Natural Bean: Coffee connoisseur opens Gidea Park shop to share his passion

James Donaltizo

Owner of the Natural Bean in Gidea Park, Don Altizo, 36 - Credit: Chantelle Billson

The owner of a Gidea Park specialist coffee shop has said this year could make or break his business.  

Don Altizo opened the Natural Bean on Heath Park Road just before the second lockdown, and it has already become a finalist in the Havering Small Business awards for best customer experience. 

The 36-year-old has two boys aged seven and three and is married to Genevic De Roca, 34.    

He said: “So far, it’s been challenging, especially during lockdown, but the real challenge for us is this year as there’s no lockdown and it will be a test for if the business can survive along the way.”  

Natural Bean

Natural Bean in Gidea Park - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Don said he set up his “family-friendly” coffee house after being let go from his former job as the head of coffee at Coffee Lab.  

Having lived in Romford for over 10 years, he felt the area lacked speciality coffee places. 

“When I had the idea of opening the shop, plenty of people at the time were all working from home and they were city workers. 

“I had noticed working in coffee that there’s a big demand for a better quality and we want Natural Bean to be known as a coffee shop or house where people can enjoy good quality coffee.”  

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Organic milk is used unless alternatives are requested, but originally, Don wanted to use unhomogenised milk - which means it does not undergo a certain type of processing.  

Inside a coffee shop

The Natural Bean has a contemporary interior inspired by central London's hipster coffee shops - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Roasters well-known for quality are sourced, including Square Mile Coffee Roasters, Extract Coffee Roasters and Altitude Coffee, which is based in Hornchurch.  

“I only wanted to use Brazil and Ethiopian coffee, which are naturally processed, which gives you a sweeter, fruiter flavour in your drinks,” said Don. 

A “guest coffee” from different areas is also on the menu “because like wine, coffee isn’t just from one country and you want to try specific types from different countries and parts".

Coffee menu

The menu provides plenty of options to choose from - Credit: Chantelle Billson

Don said: “Our goal is to be the best coffee shop in the neighbourhood and I wanted to express my passion to people in the area, and people see that."

He said he is grateful that regular customers are “so friendly” and the surrounding businesses “so supportive”.