Journal

October 11, 2019

News › Opinion ›


Specialty Instant: An Oxymoron

When well-sourced, carefully roasted and properly brewed, coffee speaks of the place it was grown, where the pace of life is generally much slower than that of those drinking the end product. Many years of work have gone into your cup of coffee, and in our opinion, it's worth spending a few minutes to prepare a cup and a few more savouring the flavour. 

One way that the ‘specialty’ coffee industry has established itself in the market place is as something 'other'. Quality-oriented coffeeshops are defined against a backdrop of high street chains and those stuck in the second wave. The wares of a ‘specialty’ coffee roaster square up against anonymised blends comprised of cheap, defective and typically carbonised coffees from commercial coffee roasters, available for a few pounds in your local supermarket, often replete with FairTrade and Organic logos. Through brand tribalism and a shared language and aesthetic, we have defined ourselves in opposition to what else is available. Yes, we can discuss cup scores and defect counts, but ultimately ‘specialty’ coffee is experiential, emphasising flavour, provenance and quality over convenience, frugality and affordability. 

If you want something special and delicious, time and skill are as necessary ingredients as high quality beans and brewing equipment. If you want something less costly, more everyday, and you aren't so fussy about your morning cup, cheaper coffees are available, often coming ready-ground to save you some time. And, if you value convenience over everything else, at the expense of affordability and flavour, you have instant and pod coffees. 

These are the antithesis of special.

Pods and instant coffee fall into an even lower category than the cheap whole bean and pre-ground coffee options; they're not even proper coffee. Watching with growing concern at a recent muddying of the waters between specialty and commodity coffee, we now see 'specialty' coffee roasters introducing certain products into their own ranges that, for us, cannot be considered specialty.

‘Specialty coffee solutions' that remove the need for cleaning up, along with any effort or skill in coffee brewing, are becoming increasingly prevalent. You can buy 'specialty' instant coffee, 'specialty' coffee pods and single-serve drip packs and coffee ‘teabags’ that you simply dispose of when you're done. No grinding, no mess, no fuss, and undoubtedly an inferior tasting cup of coffee at the end of it.

To be clear, we're not a group of curmudgeonly Luddites looking to preserve the status quo and neither are we against our industry pushing the boundaries. 'Specialty' coffee has always been progressive by design and delivering quality coffee is an ongoing, iterative process underpinned by continual change and improvement, driven by experimentation and learning. However, it needs to be said that these apparent advancements and embracing of technology developed for convenience and commodity coffee are detracting from the value of 'specialty' coffee. A subpar and innately compromised product is being peddled at an inflated price tag.

First addressing the subpar and compromised product, 'specialty coffee pods' and 'specialty instant' are ludicrous in the same way that 'Gourmet Microwave Meals' are; the promise of something special is instantly undermined by the delivery mechanism. The calibre of the beans being used to create instant and pod coffees is not retained via the process of pre-grinding and dosing into pods or through freeze-drying brewed coffee. To claim to be delivering both quality and convenience when these product lines are introduced onto a 'specialty' roaster's offer list is equivalent to the promise that pots of instant noodles can provide a comparable flavour experience gained when eating a bowl of slow-cooked bone broth and hand-pulled noodles. Convenient food products don't claim this, accepting their mediocrity as a trade-off for convenience, but grandiose claims are being made about the quality of the wares in ‘specialty’ roasters’ 'convenience' coffee ranges.

Onto the inflated price tag. Whilst rebranding a coffee pod a 'capsule' may make the price of 55p sting a little less, for just 5.4g actual coffee that's a price of £101.85/kg. If you splurge for the 85p capsule, you're spending £157.40/kg. That's equivalent to £25.46 or £39.35 for a 250g retail bag of beans. As difficult to comprehend as the high prices is the idea that 5.4g coffee is a reasonable dose of coffee to prepare a single cup. 

It isn't.

Lacking enough raw ingredient to create good flavour intensity, body or to give the drinker the caffeinated effect they seek from their brew, means that a coffee pod’s size inevitably mars the discerning coffee drinker’s experience.

'Specialty instant' is even more costly. It can cost upwards of £3.10 for a sachet designed for 250g water. You'd need 16.8g to produce 250g brewed coffee in a pourover using a typical brew ratio of 60g/L. That’s the equivalent of around 15 ‘serves’ per 250g bag of beans. The equivalent cost of a 250g bag of coffee in terms of instant, in this case, would be approximately £46 per bag or £184/kilo. 

We should not applaud convenience at the expense of quality, especially when it is also at the expense of expense itself.

