The unique story behind our latest Bar Café dish
Tyneside Bar Cafe's new Katsu Curry uses oyster mushrooms grown with recycled coffee grounds as part of new community enterprise YMCA Urban Mushrooms. Marketing Manager John Walker goes behind the scenes to find out more…
It’s a chilly morning on High Friar Lane and alongside the deliveries of speciality coffee for Vicolo pavement café and fresh ingredients for that night’s menu specials, a very special collection is taking place. YMCA Newcastle have set up a new social enterprise Urban Mushrooms and are picking up stocks of used coffee grounds from around the city centre, in the first stage in a magical transformation from waste product into fine dining ingredient.
Coffee is a big business with around 55 million cups drank per day in the UK including an estimated 350,000 cups in Newcastle alone. All this creates a lot of waste, with over 500,000 tons of coffee grounds making its way to landfill every year. Urban Mushrooms was set up to tackle youth unemployment through the cultivation of speciality Oyster mushrooms using clean coffee waste.
The used coffee grounds from around the city are brought to the city centre Urban Farm where they are pasteurised to make them completely clean and safe. At this point the waste coffee is effectively toxic to many plants as it’s too acidic, but its damp environment provides an ideal home for mushrooms to thrive.
Unlike plants which grow from seeds, mushrooms spread by releasing spores from which new fungi will eventually grow. Once the Urban Mushroom team have mixed their special spores with bags of the cleaned coffee grounds, they are left in a dark, humid environment to develop, and after six weeks the delicate oyster mushrooms are fully grown and ready to be delivered to cafés and restaurants across the North East.
As well as providing a great food product from what would usually be thrown into the waste bin, the programme even generates brilliant compost for plants in the shape of the mushroom-infused growth medium, which after being used to grow the oyster mushrooms is entirely non-toxic to plants and forms an ideal soil improver.
For Tyneside Bar Café’s chef Steve Brough it’s a win-win situation. ‘We’re always interested in sourcing quality local produce for our Bar Café and Vicolo menus’, he explains. ‘These mushrooms are both really tasty and local, giving us an ideal way to reduce food miles and also be greener by reducing our waste. We’re happy to be a Coffee Partner of the YMCA Urban Mushrooms project and contributing to the success of this unique scheme which creates jobs for young people’.
Our Oyster Mushroom Katsu Curry is now available on the Tyneside Bar Café Evening menu which is served Monday to Saturday, 4pm to 9pm.
Find out more about the YMCA’s Urban Mushrooms project at www.ymcanewcastle.com/urban-mushrooms.
The Urban Mushrooms team are keen for people to become involved or support the project – email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Main image: Urban Oyster Mushrooms at Tyneside Bar Café, picture credit Rich Brimacombe.