It’s hard to believe it’s been almost three years since we opened our Fitzrovia Coffeebar.
In that time we’ve released over 100 coffees (roasting over 175,000 kilos in the process).
We’ve seen two parts of the business move from their original homes. Our original Maylebone Coffeebar decamped a few metres from its first location on Wigmore Street to new digs in St. Chrstopher’s Place. Our Roastery packed up its cupping spoons and headed further east from Clerkenwell to a dedicated and infinitely larger space in Bethnal Green. These changes, and numerous others in between, have kept us busy.
As have plans for our latest opening.
At the beginning of June, we’ll be dialling in our coffees for the first time at our fourth coffeebar and fifth location: Workshop Coffee at White Collar Factory.
Located on Old Street roundabout, the project is billed as one of the most ambitious and progressive workspaces in London and we’ll be serving drinks from a bar -- or bars -- to match. Incorporating two coffeebars, the first will be located on the ground floor of the space, serving delicious coffee to the public throughout the working week. A six-metre-long, basalt-topped bar will take pride of place in the 1,300 sq. ft. coffeebar area. Complemented by a beautifully tactile tiled bar front, it will be adorned with much of the machinery our regulars have come to know so well: a 3-group La Marzocco Linea PB and Nuova Simonelli Mythos 1 Grinders.
The second bar will located on the buildings 17th floor, serving the buildings tenants and offering an incredible view of London's skyline from its terrace (and 150m running track).
Taking a slightly different approach to filter coffee service, we’ll continue to serve two filters from our rotating, seasonal range at any one time. However, both will be brewed using our Fetco batch brewers.
With the space taking inspiration from the work of self-taught French architect and designer, Jean Prouvé, references will be found throughout the building, from its factory-like finish, to the green colour palette that runs throughout and even the coffeebar seating, which will provide space for more than 40 to enjoy the best coffee possible.
There’s lots to be done between now and then, but we’re looking forward to sharing more information with you in the coming weeks.
Considering taking the first step in your career in coffee? Or thinking of taking the next? With a new location comes a need for more motivated team members looking to learn, develop and progress. Find out more on how to join us here.
Last year when we visited Costa Rica we got to taste some fantastic coffees, but we had little opportunity to get out of the cupping lab and into the field. It's a remarkable country with a lot of very unique and special lots of coffee available from single producers, and there are a multitude of processing methods being undertaken.
A lot more affluent than other countries in Central America, it has considerably greater access to finance and an entrepreneurial streak in its producers’ mentality that means that there are a lot of micro-mills or benefices that see a producer not just growing, but also processing and drying their coffees. This control over every stage means that they're able to produce some very high quality lots, build up their brand and reputation as a quality producer and get paid premiums for their extra effort, skill, understanding and hard work.
We were travelling with our friends at Nordic Approach, who have recently employed Marianela to be a permanent staff member on the ground in Costa Rica. Part of a family that have two coffee farms and do their own processing and drying, Marianela is charged with building relationships with producers in Tarrazú who want to improve the quality of their coffees.
Our first day started with cupping around 200 bowls of coffee to get a ‘lay of the land’. As we were visiting quite early in the harvest, the higher altitude lots of coffee were still ripening and so we tasted the earlier pickings to get a sense of what the quality is going to be like this season. A variety of preps and a very wide range of quality levels was fun to taste through, but inevitably led to a lot of palate fatigue (remedied with a couple of evening beers).
The next day we were driving through the Dota valley, towards San Marcos in Tarrazú, to visit Marianela’s family’s beneficio, Don Eli. As well as growing coffee and sugar cane, they have their own processing equipment, raised beds (a good portion under tarpaulin to provide shade, with open sides to offer ventilation) a coffee nursery and a gathering space that would go on to be used that evening for a party with lots of producers from the area.
The sun was not yet fully up and they would only begin to uncover the non-shaded raised beds once they were in sunlight, as overnight the temperatures drop considerably, meaning a lot more humidity in the air first thing. We saw several lots of single varieties, separated out, and a variety of different honey preparations, naturals and fully washed parchment. They were also trying a ‘double soaked’ experiment by lining a big silo with tarpaulin and soaking the washed coffee under clean water overnight. From there, they'd stir it up with a spade to break down the residual mucilage, drain the soak water and then dry the even cleaner parchment.
We saw a delivery of cherry arrive, the back of a truck loaded with many cajuela’s worth of cherry. In Costa Rica the pickers are paid by the cajuela, or bucket, a volumetric system, rather than weight. Picking commodity coffeee to be sold to the large cooperatives in Tarrazú will be worth around 1,000 Colones per cajuela (equates to roughly £1.50), whereas at Don Eli they are paying at least a 30% premium for more selective picking, accepting only ripe cherries. It is very difficult to select solely ripe cherries when there are varieties planted which ripen to different colours. A mixture of Catuaí Rojo and Amarillo (red and yellow) looks scary when you see it all mixed together, as the different hues look at a distance like there is a lot of unripe and semi-ripe cherry mixed in with the ripe.
When they are processing the cherry they first fill a fanega, a cuboid receptacle above the reception tanks, which when its filled with cherry equates to roughly 46kg of exportable green coffee. This way they can keep track of what their outturns may be based on the amount of cherry they buy. From cherry to green coffee that we receive in our roastery, there is about a 5:1 loss of mass.
