The Alpine Coffee Shop, situated at the heart of Snowdonia National Park, is magical and unique for a variety of reasons. It is housed in a complex of Gothic-style stone buildings, which make up the Betws-y-Coed Railway Station, in a quaint village that provides a hospitable entrance to holidaymakers to North Wales’ mountainous and rolling hills region.
This quaint cafe, with its welcoming aromas of locally roasted fresh coffee, is also palm oil-free. One of few cafes to be completely palm oil-free in Wales and the UK even.
All the food sold alongside The Alpine Coffee Shop’s award-winning coffee and loose teas is homemade, free-range and palm oil-free.
Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil derived from the oil palm tree. It is literally everywhere – in our foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. The impact of palm oil production, which is often unsustainable, include the displacement of indigenous peoples, habitat degradation, deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
The decision to go palm oil-free was taken by Jacha Potgieter, an artist, photographer and environmentalist who runs the cafe, alongside his wife Gwyn. In reflection of what the couple stand for and believe in, and in support of Jacha Potgieter’s conservation work, The Alpine Coffee Shop became a palm oil-free cafe following a trip to Borneo.
In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Jacha Potgieter said: “I was inspired to get The Alpine Coffee Shop to go palm oil free after a visit to Borneo, where I volunteered with the Orangutan Foundation. What I saw there affected me greatly. The deforestation of natural jungle to make way for palm oil plantations is vast, and the effect on the orangutans heart-breaking. The palm oil industry is directly responsible for them being on the endangered list.
“It wasn’t an easy journey to go palm oil free as it’s in so many things and a lot of suppliers are unaware of palm oil’s impacts.
“As well as being good from a business point of view, being palm oil free is helping us change some companies’ opinions … [and] their ingredients. We recently went to a trade show and met other business owners who were looking for palm oil free items, so we feel the word is getting out there.”
The Alpine Coffee Shop, tastefully decorated with wood furnishings and a homely colour scheme of green hues throughout, hosts a quirky display of wrought-iron artwork and unusual artefacts too.
It was always the couple’s intention to create a “cafe with a conscience”. Sitting down for a traditional afternoon tea, made from palm-oil free produce and locally sourced ingredients, is a tea lover with a conscience’s dream. Firstly, there’s the selection of award-winning loose leaf teas on offer at The Alpine Coffee Shop, which given their popularity are now available to buy online. Coffee is specially blended for The Alpine Coffee Shop by local roasters, Heartland Coffi.
Then on the shop floor, the space is also used as a permanent art exhibition, comprising of photographs, oil paintings and prints to raise awareness of apes in crisis.
The couple, who own the entire complex of buildings that comprises the Betws-y-Coed Railway Station, have made it their mission to raise awareness among everyone who passes through the station complex – be it those who stop off for a bite to eat or grab a coffee at The Alpine Coffee Shop; those who stay at the boutique apartments above the shops and station; those who visit The Platform Galeri, an exhibition space which also exhibits Jacha Potgieter’s own paintings, photographs, etchings, sculptures and installations; or those who simply pass through the “live” railway station, which operates trains along the Conwy Valley line to Llandudno on the coast or Blaenau Festiniog further down the Conwy Valley.
Last year Jacha Potgieter and Gwyn opened the latest addition to the row of shops at Betws-y-Coed Railway Station, Hangin’ Pizzeria. The pizzeria is completely dedicated to apes and like the coffee shop is palm oil-free too.
Everything the couple put their energy behind reaches beyond the surrounding Welsh valleys. The couple visit local schools to make pupils aware about palm oil and orangutans. They also sponsor the education of 10 children in India each year. Most of the speciality teas served at The Alpine Coffee Shop derive from the country, so they want to ensure they give something back. “It’s not just about me. I am only a person in a position to help. We are a voice to these animals and children and I want to make people aware of it,” Jacha Potgieter said.
Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com