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March 17, 2016


GUEST POST: THE TEMPEST TWO - PART 1


As we reported
 in the tail end of 2015, The Tempest Two set out on their 3,000-mile journey across the Atlantic, from the Canary Islands to Barbados. Carrying nothing but the essentials (including an Aeropress and several bags of our Kasigwa filter) they spent two months arduously shaving miles off their distance and moving closer to a seemingly infinite horizon. 

If you followed their journey, you'll know their time on the ocean was anything but easy. Challenges presented themselves both frequently and unexpectedly -- but they made it.

In three instalments, James and Tom regale us with their stories and what they learnt as two dots in the middle of the big blue. 

-- Richard

PART 1: THE FIRST STEPS TOWARDS THE IMPOSSIBLE
Just under 2 years ago, we set ourselves a goal that many people thought was unobtainable, unreachable, impossible. We wanted to take on what is widely regarded as the toughest challenge on Earth, with no prior experience or skill-set in the discipline. We wanted to take on the Atlantic Ocean, unsupported, in a rowing boat.

The voyage would span 3000 miles from The Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, to the Caribbean Island of Barbados. Along the way we would encounter sharks, whales, a near miss with a tanker and the first hurricane to form in the Atlantic for 50 years. Our relationship as friends would be tested to its limits, as well as our nerve and physical strength. It is not uncommon for people to aspire to these great challenges, but the logistics, finances and sheer workload of completing them often presents a hurdle that is easy to trip on. 

We wanted to share how we approached this mammoth endeavour, and what we learnt along the way in becoming transatlantic rowers.

BACK YOURSELF
From day one, the one thing we never lacked was confidence. Even though neither of us had any experience rowing or sailing, we didn’t doubt ourselves for a second. Family, friends and colleagues initially laughed off the idea without a second thought — it was a moon-shot concept with no real conviction. Little did they know we weren’t viewing this as an idea; to us, this was happening.

There were a number of moments along the way to the start-line where we could have quite easily pulled out and made valid excuses for doing so. Our original boat didn’t get made in time, so we used a 10 year old model instead. Relatively severe injuries were sustained, preventing proper training for up to 6 months, and the thousands of ‘NO’ emails for sponsorship would have deterred the majority of people. But instead of using any (or all) of these excuses, we projected a picture of calm and confidence, never letting these set-backs hinder our determination and belief.

SHARING THE STORY AND CAUSE WITH LIKE-MINDED PARTNERS
We always wanted to work with brands that we loved. Using this as a base, there was a unique opportunity for them brands to get involved and tell their story through an incredible adventure.

As a key partner of ours, Workshop Coffee was one of the first on the list that we wanted on-board. Drinking their coffee near enough everyday and following the stories they tell from origin, their roasting and through their stores, we both agreed that coffee would be an incredible luxury on the row, providing a welcome break from the 2 on, 2 off routine. Brewing an Aeropress in the middle of the Atlantic can’t have been done many times (if at all) and the full process of making the filter coffee in such an incredible location would be sure to stick in our memory. 

FIT FOR THE OCEAN
The question we most get asked about the row, is ‘How did you train?’. We were lucky to have the support of Caveman Conditioning, who put a specific plan together for us to achieve the necessary level of fitness in order to complete the punishing regime at sea. We worked on strength, flexibility and cardio in equal amounts, but outside the gym we had the important task of learning to row. Neither of us had ever held an oar, so getting to grips with an alien sport was a big challenge. We spent as much time on our boat as possible, but didn’t get access to her until 6 months from the start.
We managed a total of 5 training rows before setting off on the Atlantic, so had to learn our trade on the high-seas — and what a humbling experience it was. We are not the most traditional looking rowers, coming in at a huge 5ft 6 and 5ft 8 respectively, we don’t have the levers usually associated with strong oarsmen. Luckily the seas are very different to the river and require a much more stable head, consistency,  persistence and just sheer determination when all things are against you, this, we had in abundance, 

LISTEN & LEARN
Given that neither of us had any knowledge of seamanship, we spoke to as many people as possible who could shed light on what we would face out there. The group of trans-atlantic rowers is about as elite as it gets, with only around 260 boats making the crossing. We were lucky enough to spend time with some very competent ocean rowers and racked their brains for the ins-and-outs of what it takes to succeed, allowing us to prepare mentally for what lay ahead. We also gleaned priceless pieces of information such as using sheepskin on our rowing seats to help with salt-sores, packing the correct food, how to wash effectively (whilst ironically surrounded by water) and the best ways to keep the boat clean, lean and moving fast. It was the head-start we needed before even reaching The Canaries.