We continued our journey that day through some outrageously beautiful scenery, listening to the local radio and chatting to Marianela, until we got to ‘Beneficio La Angostura’ to visit Mario Jiminez and his family.
Their set-up and attitude was a masterclass in fantastic practices and attitude. It's rare to see the younger generation want to continue to work in coffee, but Mario’s wife and two daughters are all involved in the coffee production. As well as processing cherry from their own farm they do the processing for three other farmers in the area.
After a quick stop at Finca La Cuesta to see Mauricio Hermenez’s farm, planted with lots of citrus trees, as well as some very healthy looking coffee trees, we had a minor problem with our truck and had to push it up a crumbly incline in the midday sun.
Back on the road, we continued on to see Beneficio La Cruz and their new drying experiments; stacked up raised beds under a huge tarp greenhouse, and their pine warehouse for storing their top quality lots in VIP conditions. Both farms were looking at replanting sections with hardy varieties like Villalobos and Obata, and were curious at to whether any of us on the trip had good experiences with these varieties from other origins. It is such a complex situation as there are so many other factors at play that we would never suggest that a farmer should or shouldn’t grow a particular type of coffee or do a particular style of processing, as our experience is in roasting and not agronomy. Longer term projects that can be pre-financed and contracted are something that we would be interested in doing with certain producers down the line, but we are very much there to learn from them as much as we can.
After seeing the small farms and micro-mills, we had a slight change of pace checking out the facilities at Montañas del Diamante. Here things are done on a much bigger scale, with some very clean and even drying patios, lots of steel raised beds on wheels, a multi-tiered structure to process greater volumes of coffee, and some slowly rotating, low temperature mechanical dryers working away.
After a long and hot day in the sun seeing a whole variety of farming and processing approaches, we returned to Beneficio Don Eli to meet with some more of the producers that Nordic Approach have been working with, as well as many more who are keen to establish a more direct relationship with their buyers. After some lengthy introductions and a very productive Q&A session with the farmers, we drank some Cacique (a local sugar cane liquor), handed round beers, ate heartily and listened to local music.
One of the farmers in attendance was Roger Vrena. He had recently purchased a farm at 2,000m called Santa Teresa, and was very keen to have us visit and see what he is doing to produce very high quality lots.
For the last few years Roger has been replanting his sizeable farm with lots of different varieties, and is currently producing Catuaí, Typica Mejorado, Bourbon and Villalobos, and a little Geisha, with Pacamara and Rume Sudan varieties fruiting in two harvest’s time.
For the last seven years he has been doing research into other farmers’ micro-mills to learn about the best practices for using eco-pulpers and how to dry the coffee properly when doing a variety of preparations. Their normal protocols see them leaving 10% of the mucilage on after pulping and using the demucilagor, but they are doing some double washed preparations as an experiment this year with a very selective harvest. As well as coffee, he grows avocados and is working with an agronomist towards the end goal of being completely carbon neutral.
Since returning from Costa Rica, we've tasted further pre-shipment samples that have got us rather excited about the quality and variety of coffees coming out of the country this year. We’re really excited to see them arrive in 6-8 weeks’ time and will be available to order shortly after that.
The Tempest Two's latest excursion took them from the city lights of London to the golden sands of The Sahara. Not ones to do anything the easy (or familiar) way, they decided to make their way there on motorbikes. The fact that they had no experience on or license to drive one less than two weeks before departing was just a detail.
The open road ahead. The wind whistling through your hair. The roar of a motorbike as you ride into the sunset.
It's an idyllic scene, but a far-fetched fantasy, surely?
Earlier this year, we decided to try and turn a childhood dream into a reality. With zero motorbiking experience, we'd look to mount two of the most rugged and impressive motorbikes on the market and ride them from London to the Sahara Desert in under two weeks.
Our journey began in the glamorous setting of a Welwyn Garden City motorcycle centre. The idyllic dream was immediately crushed as we took part in our first lesson in the freezing cold January rain. The ripped denim jeans of our imaginations were in fact a pair of waterproof trousers. The fitted leather jackets of motorcycle legend turned out to be the more practical and less becoming high-vis waistcoat. We put our egos to one side and dedicated ourselves to the cause and hit the open roads.
To make things more interesting and increase the pressure, we'd given ourselves just nine days from our first lesson to pass both parts of the test. After that we'd be leaving for The Sahara. The look on our instructors face when we disclosed this information, summed up perfectly how most people viewed this endeavour: arrogant, stupid and highly unlikely.
But by the end of day nine, we'd passed and were now fully-fledged hog-riders. Our bikes were delivered to London while we finalised a rough-route through Spain and on to Morocco at the same time we packed our panniers with essentials that included a few clothes, our cameras, bike customs documents, an AeroPress, our Porlex Hand Grinder and two bags of of Nyarusiza.
We gingerly pulled away from our starting point in West London and began the ride to Portsmouth where we'd board a ferry to Bilbao and begin our route south.
