (now in Porthleven). I was making coffee upstairs and I really got into it,” Ben explained. “After Country Chic moved out of the space downstairs, the landlord said, ‘Ben, why not run your own venture down here?’ So I started this in conjunction with Jericho’s, and it gradually became my own thing.”
Ben’s passion for coffee is evident when talking to him. It all started after he finished his degree at the University of Exeter, and was in the process of ‘figuring out life’ - as every post-graduate does - when he fell in love with coffee.
Something he wanted to incorporate into his own business was the culture around speciality coffee, which originally began in Australia and New Zealand. At the same time, the coffee-loving hipster era had begun in the cities and was gradually weaving its way into smaller towns.
“Down in the South West, the idea of the artisan coffee shop was blooming,” Ben said. “I just wanted to know about coffee - it became a passion and once you have that passion, it tends to take over a bit.”
The journey into building a business based entirely on coffee allowed Ben to explore different kinds of roasts. He said: “Coffee can taste really different and I wanted to share that with people. I thought, how can I do this in the shop and show people there can be more to coffee? There’s a whole world out there and this shop represents the different kinds of coffee - no coffee is the same! ”
With expertise in different roasts and methods for making the perfect cup of coffee, it’s hardly surprising that Liberty Coffee has been included in each issue of the South West Coffee Guide - a little handbook recommending the best establishments across the region for coffee lovers everywhere. The shop was also mentioned in a UK-wide feature in the Sunday Times magazine, which Ben admits was a jaw-dropping moment for him as a small business owner.
“That’s when I thought, ‘Woah, this is crazy’! It doesn’t matter where you are, if you do something really well you can become recognised for it,” he added.
Since the ending of restrictions, weekends have been the busiest time for Liberty, with visitors coming to Launceston to try the coffee after finding the shop on Google. Not only this, but independent businesses in the town have come together to form a strong, supportive community.
“It feels way more ‘together’ since Covid,” Ben said. “It’s quite a communal feeling, we’re living alongside each other more. It’s nice to have that supportive business community.”
Ben admits that the biggest lesson for him has been the realisation that every customer is different, just like each cup of coffee can be different: “You don’t have to learn a lot about coffee, it’s there if you want to know. Customers will ask questions about the coffee and find the right roast for them, but you can also just come in for a sausage roll and a coffee and soak up the atmosphere.
“I’ve learned to reign things in a bit and that you shouldn’t be preachy. You’ve got to recognise that people’s tastes are very different.”
As business starts to pick up after the long, dwindling road of lockdowns and the quiet months after Christmas, Liberty Coffee will be extending its business hours and days.
Ben added: “I hope other people feel encouraged to set up businesses in town. We need more independent shops because it will attract more people.”
You can find Liberty Coffee on Northgate Street, opposite Launceston Central Methodist Church. Follow their Facebook and Instagram pages - Liberty Coffee and ‘libcoffee’.