In today’s world, many of us would sooner waste money than time because the latter feels increasingly finite. It's something we understand, but we also believe it can be overcome. After all, it takes less time to grind your coffee than it does for your kettle to boil, and if you want to enjoy a delicious, freshly brewed cup of coffee whilst remaining hands-off, there are fantastic brewers that fit the bill, such as the 50-year-old MoccaMaster.

Extremely convenient coffee options like instant and pods create problems when they're embraced by the ‘specialty’ coffee industry. Coffee becomes just one more ingredient that people become more detached from. We, as an industry, shouldn't be encouraging people to stop drinking 'proper coffee'. The dumbing-down enabled through offering convenient, fast foods means we're eradicating the skills and understanding required to purchase and consume a whole host of ingredients consciously. We also run the risk of seeing these sorts of products retraining a person's palate to accept and tolerate stale tasting goods. In this case, as in many others, faster is not always better. If you're looking for nothing more than a quick medicinal caffeine hit there are far more efficient and cost-effective ways of doing so. 

If you haven't got five minutes to make a cup of coffee, grind the beans and drip water through the grounds, then you definitely don't have the further ten minutes to enjoy it. If speed is critical, buy a pod machine, but make peace with the fact that what you are drinking is not special. 

However, if you do want to carve out a niche in your day for enjoyment and moving slowly, then here's a link to our V60 brew guide.

October 09, 2019

News › Where To Drink It ›


Workshop Coffee and Snow Peak

At the end of September, Japanese outdoor lifestyle brand, Snow Peak, announced that they’ll be opening their European flagship store in London’s St. James’s Market. Alongside their array of high quality clothing, camping equipment and gear, their first ever European location will also be operating a full-service café in the three-story store, which will proudly serve Workshop Coffee.

Having spent several months working closely together on both the design of the coffeebar and the equipment it will hold, Snow Peak will be pulling shots of our seasonal espressos using a combination of Nuova Simonelli Mythos One grinders and a 2-Group La Marzocco Linea Classic AV. The team will also be showcasing our filter coffees using their own range of titanium coffee brewing hardware to make clean, sweet and fresh cups brewed as pourovers.

From the moment we began speaking with Snow Peak’s Vice President, Lisa Yamai, the parallels between their approach and our own were apparent and abundant. As we continued our conversations and gained a greater insight into their approach, we realised those similarities ran to the very core of both companies.

As well as sharing a passion for things done well, Snow Peak are in continual pursuit of better products. To do this, they're forever tweaking and iterating on what has come before with the aim of making something better.

Their desire to inspire more people to enjoy the outdoors also struck a chord with us. We're always looking for ways that offer people access to the exceptional coffee wherever and whenever they choose to drink it. Snow Peak's beautifully designed, carefully considered outdoor brewing gear is an exciting way of helping people to do exactly that.

We're incredibly excited to begin working together and know exciting things lie ahead in the coming months.

Snow Peak’s London store opens on Friday 25th October and will be located at 16a Regent Street, St. James’s, London, SW1Y 4PH. If you can’t wait to visit their first European store, their UK online shop is open now.

August 19, 2019

Competition › News ›


Win a Covetable Commuter Package


We’ve teamed up with our friends and partners at tokyobike and Kinto Japan to bring you the chance to win an incredibly covetable commuter package. 

From an ongoing to supply of coffee, to everything you need to brew and transport it, the prize will also include your own two-wheeled transportation in the form of a brand new tokyobike.

The lucky winner will receive:
A 12-month Workshop Coffee subscription, straight through your letterbox each week
A place on one of our Home Brewing Masterclasses for you and a friend.
A tokyobike Classic Sport Limited Edition
A white 350ml Kinto Japan Travel Tumbler
A Kinto Japan 4-Cup Brewer Stand 

With a combined value of over £1,500, entry is simple: just enter your details below between now and Sunday 8th September.

We wish you the best of luck. 

Win A Covetable Coffee Commuter Package

Our audio-enabled Brew Guides

We’re always looking for new ways that we can help people to brew the best coffee outside of our coffeebars. It’s the reason we began hosting our hands-on, Saturday morning Home Brewing Masterclasses over six years ago and which now take place at our Roastery in Bethnal Green. It’s also why we share our hard-won experiences with a range of brewing equipment with you, be that via thorough testing in the Roastery or taking some of that equipment into environments it’s less than familiar with.

In making this information available, we hope to better equip coffee lovers with the knowledge and tools they need to enjoy exceptional coffee whatever their level and wherever they might find themselves.