Northern Spain was the ultimate gateway to our journey. After a two hour ride from Bilbao, we climbed the Cantabria mountain range and found ourselves on the roof of Rioja drinking in the stunning panoramic view of what felt like the entire region. Vineyards and bodegas spanned beyond the horizon, and we were treated to a 20-minute hairpin descent down into the valley.
We spent that evening in Logrono, the main city of Rioja, where we spent the night wandering the cobbled backstreets of the city. The culinary culture here was not about sit-down meals, but meandering your way through the hundreds of tapas bars that lined the streets, spending 10 minutes in one, five in another, until you are suitably full. Our host’s family owned the oldest tapas bar in Logrono, which served nothing but garlic mushrooms and prawns on bread. This was a prevalent theme, with establishments choosing to do one thing incredibly well and the results were testament to this way of thinking.
Our next destination was the small town of Neuvalos in the Zaragoza region, and what we expected to be a simple three-hour stint.
We were wrong.
This was the first time in our one day riding career that we'd experienced strong winds. As we passed into the flat plains of central Spain, the winds grew in strength and ferocity. What started as a series of mildly uncomfortable gusts soon evolved into full blown crosswinds that forced us from one side of the road to the other. We had absolutely no control over our position on the road. The best we could do to keep ourselves upright was reduce our speed and lean at an angle in a bid to counteract the force.
The conditions forced us to leave the more direct major roads and take a quieter, more meandering route that would also see us coming up against fewer cars. This quickly became one of the best decisions we made on the entire trip as we spent the next 2 hours weaving and winding through some of the most stunning scenery we've had the pleasure of finding ourselves amongst. Ancient looking towns, derelict and weather worn. The sun setting around us, brushing the landscape with a pink and orange filter. Not one other person in sight. It was moments like this we'd hoped for when planning the trip, and we'd stumbled upon it entirely by chance.
It wasn't long until we realised that we'd wildly underestimated the distances we'd set out for ourselves on a daily basis. We found ourselves needing to stop far more regularly than planned to take a breather from the road. When riding a motorbike (and especially when only in your second week of doing so), you're concentrating every second of every minute, constantly engaged and alert. There's no zoning out and going into autopilot. It's mentally and physically tiring and so we found ourselves pulling in at the side of the road every two to three hours to stop, take stock and relax. Brewing up a couple of cups of coffee as we did so was the perfect respite and an ideal antidote.
Our border crossing into Morocco was nothing short of chaos. Our broken Spanish wasn't cutting it with the officials and so, after 20 minutes trying to muddle our way through the process alone, enlisted the help of one of the many locals offering their services. We were guided through customs with ease as he filled out our forms and we paid him his dues before continuing onwards.
It took us a total of three hours to gain entry into Morocco, but we had ground to cover and so set off through Nador and into the countryside. From the pristine Spanish coastal cities of a few hours ago, we now found ourselves weaving between the oppressive and frenetic Moroccan traffic. Horns, shouts, dust and goats filled every street and it felt incredible to be a part of.
We had some long hours on the bike ahead, but the intensity and sheer beauty of Morocco was engrossing. Growing in confidence on the bikes, we were starting to push them harder and further, with the long, empty roads through the barren desert offering the perfect runways to open up the throttle and have some fun.
We were struck by the beauty of abandoned towns, expansive canyons and lush-green oasis’, but more than anything else we were struck by the reception we received from the local people. Everyone, whether a child, elderly person or policeman, would smile and wave at us. Their outlook was infectiously positive and positively infectious.
One such person was a gentleman called Sayed. We met Sayed in the small town of Midelt. Struggling to string a conversation together, we bastardised Arabic, French and English in equal measure as we attempted to form a sentence or two. But the presentation of a bag of coffee beans and a gesture between ourselves and Sayed said everything it needed to. The three of us sat back together and watched the road and its distinct lack of traffic. It gave us a real appreciation for the simplicity and speed of life there, and the enjoyment taken from the simple things.
Seven days and over 2,000 miles from a cold, damp London, we found ourselves in the Moroccan town of Merzougha facing out onto its towering orange dunes and standing under its bright and intense sun. Our two Triumph’s had taken us unfalteringly across continents and helped to take us from complete novices to confident riders with a library of memories.
The goal of this trip was not just to reach a destination, but to show people that you don’t have to be an experienced rider to take on this sort of adventure. Many people are intimidated by the unknown, whether that's roads, routes, countries or people. What each of our experiences continues to teach us is that the best way to overcome that trepidation or uneasiness is to get out there and get to turn the unfamiliar into the familiar.
We take pride in seeing our coffee served in a variety of destinations not just in London, but all over the UK and indeed the world. One such place is Pot Kettle Black, or PKB as it's more commonly known.
Since they opened in 2014, the team have been serving Workshop Coffee in the beautiful Victorian surrounds of their coffee shop in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.
Jon Wilkin, one of the Founders of PKB, sat down with us to offer an insight into the past three years and hint at what might be on the horizon in the next three.
So, how did it all begin?
Our story began through the misfortune of injury. Myself and (PKB Co-Founder) Mark are professional rugby players. Mark returned from a stint playing rugby in Sydney and was overwhelmed by the quality and choice of independent speciality coffee operations over there. He was so passionate about the lack of quality in this area in the North-West that we began to learn, listen and love the beauty of great coffee.
