South African in London, Greg - the wolf of Well street
by Greta Moon·
Greg & The Grand Howl
We call Greg the wolf of well street, haha, because if you were standing outside the Howl having a little chat with him about 20 people in the space of 5 min would come to say hi, give him a hug, wave at him, smile or engage in some way ... He's made quite the impression on the local peeps including ourselves. Greg is one authentic, genuinely awesome human being and so is his cafe, there is nothing pretentious or fake about it. The Grand Howl is located on well street, Hackney E9. We asked him a few questions about the cafe and his life…
What are you wearing?
I’m wearing a pair of Jeans from awesome guys called Dawson Denim in Brighton and a grey sweat from Japanese Brand Real McCoys and of course Converse.
Who are you and what is it that you do?
I’m a Shit hole Immigrant from South Africa. I also own and run a pretty cool little coffee roasters called HOWL.
What does your ‘regular’ day look like and what is your favourite part of the day?
Usually starts with a minute handstand against the wall and a cold shower. I then head down the road to my Shop and set up. I usually listen to Classical music before anyone arrives just to appreciate the calm. My favourite part of the day is locking up the shop afterwards :-)
What is your the biggest challenge when it comes to running a cafe?
Trying to let go a little bit, I’m so controlling of things like music, lighting and the general vibe of the place that when I come in on my day off it usually isn’t quite right and that’s mostly down to my OCD and not my staff. The coffee and product speak for themselves but I just need to chill a bit on those issues.
What does a barista actually do? Can anyone do it?
If it wasn’t for my Baristas then there wouldn’t be a HOWL. Baristas are so important. Too many people think that opening a cafe is easy, they usually think that buying the best coffee will make them great and get people through the door but it's so much more than that. You can’t just chuck some expensive coffee in a machine and push a button and expect a great cup, it doesn’t work like that. Every morning we do something called dialling in the coffee and that means making tweaks to an existing recipe which involves dosage of coffee and amount of water you add to your shot, I’m trying not to sound too technical but coffee is extremely delicate and even the temperature and humidity of your shop can have an effect on your ’shot’
You will always see us weigh each shot before we make a coffee, we need consistency and hopefully, you can taste that.
Have to ask.. what coffee does a cafe owner drink?
I’ll always have an espresso to start the day and then I usually drink our amazing filter coffee. When I’m at another coffee shop I usually drink a long black, that gives you a bit of an insight into how they make coffee.
Have you taken any steps towards making the Howl as eco-friendly as possible?
Apart from the obvious such as compostable and biodegradable everything we do practice zero food waste. That is so important to us. We have our menu and par levels down to a T. (we think Greg doesn't give himself enough credit here. Compostable cups are not yet an obvious choice for most cafes!)
As a human all labels and job titles aside.. What makes you happy?
Being given the opportunity to open my own shop. I spend so much time with people and customers and sometimes I just look forward to being by myself and enjoying my own time. I'm also looking forward to starting surfing again soon, I need the sea.
Spots or stripes?
Sorry guys, I know you’re Dot crazy but I’m a stripy kind of guys, especially sporty stripes. They do make you go faster.
And that's that! We can't recommend the Howl enough, the food and coffee is amazing, the people that work there excluding Greg have been there for a long time, most since the beginning, we think that alone speaks volumes. They make you feel welcome, make time to have a little chat no matter how busy it is and the coffee never disappoints. But don't take our word for it, go ahead and try it for yourselves! The Howl is located at 214 well street, London E9. Make sure to give them a follow on Instagram here so you don't forget to visit next time you're in Hackney. Aw, did we mention it's veggie/vegan cafe? But if you're a meat eater like us don't dismiss it before you try it! The food is too good to pass up just because it's labelled vegan. We'll leave you with this... Sourdough toast (yum), mexican beans (yum!), mashed avocado (yum!) followed by toasted banana bread with cinnamon butter and an oat latte. YUUMM! And that's just the simple dish, they do some wild pancakes, enchiladas, burgers and more....