The compassionate coffee house

Bishop Paul has paid a visit to a new, high end coffee house in the centre of Leeds that's helping to build better community cohesion and reduce loneliness.

Cielo was set up by Managing Director, Nick Castle (right) and his wife, Linda, as a social enterprise. Nick says, “We offer quality, speciality grade coffee that we roast ourselves, put our profits back into the community and enable Christians to get to know people way beyond the church congregation. The idea isn’t to be a church plant, but to strengthen the muscles of the local church by helping them engage more fully with people.”

Cielo is on Boar Lane, just up from Holy Trinity where the Anglican church plant Riverside meet. Members and leaders of the church are often found in Cielo, volunteering, chatting with people and occasionally holding their Alpha courses.

Nick adds, “Because it’s a high end experience that holds its own in a competitive market, many come in regularly, because it’s a place they want to be. We’ve had some amazing opportunities to talk with and befriend people. Some people just come and go, some really want to hang out and chat.”

Bishop Paul says, “Cielo is an inspiring enterprise - it’s a really attractive venue, the coffee is great and the atmosphere is warm and friendly. It’s a strong blend of compassion and professionalism.”

Cielo began in Garforth, where there are now two coffee houses with Churches Together involvement. There’s also one in Crossgates and they’re about to set one up in West Bromich with the YMCA.

Nick adds, “We want to be a successful business that offers the best product in our market, so there’s no sense of it being a charitable place that you feel obliged to come to. We aim for significant profits (while remaining far more affordable than our competitors), so we can put money back into the community. We are unique in Leeds in having our own coffee roastery – so we sell coffee wholesale as well. We also pay farmers four times the Fairtrade rate, and source everything as locally and ethically as possible.”

If your church has a café and you’d like some advice on how to improve it using Cielo’s business model, Nick and his team are happy to provide some training. And if you’d like to volunteer at the coffee shop, please contact Nick at info [at] cielouk.com

Cielo is part funded by Big Issue Invest – the investment arm of The Big Issue magazine.  www.cielouk.com/

More about Riverside church here and here.

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