At this point Mark suffered a career-threatening injury to his knee and that was probably the catalyst PKB's inception. A year of sampling the market, planning and understanding the craft of coffee came next and, as fortune or misfortune would have it, I then became badly injured.
We acquired a site and I project managed the build whilst Mark was back on the pitch. That year, in October 2014, we won a huge rugby competition and PKB Barton Arcade opened its doors.
We held our breath and waited for the customers. I have never been more nervous.
What came before coffee for you?
Aside from our sporting careers, myself and Mark bonded over great design, food, wine and a social life that was populated by events attached to these things. We are both very social guys and central to everything we did prior to PKB was about enjoying ourselves and refining our tastes; that is essentially what we still do now but with what is probably a more commercial approach.
I had some experience of opening my own business and had made lots of mistakes, too, which really helped us in the early stages I think. We both have very similar interests and enjoy fine dining as much as a few drinks. We just love great things and the many forms those great things can take.
What sets PKB apart?
Our location and the quality of what we put out. We're set in a beautiful Victorian Arcade in Central Manchester. After the Arndale bomb in the city, most glass buildings in the area were damaged beyond repair but the arcade survived and, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Manchester -- ornate iron balconies, huge glass domes and a level of design that its becoming increasingly rare to find.
We have the most prominent site within the arcade and sit alongside an amazing gents Barbers, Spanish Deli and clothes shop. There’s a great little vibe in the arcade and its blossomed since we took a punt on what had previously been a relatively unsuccessful space.
The arcade is now a destination for PKB customers and tourists alike. I honestly believe the quality of our coffee and brunch is the highest in Manchester. There are some excellent places to eat and drink in the city, but we've recently been voted the best Coffee Shop/Tea Room in the 2016 Food and Drink awards. That’s all down to the amazing coffee and food we serve and the quality of the products we use.
Quite simply good things in one end and minimal processes between mean we can bring great products to the table.
What led you to Workshop Coffee?
We looked around for 18 months and didn’t taste an espresso with so much depth of flavour and that;s true of every iteration we've had since. We love the coffee and it’s become an amazing part of our business. As we’ve grown, we have continually revisited how to get the best out of the beans you guys deliver through e-mails, phone calls and training sessions.
It’s a continual process.
We're passionate about delivering speciality coffee to people in unusual locations. We're not based in an offbeat location or in an area surrounded by similar industries. We are slap-bang in the middle of commercial chain land. We have 1 litre caramel macchiatos to our left and hot, floppy sandwiches to our right. We want to grow and present an alternative to the occasionally soulless British high street.
Barton Arcade has taught us that location is crucial. We have just about agreed to launch our second site and we couldn’t be more excited about where it is. I can’t give too much away at this stage, but it's Manchester again and we just can’t wait to give the people in that area the PKB experience.
Our biggest challenge remains getting Marks music off the playlist.
14 Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester. M3 2BW
Weekdays: 8:00am – 7:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
This February we returned to El Salvador with our good friends at Nordic Approach to visit producers with whom we’ve been working with for five consecutive seasons. First on our itinerary was a visit to see Jose Antonio and Andreas Salaverria at their mill, Las Cruces, up in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador, along the Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range.
After years of producers in Central America battling with leaf rust, it was fantastic to see their two main estates, Finca Santa Rita and Finca San Francisco, looking green, lush and healthy. By maintaining healthy trees and root stocks with ingenious pruning techniques and shade management, the brothers work with their farm managers and teams of highly trained, well-incentivised pickers to produce truckloads of beautifully uniform and ripe cherry. They process the fruit in a multitude of different ways, from full naturals, honeys and pulped naturals, to washed and soaked preparations, and by working cleanly and carefully they're able to offer a wide range of unique and interesting flavour profiles.
Through proper drying the coffees always hold up fantastically well, tasting sweet and layered even after a year has elapsed from harvesting -- somewhat remarkable for coffees from El Salvador. The final stages of quality refinement in the dry mill utilise density and colour sorters, meaning that their coffees are a joy to work with in the roastery as they are so clean and uniform.
Jose Antonio is the agronomist at Las Cruces, and Andreas the cupper. Having the two of them present in their cupping lab along with their quality control team, Raoul and Rosio, managing the samples and turning the tables offers a chance for informed discussion and feedback in every aspect from seed to cup, which for us thoroughly enriches the enjoyment of a cup of coffee.
Something we felt very privileged to be a part of was cupping their ‘Variety Garden’. The table was made up of twenty or so different varieties of coffee cherries grown in similar conditions on one of their farms, they're roasted and prepared in the same way allowing us to really hone in on what flavour traits are brought about via the coffee’s genetics, and what suits their soil and microclimate.
Alongside some fantastic soaked lots and a handful of really unique honey processed coffees, we tasted some superb naturals, lovely washed lots and some bizarre and fun cups of SL28 and Geisha Rojo from the brothers.
As well as seeing the JASAL group in Santa Ana we had to travel to Usulután to see Gilberto Baraona at Los Pirineos. Somewhat of a coffee celebrity, Gilberto is animated and commands the room with an infectious personality and unrivalled energy.