Most recently, we’ve been working on augmenting our Online Brew Guides, aiming to make them even more useful for home brewers. Pairing up with London-based voice consultancy and design studio, Vixen Labs, we’ve spent the past couple of months bringing our step-by-step guides to life as voice-enabled audio guides and are proud to introduce you to them.

Introduced by our Head of Quality, James Bailey, the Workshop Coffee Alexa Skill is now available to download and use from the Amazon Alexa Skills Store and contains audio brew guides for our favourite brew methods: AeroPress, Clever Dripper, French Press, MoccaMaster and V60.

Much of the information outlined will be familiar to those that have used the online guides, as we walk through the required equipment, ingredients and crucial steps involved in creating a consistently delicious cup of coffee. However, there is one particularly big, and very exciting, development that the audio guides bring with them: their hands-off nature. Conversing with an Alexa smart speaker, listeners’ hands are entirely freed up to grind, pour and plunge as they listen along and prepare their brew. This, we hope, makes them even more useful to even more people.

The guides also contain a number of additional features.

Built-in, voice-activated timers mean you can be sure you’re perfectly dialled in to experience the vibrant, nuanced flavours of your chosen coffee (whilst remaining in control of when said timer starts). The Alexa Skill also contains a tasting tips section, where James explains what to look out for in each cup, helping listeners to better understand what it is they love about some of their favourite coffees and like a little less about others.

Available to download from the Amazon Alexa Skills Store now, you can find it by saying “Alexa, open Workshop Coffee”. Alternatively, follow this link. 

With special thanks to Jen and James of Vixen Labs for their support, help and expertise in bringing this project to life.

April 25, 2019

Events › News › Pop-Up ›


Workshop Coffee + Tracksmith | Join us at The Trackhouse

From Friday 26th April until Monday 29th April 2019, you'll find us brewing up filter coffee in Covent Garden alongside New England-based running brand, Tracksmith.

Dedicated to championing the pursuit of personal excellence, Tracksmith seeks to celebrate, support and add to running's distinct culture. Their pop-up Trackhouse in Seven Dials, which marks the brands first ever physical presence in the UK, is an embodiment of that commitment. Not only will it showcase their limited edition London Collection and other clothing staples; it's also bringing together the rituals that surround the sport. Conversation and conviviality will be facilitated by freshly brewed coffee and cold beers.

The Trackhouse will be playing host to shakeout runs and panel discussions throughout the weekend. We'll also be there fuelling running's era and facilitating conversations between and with visitors. Showcasing our tangy, sweet Ecuadorian filter, Felipe Abad, we'll be using Kinto Japan's 2-Cup Brewer Stands to brew delicious cups throughout the pop-up.

Their first visit to the UK couldn't be better timed, as tens of thousands of runners descend on London to take part in and support one of the biggest running events in the global calendar: London Marathon. We're excited to be a part of Tracksmith's inaugural visit to our home city and hope to see you there. 

Coffeebar opening hours:
Friday 26th April - 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Saturday 27th April - 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Monday 29th April - 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Trackhouse opening hours:
Thursday 25th April - 12:00 p.m. - 8:00p.m.
Friday 26th April - 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Saturday 27th April - 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Sunday 28th April - 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Monday 29th April - 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Location: 9-11 Short's Gardens, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H 9AT.

For more information on the pop-up and the activities happening around it, visit the Tracksmith website.

The 5th Floor Track Day 2019

Saturday 6th April 2019 saw the return of The 5th Floor Track Day for the fourth consecutive year.

Kicking off race season for many of London's track cycling teams, the event was hosted once again at Herne Hill Velodrome -- one of the oldest cycling tracks in the world. Built in 1891, the track is no stranger to organised races and large crowds, having played host to thousands of cycling events over the years, including the track cycling event in the 1948 Olympics.

On this particularly grey Spring afternoon, though, the atmosphere was as much convivial as competitive. Music, catch-ups, beer and, of course, coffee provided the backdrop to an afternoon of fast, furious, but ultimately fun, bike racing. It also saw the official launch of The 5th Floor's 2019 kit. 

A snapshot of the day can be viewed below, courtesy of our very own Mikey Gatineau. 

February 28, 2019

Coffeebars › News › Retail ›


Calling time on our Holborn Coffeebar

It's hard to believe that it's been half a decade since we opened what was, in 2013, our second ever coffeebar. 

World-class in terms of its design, its levels of customer service and the quality of the tens of thousands of coffees we've served over the past five years, we had high hopes for what we'd be able to do in a new area of the city. 

However, the broader building development has never quite delivered on its initial promises of becoming a thriving commuter hub, surrounded by a host of exciting, like-minded operators. This has, in turn, made it increasingly difficult to justify the site long-term and so we've made the difficult, but sensible, decision to close the doors for the final time on Friday 8th March, 2019. 

