Follow us on social

Essential Journal

  /  Food & Drink   /  Drinking With Steam Yard

Drinking With Steam Yard

Over the last five years, Steam Yard has earned a solid reputation as a coffee shop that reflects the rugged charm of Sheffield’s industrial heritage whilst also carving out its own, unique sense of style 

words by Will HALBERT

Welcome to the Yard

There’s no easy route to authenticity, nor is there a paint-by-numbers approach to originality. The fact that Sheffield coffee institution, Steam Yard, possesses both in abundance is a testament to its founders’ dedication to the long way around, to their true love for – and a ground-up understanding of – their chosen craft. Sitting down with Nick Pears and Matt Cottrill, it’s clear they’re no fans of half measures. Theirs is a slower approach to an authentic experience, one that has been lovingly refined over time. An eye for detail, a natural obsession with origin, and an almost recreational approach to setting ever-higher standards for themselves has placed both Nick and Matt at the forefront of Sheffield’s burgeoning independent scene. And, you know what? They make a mean cup of coffee too. EJ

The Ace in the Hole
Yarders Ice Cream 

The California coastline is home to some of the finest ice-cream joints in the world. Purveyors of real ice cream: the kind of ice cream people happily queue for, truly special stuff. Steam Yard know this, they also know that trying the very best of something is a one-way street: there’s no going back. So, what do you do if you can’t bring San Fran’s finest back to the UK with you? Well, if you’re Steam Yard, you go ahead and make it yourself. Enter Yarders: The UK’s very first bean to bar ice cream. With a flavour and texture that must be tried to be believed, Yarders is a treat in the old-school sense of the word. Decadent without ever overstepping the mark, the single origin Ecuadorian chocolate at its base strikes a fine balance between intense and indulgent. And to top it off, you can choose how you want it: straight up; affogato style; wedged between one of their fabled donuts or even blended into a milkshake. What’s not to love? EJ

Get the Round In
Matt Cottrill & Nick Pears

Quick-fire questions answered in the time it takes the Steam Yard founders to whip up a couple of Gibraltars 

How would you describe Steam Yard’s overarching philosophy?
Nick: For us, it’s always been a question of simplicity and skill. Do something well, get better at it every day, and don’t make too much of a song and dance about it in the process. We never opened a coffee shop with the intention of making a fortune. We just wanted to do one thing well. That philosophy hasn’t changed. 

Why do you think Steam Yard has been so well received in Sheffield?
Nick: Sheffield is a working town, it doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and it can see right through a rip-off. By the same token, with Sheffield being such an industrial town, quality speaks for itself here. People are prepared to spend their money where they know they’re getting a good product. 

Matt: There’s also an element of trust, I think. People know by now that if we can’t do something the best we can, we won’t do it at all. We’re dealing in high quality, small scale, artisan products. At Steam Yard, you can be sure that you’re tasting the very best of something. That makes things slightly more expensive for the guest, and way more expensive for us, but it’s worth it. Quality is non-negotiable.  

So, it’s fair to say that there’s more to Steam Yard than just its coffee?
Matt: Absolutely. We never really refer to ourselves as a speciality coffee shop, we strive to offer a much wider hospitality experience. A great cup of coffee just isn’t enough, it’s about the overall experience from the moment you arrive, to the moment you leave and beyond. We’re constantly asking ourselves what we can do to add more to that experience. Even after five years, we’re still hands-on, seeing what else we can tweak and optimise. 

Nick: The only way to survive independently is to be as attentive as possible. Here in Sheffield, more than anywhere else, the independent scene has driven the standard much higher. Speciality is now just the standard. We like to think we go above and beyond that standard in just about every way we can. I think people can really get behind that. It becomes more of a lifestyle. 

Matt: That said, we want people who’ve never even heard of a flat white to be able to come in and still feel welcome. Guests can enjoy our coffee or ice cream for what it is or delve deeper. Either way is good with us. 

What made you try your hand at ice cream?
Matt: It was the next logical step for us. We’ve carried Bullion chocolate for a while now and it’s such an easy product to get behind. Max makes a great product. There are major parallels between coffee and chocolate, when you think about it: Provenance is just as important, as are the subtleties in tasting notes brought out by the roasting process. So it was exciting to bring the two together to make the UK’s first bean to bar ice cream. People are more clued-in than ever when it comes to the nuances of coffee, but less so when it comes to other artisanal products like bean to bar chocolate. It’s cool to play a part in changing that.  

Nick: It feeds back into our overall philosophy of making something the best we can. Whether we’re talking about coffee, clothes, or ice cream, when you’re parting with your money, you might as well buy the best.  Also, who doesn’t love ice cream? 


The Secret Ingredient
Bullion Craft Chocolate

At the heart of Yarders ice cream lies Bullion bean to bar chocolate. Bean to bar simply refers to small batch, single origin chocolate that gives primacy to provenance and demands a more exacting (not to mention ethical) method of production. Under the impassioned eye of founder Max Scotford, Bullion is a chocolate that stays true to the bean from which it’s sourced. It’s both a celebration of terroir and a constant pursuit of a better product. It’s exactly this above-and-beyond, accept-no-substitutes philosophy that makes Bullion’s collaboration with Steam Yard so natural. With a shared obsession for origin and provenance, and a mutual desire to craft an authentic product to the highest quality, both Steam Yard and Bullion have come away with what can only be described as the fine wine of ice cream. EJ