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06 March 2023

The Artisan and the Akita

From Brick Lane to Bangladesh and back again, Shahin of
Artisan Coffee talks to us about the beans from which he
has made a living, with his Akita in tow. 

From Brick Lane to Bangladesh and back again, Shahin of Artisan Coffee talks to us about the beans he has made a living from, with his Akita in tow. 

Tell us about your riding journey.
I used to ride mopeds in London but learned to ride motorbikes in Bangladesh. My family's from there, my Dad came to Brick Lane in the '60s. I went over there about eight years ago and it's just absolute madness there. You can't get anywhere in a car so everyone rides these little motorbikes, like 150cc. So I got one, I had a few crashes on it but just fell in love with riding.  I mean, in Bangladesh, it's crazy. The roads are kind of non-existent. They're broken and there's just so much obstruction in the way. There's cows, there's goats, there's dogs, cats, people everywhere. So coming back here and riding feels like freedom because you get little bursts of open road and you can really feel free.

"...coming back here and riding feels like freedom because you get little bursts of open road"

What about your coffee journey?
Artisan Coffee first opened in Bangladesh, I was there and there were NO coffee shops at all. I was sick and tired of not having coffee and complaining to my wife all the time, She said “well you've got to stay here so just open your own one”. And I ended up thinking, yeah, that's a really good idea. I found an espresso machine and a spot and it's open. Then it went crazy over there. People were waiting for that kind of coffee, which was really good.

"It was all selfish really. It was just so I could have the coffee"

I mean, I had no idea that it was going to turn into a thing. I just thought I'll just sit there and have the coffee and moan about stuff. And it just turned out there were a lot of other people that wanted to do the same thing. Brilliant! I was really surprised. 

All my family are here so I didn't really know anyone over there,  everyone I met was through the coffee shop. There are loads of American and European workers that live out there so as soon as they saw the espresso machine and the whole vibe, they recognised a bit of home and would always come in. That was it, it just popularised the whole thing. Now in that city, it's called Sylhet. It's famous for tea, all the big tea fields in Bangladesh are in that city. But now there's a whole coffee culture there. Hundreds of coffee shops are there now.

It’s crazy to look back on really, it was accidental, but it got really successful. I had to train people because it was really difficult to get baristas, there was no such thing. A whole new job sector opened up in that city. So I finally got someone who's really good, he manages the place really well. So naturally, it was time to come back to London after all those years.

Coming back to the UK…. I grew up around Brick Lane. I was born around here and then my family moved out here. So this is sort of the first time back to Brick Lane. I mean, obviously, I used to go out around here and stuff before, but coming back to the community, opening the shop, now it all just fits in really well. 

We're just off a little side street and it’s just right. Everyone's really friendly it's a really tight-knit community. A few bikes go past and my Akita is always parked in pride of place outside the shop.

So where did you hear about Mutt?
So when I came back, I was doing a bit of research for the shop. I went around different coffee shops to try out the coffee and just look at the scene. And I saw the Bike Shed on YouTube and it was just around the corner from the shop. So I visited there, looked at all the bikes and I was like, yeah, this is really cool. 

Then I was speaking to one of the guys there, he said he had a Mutt, I was like, what's a Mutt? He told me “It’s small capacity and so cool looking.” He pointed me in the direction of the Mutt showroom in Bethnal Green on Cambridge Road, he was like ”just go and check it out”. So I went there, and I met Saffron. I was just like, yes, I want one of these. As soon as I saw the Akita, I was like, this is the one. It’s got that really cool look, it's like a sort of Japanese brat style. I was going to get a Mongrel at first, but then I saw the Akita and I thought, no, that's the one.

How does your Akita fit into your lifestyle? 
I ride my Akita every day to work you’ll see it parked up outside the shop every day and it's great to run errands - dodging the London traffic. It fits in so well with my London lifestyle. I really do go everywhere on it and even though it's a 125cc you're faster than most. Riding in London on a Mutt is just great cause you're allowed to use the bus lanes and whatnot and it just works, it’s my little bit of freedom.

Tell us your perfect day on a Mutt...
It's definitely got to be during the summer with the sun shining. I'd love to just go out of London, maybe ride up to Mutt HQ. That would be great. Anywhere far or anywhere that I'd just want to go. That’s the charm; you can just get out of the city in a hurry.

What is next for Artisan Coffee
We've got plans to expand Artisan Coffee. To have a second branch in London. Maybe Central London or even Camden. Then after the second or third here, we want to take it internationally, maybe in Dubai. That's like the sort of dream.

So what would be some advice that you'd give to someone considering getting into riding?
I've had a lot of customers who aren't riders, they're always asking about my bike in particular. The look sells it and everything else is a bonus. Once I say that it’s low cc and you can learn on them, people get really excited because it's so accessible. As soon as anyone sees my Akita they think it's a much bigger bike because of the chunky tires and just the look of it. Then as soon as you tell them it's a 125cc they're like, oh wow! Suddenly riding is at their fingertips. I always say to take it easy and just enjoy it.

If you are in London and have an itch for a really bloody good cuppa coffee pop along to Brick Lane.

📍Artisan Coffee

8 Heneage Street London E1 5LJ
Mon - Fri 8:30 am to 5:00 pm 
Sat + Sun - 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

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