We're immensely grateful to the Holborn community and our wonderful cohort of regular guests for joining us over the years and are sad to be saying goodbye. We hope to see as many of you as possible for at least one last brew over the next week.

In the meantime, we are actively looking for new coffeebar locations both in the area and further afield. The Holborn team will be joining the teams at our other London coffeebar locations, as well as our growing Wholesale Training Team and our Masterclasses will now take place at our Roastery in Bethnal Green.

All that remains is to thank the Holborn team, past and present, for their enthusiasm and hard work on the Viaduct over the years. And, of course, to thank you, our guests, for your continued support. 

The closest coffeebar to our Holborn location is Workshop Coffee at White Collar Factory, less than one mile away. You can see our full list of cofffeebars here. If you have any questions or require any additional information on our Holborn Coffeebar, please contact us here. 

July 19, 2018

Coffeebars › News › Retail ›


PROUDLY ANNOUNCING: Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm

August 2018 will see us launching our latest London coffeebar, as we bring the best coffee possible to Paddington.

In an exciting first for us, our new, focused space will be inside The Pilgrm, a boutique hotel located less than 400ft from Paddington Railway Station. 

Behind the brass-handled doors and blue ceramic-tiled Victorian frontage, you'll find us nestled in the stunningly restored reception space of the hotel serving the best coffee possible to residents and workers based in the local area, as well as train travellers en route to the South-West of the country and Heathrow Airport. 

Our rotating, seasonal range of espresso and filter coffees will be showcased seven days a week from the new bar, with single origin and decaffeinated espressos being run through Mythos 1 Grinders and pulled on a 2-Group La Marzocco Linea PB. This will be supported by freshly brewed, consistently delicious and constantly changing filter coffee, batch brewed and ready to enjoy immediately.

With comfortable seating and a newsstand stocked with magazines and newspapers, guests and regulars will also be able to enjoy loose leaf teas from exceptional, London-based tea purveyors, Postcard Teas, a concise array of baked goods from London’s best bakeries and a range of retail bags of coffee beans and brewing equipment to take home. 

We're looking forward to welcoming you and are excited to be bringing what we do to a new area of the city. 

We'll keep you updated on our progress. 

We're currently accepting applications for Barista and Supervisor positions at Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm. To apply, send a pdf copy of your CV accompanied by a short covering letter to work@workshopcoffee.com and we'll be in touch. 

Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm, 25 London Street, London. W2 1HH.

 

 

Open House | Join us on Friday 13th April

The London Coffee Festival is almost upon us once again.

As cafe owners, coffee lovers and roasters from across the country descend on East London, we'll be keeping the shutters at our Roastery in Bethnal Green up a little longer than usual on Friday 13th April from 5:00 p.m..

Providing a welcome break from the franticness of the festival, we'll be putting coffees from our current range down on the cupping table. You'll be able to taste these alongside some past favourites and a preview of some new arrivals as we seek to highlight our commitment to continually move with coffee’s seasonality.

All that, plus a few drinks and a whole host of conversations.

Find us at 29-43 Vyner Street, London, E2 9DQ.

We're looking forward to welcoming you. 

November 20, 2017

News › Retail ›


INTRODUCING OUR SOURCE ROAST BREW COLLECTION

We source. We roast. We brew.

We wholeheartedly believe that involvement at every stage of a coffees lifecycle is paramount in providing the best coffee possible.

It’s the reason we spend several months of the year in producing countries, visiting numerous farms and tasting hundreds of coffees. It’s why we have a dedicated Roastery in Bethnal Green, where our Quality Control measures and standards become more rigorous by the week. And the insight and knowledge gained is then executed in each of our coffeebars, where we’re able to serve our guests every day before feeding back to the beginning of the process.

Each stage informs the other and we wanted to create something that served as a reminder of that fact.

So a little earlier this year, we extended a challenge to the entire Workshop team: to create an icon that brought these three things together in a clear, simple and beautiful way. We're incredibly happy to unveil the results.

THE ROUNDEL
Taking inspiration from the visual simplicity and immediacy of boy scout badges, each element is brought together in a clear and beautiful way:

SOURCE: A simple outline of a mountain range represents our dedication to sourcing from the worlds best farmers, producers and co-operatives.

ROAST: A curved line that runs through the roundels middle shows the roast profile from Deiby Sair Sanchez, one of our many filter releases this in 2017.

BREW: A small water droplet is a nod to the brewing process that brings the hard work of others to the final cup.

You can shop the first products from the collection here. 

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