Last year it took us 45 minutes to drive from the closest petrol station up to the Los Pirineos processing mill (a short commute compared to the two days it took his grandfather by ox 60 years ago), but it was all of seven minutes this year thanks to the new road that Gilberto had built by using lots and lots of dynamite. He spoke animatedly about his plans for the farm, increasing efficiency, yields, flavour and all sorts of weird and wonderful new projects whilst we were squeezed in the back of an ATV getting an ‘off road back massage’.
In a completely different manner to the Salaverrias, Gilberto is tackling rust by replanting whole new areas of his farms and has averaged 100,000 trees each year over the last few years. 2016 saw him put 500,000 new seedlings from his nursery into the ground, a staggering number of new trees, predominantly of the Pacamara variety, in an attempt to start fresh with healthy plants.
Witnessing the many drying beds of honey processed coffee at Los Pirineos is quite incredible. By manipulating the methods of turning the sticky parchment over in the sun or in the shade, the workers are able to create cleaner or darker hues of fermenting sugars, which results in very distinctly white, yellow, red or ‘black’ honey processed coffee. It's often the case that in the cup this is not so tightly correlated with ‘funkiness’ or ‘processing flavour’; some white honeys can be very funky and some red honeys impeccably clean. The sheer volume of microlots being prepared in unique manners under such scrutiny is very impressive, and we are looking forward to receiving samples from this year’s harvest.
What with growing coffee at some of the highest altitudes in the region we were a little too early to taste anything from the main portion of this year’s harvest. Whilst the higher altitude results in slower fruit maturation (making for a more complex flavour in your cup) it also means that Gilberto’s crops are under more threat from thieves compared to his neighbours. They will be the last thing left to steal once everyone else is done picking and processing, and so we witnessed a lot of security patrolling his precious crops.
Visiting the two very different producers was both informative and insightful, but without the company of Nordic Approach many questions would have been left unasked and unanswered. Morten is a fantastic person to be around when talking to producers and when cupping, and through osmosis and proximity we absorbed a lot of information we were more than eager to return with and share with our inquisitive Baristas and Bar Backs.
Our El Salvadorean options from this season will be arriving in Vyner St. in the coming weeks and months and we'll be updating you on their progress as we profile them ready for release.
Rest assured, there will be some delicious coffees coming your way.
In September 2015, Indigo Coffee and Gelato, complete with a slick, clean interior and a mélange of weird and wonderful Gelato varieties, popped up in the Belfast’s university area to become the latest addition to the city’s fast-evolving coffee scene. We caught up with owner Ryan Richards to get a better understanding of how Indigo came to be.
Where did your journey into coffee begin?
Like a lot of people in Belfast, a trip to Established a couple of months after they opened was my first specialty coffee experience. Before that I have to admit that I was quite partial to an Iced Caramel Macchiato.
Whilst at university, I started working in a small ice cream café where they had an old Conti espresso machine which barely got used. I'd seen some latte art videos on YouTube and I caught the coffee bug.
I owe that shop a lot of milk.
Tell us about how Indigo came to be.
I had initially opened Indigo with my friend Michael. I'd just finished University in 2015, and we started talking about opening a coffee shop. We planned everything out on paper in a month, but there is only so much planning you can do.
It got to the point where we just had to take the risk and go for it. We found a quirky little shop space in the student area of Belfast. We did all the construction and plumbing between family and friends in the space of couple of months and opened on 22nd September 2015.
Why ice cream?
We knew we needed something different that was going to make us stand out. Gelato was also something we could really experiment with, just as much as coffee. The day we opened we didn't have a gelato recipe, and now – one year on – we've made some pretty weird and wonderful flavours: sweet potato & marshmallow, spinach choc-chip and smokey bacon, to name a few.
How do you feel the Northern Irish coffee scene is changing and where do you sit in that?
Northern Ireland has really caught on to speciality coffee very quickly. The growth in interest and demand even in the year we've been open has been amazing. There’s been spurt of new shops, all of them bringing a unique coffee experience. It's been fun chatting with customers and visiting the other coffee shops in the area on days off. There is quite a community of coffee lovers being cultivated in this little corner of Ireland.
The best part is people here aren’t afraid to be bold and try new things. From the introduction of specialty coffee to Northern Ireland, to local roasters advancing, to coffee paired with gelato, we are very much spoilt for choice here. In turn, people respect that boldness which breeds a loyal base of customers, especially at Indigo.
How has Indigo's approach to coffee adapted over time?
The move from renting our coffee equipment and purchasing our own has given us freedom to experiment with different roasters. We have always found great consistency and interesting, well-rounded flavour profiles coming from Workshop. The day we started using Hunkute Espresso, we saw our customers get very excited about the change in flavour. That’s what we want to be able to offer our customers – an opportunity to move past their typical commuter coffee and to try something unique and exciting with every visit. Workshop’s always been able to provide that for us, whilst at the same time being accessible to those just beginning to fall in love with coffee.
What's next for Indigo?
This year we want to embrace and enjoy what we have managed to create in the past year and a bit, keep building on the Indigo vision, allowing that to grow with us. A strategy day away to London and a visit to a few Workshop locations are also no doubt on the cards.