As we arrived into The Canary Islands, we were soon made aware that the weather in the Atlantic was not playing by the rules. We were due to set off on the 9th December, but this was made impossible by harsh Southerly winds that prevented us passing down towards the coast of Africa. These winds blew hard for an entire week, something the locals said  they’d never experienced before during the winter months. After 2 weeks of finding ourselves stuck in the small coastal town of Puerto Mogan, we decided to push off in variable weather, literally throwing caution to the wind and going for it. 

All the emails, phone conversations, books and sleepless nights suddenly faded into the background. This was the moment we had been working towards for 18 months. 

We were taking on the Atlantic Ocean. 

We were alone.

Image credits: @stokedeversince

2016 Aeropress Championships


Late last year, we made the exciting decision to become the coffee sponsor of The World Aeropress Championship. Over the years, we’ve always enjoyed the convivial, taste-driven and light-hearted ethos of the event, so the opportunity to increase our involvement by roasting and providing the fifty national champions from across the globe with the coffee they’ll use in their attempt to be crowned World Aeropress Champion one too good to miss. 

Having also attended each event, we also know that there ain’t no party like an Aeropress party.

To kick-off our involvement, we’re delighted to announce that this year we'll be continuing the tradition of co-hosting the national event with our friends at Square Mile. As is now tradition, we’ll be working together on creating a collaboration competition coffee for all participants to use on the day (as well as some to practice with in the run-up to the event).

Opening up our new Roastery space to the public for the first time, the 2016 Aeropress Championship of England will take place on Saturday 30th April and be open to 27 competitors. Each of them will not only be vying for the top spot as the national champion, but for the chance to compete at the World Aeropress Championship in Dublin, Ireland on Thursday 23rd June, 2016.

The winner will receive return flights to Dublin to compete in the finals, as well as have their accommodation covered whilst they're out there. Second place will receive a 12-month subscription from Workshop Coffee and from Square Mile, while third place will be able to come home each month for half a year expecting to find coffee from both roasters waiting for them. 

Around the judging table, with fingers poised in anticipation, will be our three judges: Workshop Coffee’s Head of Production, Richard Shannon; Square Mile’s Operations Director, Felicity Tathis; and Master of Wine and author of the book Natural Wine, Isabelle Legeron. And, as you might expect, we’ll also be serving delicious coffee from Square Mile and ourselves that hasn't been brewed by competitors, alongside exceptional beer (kindly provided by The Kernel Brewery) all afternoon. 

Tickets for competitors will be £10.00 and available from the Workshop Coffee website on Monday 7th March, 2016 at 6:00pm. Spectators are not only welcome, but encouraged, and more information on the day itself will be released as it creeps ever closer.

When?
Saturday 30th April, 2016; 3:00pm onwards

Where?
Workshop Coffee
29-43 Vyner St.
London
E2 9DQ

Brought to you by:
Workshop Coffee
Square Mile Coffee Roasters
The Kernel
TKC Sales Ltd — Official Aeropress Distributor for the UK & Ireland
December 15, 2015


A BUF CAFE BOX SET & OUR CHRISTMAS OPENING HOURS

On Friday, you may have seen that we released Gataba, one of the latest offerings in our filter range and -- given that its tasting notes include ginger cake, cherry brandy and clove -- a coffee seemingly made for the festive period. 

However, Gataba forms just one half of a set of coffees we've secured from Buf Cafe. The second half is formed of the vibrant and juicy Miko.

Having bought from Buf Cafe since 2011, we've since seen work being done year on year to improve quality across the board , with systems being established that allow us to isolate standout lots such as these from the bulk of production. You can read more about our relationship with Buf Cafe -- one of our longest in coffee -- here. 

