The Deaf Cat Coffee Bar
Although it is now well established at the heart of Rochester’s High Street, Deaf Cat Coffee began as a small coffee bar, gallery and studios in Penfold House, a historic timbered building near the river Medway, in October 2009. The owner, Kevan Middleton, who spent 20 years as an advertising art director and newspaper designer, felt that Rochester needed to offer more inspiring spaces for people to have ideas, or just sit and think.
This was Rochester’s first coffee bar and the formula proved an instant success. After six months the coffee bar and gallery moved down the High Street to more substantial premises at number 83. Soon after that other coffee bar and galleries appeared so Kevan decided to focus the business on serving excellent coffee in a creatively inspiring space. The business is now eight and a half years old (April, 2018) and more popular than ever.
There's a story behind the unusual name. It was inspired by the highly favoured pet of a famous Victorian writer, who spent his formative years in Medway and his last years at Gads Hill Place, over the river a few miles north of Rochester. The original deaf cat used to sit on Charles Dickens' desk, in his studio, while he wrote. The cat wasn't an annoyance or a hindrance, it was like the other ornaments around his desk. It was there to calm, cheer and inspire him.
This is something that neatly sums up Kevan’s business philosophy insomuch as The Deaf Cat has never advertised. Like any other creative output; good press, recommendation and a bit of notoriety should be enough for a small independent to attract attention. Kevan believes this keeps him and his staff on their toes, and aware that everyone’s visit is as equally important.
Complete honesty is also a big factor and not just in the running of it. There’s an artwork painted by James Worse directly onto one wall of the coffee bar. ‘I love the honesty of that. It was obviously painted in situ; it can’t be moved or sold; and it’s a complete one-off. There’s also a large collection of coffee pots from around the world on another wall. It’s very interesting to see how many solutions there are to the one task of making a container for a hot drink. Even the fittings in the room; every bracket and every screw is on show. Nothing is hidden or faked’, says Kevan, ‘The same goes for the staff, they’re allowed to be themselves, there’s no script.’
The coffee bar's popularity must also pay testament to the refreshments on offer. Coffee options include everything from cappuccino, latte, flat white and mocha to macchiato and piccolo. There are hot paninis, toasties, waffles, teacakes and toast, or there’s fresh sandwiches delivered every day, not to mention many muffins and cakes to graze on. There’s 20 different teas, and frappes, iced drinks and fruit juices to sip. Young ones don’t get left out, with plenty of drinks and snacks on offer. All are there to enjoy in a cosy space, with a choice of seating, from leather sofas, to stools and chapel chairs. The view of the Cathedral is great.
The large Cathedral car park is directly behind the coffee bar. There's easy ground floor access from the street, and there's space for wheelchairs and prams. Only Guide dogs are only allowed in unless sitting outside. There’s free toast before 10am, free wi-fi, high chairs and they’re open seven days a week
Credit cards accepted
Historic city location
Locally produced food
Restaurant / Cafe / Tea shop
City of Rochester Society
Footsteps in Time
Gordon House Hotel
Dickensian Christmas Festival 2018
The Sixteen: Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610