Weekdays: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Weekend: 10:00am – 6:00pm
Along with much of the UK, we'll be closing our doors for a few short days over the festive period to allow our hard-working teams some well-deserved rest.
However, we will be opening our doors and firing up the roaster on a number of days through the Christmas period. We are revising our opening times though, so be sure to double-check if you intend on visiting or placing an order:
Sat 24/12 - Mon 26/12 - Closed
Tue 27/12 - Sat 31/12 - 9:00am - 4:00pm
Sun 01/01 - Closed
Mon 02/01 - 9:00am - 4:00pm
Tue 03/01 - Normal Hours Resume
MARYLEBONE & FITZROVIA COFFEEBARS
Sat 24/12 - 9:00am - 6:00pm
Sun 25/12 - Mon 26/01 - Closed
Tue 27/12 - Sat 31/12 - 9:00am - 6:00pm
Sun 01/01 - Closed
Mon 02/01 - 9:00am - 6:00pm
Tue 03/01 - Normal Hours Resume
Fri 23/12 - 7:00am - 5:00pm
Sat 24/12 - Mon 02/01 - Closed
Tue 03/01 - Normal Hours Resume
Mon 26/12 - Tue 27/12 - Closed
Wed 28/12 - Roasting & Shipping Subscription orders
Thu 29/12- Roasting & Shipping Online Shop orders
Fri 30/12 - Mon 02/01- Closed
Tue 03/01 - Roasting & Shipping resume as normal
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2017.
The era of the self-flagellating barista is over.
Overly obtuse and complicated brewing procedures that were once entertaining and exciting are now simply annoying. “There are no points for difficulty in coffee”. What really matters is using fantastic coffee and thoroughly enjoying the cups that you brew.
To that end we’ve been on the hunt for an automatic filter coffee brewer that we aren’t just happy to recommend, but wholeheartedly endorse, stock and sell to our customers.
When we first dipped our toes into the world of auto-brewers we knew that we had to do a lot of experimenting. Upon testing a wide range of drip coffee makers we were scoring the machines in the following categories:
We looked at how comfortable and easy it is to engage with the machine, in preparing a pot, brewing and cleaning down, assessing the tactile qualities of the materials as well as sturdiness.
Assessing whether the machine is able to get the water up to an adequate brewing temperature, how quickly it does so and how stable it remains throughout the brewing process
We trialled different recipes and techniques with each brewer, playing every role from skilled barista to someone half-asleep and feeling lazy in the morning. We rinsed filter papers, agitated as necessary and levelled the coffee bed for a more involved brewing procedure, but also trialled simply adding coffee and water by eye, with no intervention during the brewing process. Our thoughts behind these tests were that the better brewer would be the one that can adequately extract the coffee in a range of different scenarios. Using a refractometer we could check which machine brewed a stronger cup when using the same dose of coffee and water, thus informing us as to the more efficient option.
It wouldn’t do to simply test the brewers once, so we brewed pot after pot of a wide range of coffees using water of varying hardness to see how the brewers coped in multiple scenarios.
Good things come to those who wait, but you can’t deny that your first cup in the morning can’t arrive quickly enough. Given that the machines will be popular in offices and cafes as well as in the home we wanted to make sure we selected a brewer that doesn’t take an age to produce a pot.
You can’t overlook the importance of a slick looking machine. The footprint of the machine as well as the choice and finish of materials needs to lead to a pleasing aesthetic.
Value for Money:
There are some super cheap and some crazy expensive automatic brewers out there. It was important to us to find something with good build quality but not cost the earth, as the more people that can enjoy our coffee, the better.
Obviously this relies on the brewer delivering well on the above criteria, but we made sure to taste, taste and taste again to ensure the brewer reliably produces something utterly delicious.
Our Winner: The Technivorm Moccamaster
The Moccamaster ticked every box for us, and we’ve since been using it to brew fresh pots every day in the Workshop Coffee roastery as an extension of our roasted coffee QC program (and to perk the team up during a day’s roasting and packing).
A lesson in utilitarian, industrial aesthetic and a great example of quality manufacturing, the machine is hand-built in the Netherlands and comes with a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty.
We were able to brew well extracted pots of coffee with minimal intervention, and have put together this concise brewing guide for those wanting to get the best out of their investment.
One of the first bars to open in the redeveloped Northern Quarter, Common has been a staple of the area since 2004. In the words of General Manager, Jonny, “the area had a lot of residents but nowhere to drink and hang out. Common wasn’t trying to be a city bar but just a nice, reliable neighbourhood place to drink”.
A lot has changed in the last twelve years. The Northern Quarter has flourished and, during that time, Common has been torn down and rebuilt with an expansion and a refined offering.
“We bought more space, expanded the seating area… we completely ripped it apart and started again. We originally set it up on a tight budget — it was rough and ready, you know? We just kind of outgrew it and we couldn’t keep up with demand. We wanted something more efficient, to allow us to carry on serving food and drink to a high standard”.
The revamp wasn’t popular with everyone, but Jonny is confident that they have retained most of their regulars and won back most of the people they lost.
“Everyone who was vocally hating it, they started coming back once they saw it was the same team, the same philosophy and that we’ve just grown up a bit.”
