Raj Ruia’s seven multi-award-winning Rhode Island Coffee shops are intent upon providing you with exquisite coffee, space to chill with family, friends or on your own, and a sense of community. To escape the autumn cold for Rhode Island’s warmth, pop to its Altrincham shop on George Street and revel in the cosy, relaxed and immaculate environment.
Before reaching the counter, to your left, you see a full wall of 22 coffee-related pictures. To your right, there hang racks stacked with 150 brightly coloured mugs. It’s fun. Further down, overlooking a play area and comfy loungers, stands a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, the focal point for local book-exchange enthusiasts.
This atmospheric scene guides you gently towards Rhode Island’s counter where friendly, skilled baristas serve you coffees, alternative beverages and a range of sweet and savoury goodies, including delicious soups, all listed on handwritten boards. Standards of service and food attract a loyal, generation-wide clientele, who regularly endorse the Rhode Island experience with testimonials such as, “Avid fan of this coffee shop… often leave feeling full of promise. Thank you.”
The Rhode Island Espresso Blend comprises roasts from Brazil, Central America, East Africa, Ethiopia and India. The medium to full-bodied espresso hints at dark chocolate and caramel flavours. A Robusta shot adds the last-minute kick to a fruity, balanced and low-acidity espresso.
In 1987, after living abroad, qualified barrister, tax expert and MBA, Raj joined his three brothers in the family textile business. Those years in Paris acquainted him with the wonder of coffee and its ability, albeit momentarily, to ‘take away the worries of the world’. So, ditching plans for an Indian eatery, in 2000, Rhode Island, Altrincham’s first speciality coffee shop was born. It was an instant hit.
The brand name
Keen on American coffee culture, Raj recalls: “Rhode Island’s the smallest US state and the one with the highest coffee consumption, so, I went there. Its small communities, fishing bays and quirky stores impressed me… hence our name. Amazingly, some Rhode Islanders honeymooning in London came up to our Stockport café and another couple visited the Crewe branch.”
He continues: “People used to drink coffee at home and shop on the high street. Nowadays, they shop from home and go out for coffee – especially the teetotal millennials. It’s vital we create welcoming places serving quality products – and where our coffee is concerned, there’s no compromise.”
Father-of-two Raj is married to award-winning novelist Reshma. Published in October, her recent tongue-in-cheek poetry anthology, A Dinner Party in the Home Counties, highlights the many dilemmas of contemporary life. Her take on ageing, relationships, love and displacement, amongst other topics, won her New York’s Word Masala Debut Poet 2019. Naturally, the family celebration before the London launch is on home territory – at Rhode Island Coffee in Altrincham!
A Dinner Party in the Home Counties (£9.99) is published by Skylark and available at Waterstones and Amazon.
Rhode Island Coffee
87, Street, Altrincham WA14 1RN
0161 929 0650
Open Mon-Sat 8am-6pm | Sunday 10am-5pm
Branches in Blackburn, Burnley, Crewe, Oldham, Stockport and Warrington.
Words by: Fay Wertheimer
Images by: Julian Kronfli