ToastLoveCoffee was the idea borne out of the friendship of two ladies living in Leeds. They met in December 2012; one, a British born, Jewish middle class mum of three and wife, and the other an Albanian, Christian, single mum of one, recently arrived asylum seeker.
After a year of friendship, they wondered if more people in the city could have the same amazing experience of friendship outside of the usual social circles. That was the initial and core idea of ToastLoveCoffee. The name represents not only their sharing of love for good coffee and food, but, in the heart, the love that is the magic in everything they wanted to create.
This website, originally just a blog, soon followed in January 2014 (still there if you scroll down enough!) and the blog charts the journey from crazy idea by two ladies who had no idea how to make it happen, to the five day a week, permanent cafe operation that it is today.
In July 2014, ToastLoveCoffee was incorporated as a Community Interest Company Limited by Guarantee, and in the September it popped up in the first venue; The Hub on Hovingham Avenue in Harehills.
Having joined The Real Junk Food Project in its infancy, ToastLoveCoffee was one of the original Real Junk Food cafes, and is still predominantly using food that is intercepted from the food industry, that would otherwise go to waste.
TLC has also been very fortunate to be supported by Dark Woods Coffee – an independent Yorkshire coffee roasters who provide a regular supply of delicious freshly roasted coffee, and copious amounts of advice on brewing techniques and equipment.
The School for Social Entrepreneurs, and seed funding from the Leeds Grant Group and Near Neighbours ensured we had everything we needed for the pop ups, and volunteers emerged to help run the mornings; a model which is still core to our operation today.
Organically growing, TLC needed a more permanent space, so launched a crowdfunder in September 2015 to raise £10k to join CATCH (a youth organisation in the area) in their new home on the same site; The Ark.
During this time, TLC and RETAS (a refugee and asylum support charity) partnered up to offer a pop up cafe twice a week at their offices on Roundhay Road. As the deadline drew closer to reach the 10k target, Fever FM, BBC Radio Leeds, and local celebrity baker Howard Middleton all threw their weight in to help the campaign, and as the ten minute countdown began, the target was smashed, and we all celebrated the beginning of the new chapter of ToastLoveCoffee.
Work started on the site in January 2016 and the doors reopened, partnering with CATCH, at The Ark, in September 2016.
February 2017 saw the instillation of a fully functioning kitchen, and TLC extended its opening hours to include lunches. As the volunteer pool grew, so did the days of opening, to the now five days a week, plus two evenings and a Sunday afternoon.
As a Community Interest Company, TLC runs as any other business, but with the added social value accountability core to its vision. As such, all funding comes from donations; primarily customers in the cafe, but also other streams such as the generous fundraising efforts of Leeds-based marketing company Engage Interactive, and grants.
Still run entirely by volunteers, TLC is highly regarded locally and beyond, as a safe, welcoming space for anyone who enters, where you can enjoy the company of someone new, over a delicious drink and meal. The pay as you feel model ensures that no one is excluded and everyone can be as generous as they can with their financial contribution to the sustainability and development of this very special cafe in Leeds.