This is a regular theme in conversations with café owners and operators; adapt or die. Lots of cafés that outgrow themselves don’t update or aren’t able to, for one reason or another. Aside from how customers may feel about this, it can cause real strain amongst staff members who are working in inefficient ways or with outdated equipment, and it can negatively impact the quality of the offering. So what was it about the original Common that, ten years later, was dragging its heels?
“It’s the same thing anyone in the Northern Quarter will tell you: we get incredibly, incredibly busy in very concentrated times, so it’s hard to maintain standards and quality in those conditions. We always want to keep ahead with new ideas, new and exciting things, not just rest on our laurels. It’s not pretentious though, we find stuff we like and we’re excited so we get behind it, and we want to share that”.
Common is in a constant battle to stay relevant to their neighbourhood, but it’s a labour of love and it allows Jonny and his team a certain amount of freedom to try to jump ahead of the curve. “We feel we have to take risks. We tore the place down and built it back up. You know, people don’t like change, but we felt we had to.”
Common 2.0 is ambitious without over-reaching. The offering is broad yet considered, and the team is keeping up with the changing demands and tastes of the neighbourhood whilst showcasing what they themselves enjoy, rather than bowing blindly to gentrification. Common hasn’t sold out. It’s grown up. There is utilitarian yet comfortable furniture, it’s light and airy (even more so in the Summer as some of the outer walls retract and open up the space), but it’s lively. The decor may be slightly Scandi-chic, but the buzzing atmosphere is full on Manchester - the pebbledash bar in the centre is a nice nod to Common’s roots, and a wink that lets you know you’re welcome.
Common has also refined the food offering (the salt and pepper squid and Korean fried chicken are great bar snacks), but they are still serving up their crowd-pleasing burgers and sandwiches. “We’re probably most famous for our burgers, the maple bacon burger is the most popular”, says Jonny.
The coffee scene in Manchester has grown tremendously in recent years, with events such as The Manchester Coffee Festival (formerly Cup North) putting Northern roasters and cafés on the map, and allowing local businesses access to roasters from other areas. “Since we re-opened we’ve seen much more of a push on day trade. The coffee side has really taken off, we’ve invested a lot in that and it’s blown up. Our coffee sales are up by about 400%.
When we visited we drank a bright and sweet brew of Marimira AA, a Kenyan coffee currently in our range. “People come down to try the latest filter, and we keep it on constant rotation. The people who like it get into it, they come back and try the different beans. The staff too — they love the filter.”
Originally coming from a craft beer background, the team at Common had a love of and appreciation for good coffee, but none of its staff were trained baristas. “We worked closely with friends from other cafes like North Tea Power and Idle Hands. They did some training with us and got the staff on board. It’s the same with anything we buy: wine, beer, gin — we apply the same thought behind it all in terms of taste.”.
It’s important to look at venues like Common who take stock of their position, decide what can be achieved, and then reach for it. In a time when so many new openings seem to be guided by the same rulebook, adhering to an accepted aesthetic, Common are “still here, still pushing forward. That’s about it really”. If you’re in the Manchester area you can drop by Common any day except Monday, and check out their sister venues Port Street Beer House, The Beagle, and recent addition The Pilcrow, close to Victoria train station. The latter is a pub built by hand with help from the local community in the NOMA neighbourhood, operated by All Our Yesterdays, a new partnership between Common owner Jonathan Heyes and Paul Jones, the co-founder of Cloudwater Brew Co.
Address: 39 Edge St, Manchester M4 1HW
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we moved our Production Department to Bethnal Green. Almost ten months of planning, planning, more planning, building, installing, commissioning and finally profiling coffees on the new machine took place before we packed our things from the back of our Clerkenwell Cafe, headed East and continued work afresh out of the new production space.
There were some setbacks along the way that we now look back and laugh at, but at the time they were all issues that bugged us in one way or another. The motors on the roaster turning backwards when we first started roasting, the leaky ceiling combatted by using an umbrella whilst at the P25, the combination lockers that nobody had a code for and the intermittent cut-outs of the gas supply before we installed a fatter gas pipe and reduced our link to the fire alarms of the upstairs flats - it just wouldn’t do to have the gas cut off every time our new neighbours burnt their toast.
Still, miraculously, we set up roast recipes for our coffee range, moved everything, including the team, over a single weekend and didn’t miss a single production day. We’re so proud of the fact we’ve never missed a production day in coming on 6 years of roasting; there's no secret, it’s just down to the incredibly hard work the team does in maintaining the equipment to such a high degree each week.
The new venue means suddenly we're in a position to do things we weren’t able to in Clerkenwell, due to the limiting factor of space. Previous plans have been realised and talk has become action as we've bought pieces of equipment, implementing new protocols that help us in our pursuit of ever better coffee.
Improved Green Coffee Program:
As always, our roasting is guided by three Cs: careful, considered and consistent. We aim to procure the most delicious and interesting green coffee we can and doing it justice in roasting is an ongoing challenge. We wanted to not just improve the roasting itself, but tighten up other areas that impact the roasting process and ultimately the cup.