Both Gataba and Miko taste classically Rwandan. However, side by side, they're incredibly different from one another, offering an excellent showcase of why it is we love the country and the coffees as much as we do. In the spirit of the festive period, we wanted to give you the chance to experience these two coffees from the Nyamagabe region of Rwanda together, so you can now buy our Buf Cafe Tasting Pack online and in all of our stores from later today.

On the subject of Christmas, now also seems like an excellent time to let you know our Christmas and New Year opening hours. We'll be here for you for much of the holidays, but be sure to check our revised opening times across our stores:

CLERKENWELL CAFE

Thursday 24/12: 7.30am -- 4.30pm
Friday 25/12 -- Sunday 27/12: Closed
Monday 28/12 -- Thursday 31/12: 9.00am -- 4.00pm
Friday 01/01: Closed
Saturday 02/01 & Sunday 03/01: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Monday 04/01: Regular hours

FITZROVIA COFFEEBAR
Thursday 24/12: 7.00am -- 7.00pm
Friday 25/12 & Saturday 26/12: Closed
Sunday 27/12 -- Thursday 31/12: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Friday 01/01: Closed
Saturday 02/01 & Sunday 03/01: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Monday 04/01: Regular hours

HOLBORN COFFEEBAR
Thursday 24/12: 7:00am -- 5:00pm
Friday 25/12 -- Sunday 03/01: Closed
Monday 04/01: Regular hours

MARYLEBONE COFFEEBAR
Thursday 24/12: 7.00am -- 7.00pm
Friday 25/12 & Saturday 26/12: Closed
Sunday 27/12 -- Thursday 31/12: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Friday 01/01: Closed
Saturday 02/01 & Sunday 03/01: 9.00am -- 6.00pm
Monday 04/01: Regular hours

ONLINE SHOP 
Thursday 17/12: Dispatching as normal
Monday 21/12: Final dispatch before Christmas
Tuesday 29/12: Dispatching as normal
Thursday 07/01: Regular hours

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and, if we don't see you before, we looking forward to welcoming you back in the New Year.

December 11, 2015


THE TEMPEST TWO

At the beginning of the year, we were approached by James Whittle and Tom Caulfield, two friends that, together, make up rowing team The Tempest Two.

The pair had a bold and ambitious plan. They wanted to row the Atlantic Ocean, they wanted to do so unaided and, in the process, they wanted to raise significant amounts of money for their chosen charities, Make a Wish Foundation and Brain Tumour Research.

One final detail was that neither of them had ever set foot in a rowing boat before.

We were in.

Since pledging our support, the two have been focusing on preparing themselves both physically and – more importantly – mentally, for what is widely perceived to be the toughest endurance challenges on earth (less than 500 people have successfully completed the voyage).

That’s meant early mornings in the gym, long evenings on the rowing machine and what have no doubt felt like even longer weekends out on the Thames and the North Sea, getting in those all-important hours on the water.

Last week, we bid bon voyage James and Tom. Armed with a Porlex hand grinder, an Aeropress and as many kilos of Kasigwa as their boat is able to hold, they boarded a plane to The Canary Islands. There, they’ll be spending their final week on land making last-minute preparations and arrangements before their grand depart on Sunday 13th December.

Between The Canary Islands and Barbados (their finishing point) lies 3,000 miles of seemingly endless open water, bringing with it sharks, hurricane-force storms, busy shipping lanes and, of course, the constant risk of capsizing. Anticipating at least 60 days at sea, they’ll spend the majority of those with no sight of land as they adhere to their grueling schedule of 2 hours of rowing followed by 2-hours of well-earned rest.

We wish them luck in what will no doubt be one of the hardest challenges either of them ever had to face and have every faith they’ll achieve everything they set out to do.

As we look forward to their updates, we’ll be monitoring their progress via their tracker page and will continue to keep you updated on how they’re getting on.

If you’d like to support James and Tom’s efforts, you can do so by visiting their website here.

December 07, 2015

Roastery › Wholesale ›


Hello From Bethnal Green

Back in October, with our new Probat P25 finally in position, we fired it up and got to work. Almost every day since has been spent turning numerous batches in the pursuit of delicious coffee. 