Something we'd been doing for a while in Clerkenwell was the tagging of every bag of green coffee upon arrival into the roastery before logging a moisture reading using our BeanPro. This has continued in Vyner St., but we added the use of a UV light which we shine on every new coffee coming into the inventory. This helps scan for any mould or other issues that can come about from poor drying or transit of green coffee and allows us to take the necessary steps if something comes up.
Before a test roast is turned and profiling even thought about, we turn a small sample roast in the Ikawa to assess how a particular coffee has travelled. Once cupped, only then do we put together a more informed roasting plan.
When a release date for a particular coffee is scheduled, we ensure the beans spend at least three days acclimatising in our fully insulated green coffee room, fitted out with a temperature control unit and humidifier so the coffee is stable and stored as optimally as we can. As we charge a batch into the roaster finally we don’t have to worry about the temperature fluctuations such as we endured at Clerkenwell. Being able to adapt to this swing is a testament to an experienced hand, but ask any roaster and they’d rather they didn't have this obstacle to overcome at any point. Wrestling with a roast because it's too hot or too cold is no fun, believe me.
New Burner Technology:
Upgrading to a larger machine meant not just more capacity, but vastly better technology. Rather than the manual gas dial of the P12, reading from 1 to 6 and controlling what was essentially a grill burner, the P25 has a touchpad giving us linear control, incrementally increasing or decreasing our gas supply, to what can only be described as a jet engine, 1% at a time. This accuracy makes control of the roast process so much easier, and also facilitates clearer communication across the roasting team.
The power of the new machine means we’re able to fully develop large batches in a shorter time than we previously could. One benefit of being able to roast in a faster and punchier manner is that we’re able to better showcase coffees with prominent fruit and acidity. Since we love coffees of that type, it’s great we’re able to get the best out of them now, more than ever before in our history. We’re talking 22kg of green coffee properly developed, balanced and clean in around 9 minutes; our old P12 could only dream of such numbers.
More Frequent and Focussed QC Sessions:
The assessment of our roasted coffee now takes place in even greater detail too. As normal each batch is weighed once out of the cooling tray, ensuring the coffee has lost enough mass to be brittle enough to properly extract when brewing, but we now also measure the colour of roasted coffee using a ColorTrack. Initially helping profile a coffee, we estimate a rough ballpark colour figure to aim for with test roasts, whilst during production it gives us a reliable, objective measurement that allows us to see if certain batches could taste different from others, allowing us to pull potentially blown roasts from the packing line for further analysis.
As well as these quantitative measures we now spend more time on the qualitative side of things too. This means tasting. Lots of tasting. Our huge cupping table is in use most days along with our espresso QC machine, which means we adapt and tweak our roast recipes more frequently as we continually hone in on the sweet spot of every coffee in our range. Coupled with brewing loads of fresh pots using our MoccaMaster during the day, we’re closing a much tighter feedback loop and involving the entire team in the pursuit of tastier coffee.
Some night's, sleep is hard to come by though.
A Larger Team:
We left Clerkenwell with a team of five based permanently in the Roastery; that's grown to eleven staff operating in the Roastery on Vyner Street. In part due to the creation of a dedicated training and wholesale space on site, this means we have all the more resource at hand to test, taste and assess our coffees with a much wider range of palates and brewing expertise.
However, it does mean your arms get tired from grinding pepper into soup for eleven or you get teary eyed chopping a whole bag of onions for a stew, but divvying the cooking and washing up amongst the team does mean we get to spend a little quality time together over wholesome lunches each day.
Our Head Roaster, Dan, now shares the majority of roasting with the newest production roaster, Roosa. Starting as a Production Assistant in Clerkenwell, she graduated to Roaster in Vyner St. and becomes the first female to stand behind the roaster for Workshop.
Meanwhile, Kohtaro has progressed from Bar Back to Barista, on to Production Assistant and then Roaster, he's now settling into his position as Roastery Manager, ensuring orders are met each day and shipped out on time.
I [Richard] spend a lot less time at the roaster, instead sharing the responsibility of travelling to source green coffee, pushing product development and ensuring high attention to detail is observed in all aspects of training and QC programs with James B. Sam meanwhile hosts our Baristas, Bar Backs and wholesale partners in the training space, which he shares with the Wholesale Support team of Susan, Josh and Florian.
Kristyna and James F make up the final two spots; the Production Assistants who ensure green coffee passes all QC checks, help manage inventory and the rotation of batches in the green room, and who are also responsible for the beautiful presentation and packaging of your coffee.
We’ve had many a visitor to the roastery over the past year. The obvious ones from our green partners at Nordic Approach, TWCS and Café Imports have been, but also numerous crews from the BBC and Channel 4 have filmed us cup, roast and generally talk coffee. Add to that the open doors when we hosted the English AeroPress Championships, along with visits from many notable roasters, cafe owners, baristas, chefs and even a professional cyclist, all have had the tour, drank the coffee and chatted.
Having everyone be involved over the last twelve months in preparing the space and designing the systems that sculpt our working day has been hard work, incredibly important but, most of all, rewarding.
A never ending work-in-progress, we’re still streamlining and working out how to improve, but rest assured, at no time will corners be cut or product quality compromised.
It’s a team effort and always has been.
It’s a team I’m proud to be part of.