The first stage was familiarising ourselves with a new set of controls and a new machine, establishing thresholds, sensitivities and nuances. That took around 600kg of old, green coffee that wasn't fit for release and will never see the light of day, but which served a far greater purpose; it allowed us to begin the trial roasting and profiling of our current range.

We roasted. We rested. We cupped. We repeated.

Cupping countless times each week, over five weeks, we continued to tweak our roast profiles, noting the imperfections with each batch and where improvements could be made. The goal was always to produce coffees not just as good as those being produced in Clerkenwell, but better. 

We're delighted to say that, last week, we reached that point. 

After a quick move East over the weekend, from today you'll find the whole production team in our Bethnal Green Roastery. And starting tomorrow, on the first full production day in Vyner St., we'll be roasting, packing and distributing some of the best coffee we've had the pleasure of serving.

We hope you enjoy it.

THE MAKING OF OUR CUSTOM CUPS

During the process of creating our limited edition, custom ceramic cups, we were lucky enough to spend some time in the studio with Moss Ceramics founder, Tsouni, observing and learning more about the ceramics process. 

Inside Turning Earth studios, in a railway arch beneath the overground line between Hoxton and Haggerston stations, we discovered just how involved, focused and time-consuming each stage was.

Every cup began its life as one non-descript, unassuming pound of stoneware clay. Before going anywhere near a potters wheel, it would undergo the process of wedging; a physically involved procedure, this required the repeated (and purposeful) throwing down of the clay onto a work bench in order to remove any air bubbles and to help distribute its water content more evenly. 

From there, it would be carefully and exactingly thrown by hand, transforming each ubiquitous lump into the shape of the beautiful and bespoke final pieces. Walking us through the steps she went through 160 times, Tsouni explains:

"For each cup, the clay was centred on the wheel and an indent was made in the centre. The cup walls were pulled up from there. My hands got so used to throwing the shape that by the end of the process, it felt as though they were almost making themselves."

Stamped with our W device, the cups were then left to dry for 24 hours before being checked over the following day for rough edges and imperfections and trimmed accordingly:

"The stamping required the most care – not only does it have to be done when the clay is at a precise point between wet and dry, but if you apply too much pressure you'll affect the shape of the cup. Of course, if you don't apply enough pressure, the stamp won't be bold enough."

Allowed to dry thoroughly for a further 48 hours, the cups then entered the kiln for their first firing at around 1,000oc. From there, each piece could be hand-glazed before being finished with one final firing in the kiln. 

Only then were they ready to be shared with us and, subsequently, with you. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. 

WORKSHOP COFFEE x MOSS CERAMICS

To celebrate our new look, we wanted to do something special and that we hadn't done before. Today, we’re incredibly pleased to be able to showcase the results.

Approaching East London-based Moss Ceramics earlier this year, we’ve since been working closely with founder and one-woman production team, Tsouni, to create a short run of handmade Workshop Coffee cups to add to our shelves.

After reviewing and considering numerous test and sample pieces, the final design is a beautiful, robust and understated handle-less tumbler. Its smooth, glossy white-glazed interior spills out onto the upper-half of the cups exterior before giving way to the contrast of an unglazed, sandy, textural lower-half. Combined, it creates a cup that sits snuggly in the hand and, with solid, thick walls and base, holds the heat well.

Each cup has been thrown by hand and subsequently offers its own nuances and idiosyncrasies, and means that every one of the 160 cups we’ve created is unique.

Having left the studio in Haggerston, 60 of the collection have been gifted to our staff, meaning there are just 100 left.

Starting tomorrow, these will only be available to buy in each of our stores whilst stocks last. 
November 16, 2015

Brand › News › Roastery › Wholesale ›


We've made a few changes

In April of this year, we were handed the keys to 3,500 square foot of expansive, empty space in and amongst the art galleries on the quiet, cobbled road of Vyner Street, East London. As with any major project, the work to get us to that point began long before, but in the seven months since, we've been hard at work. In every corner of the business, we've been making some exciting advancements, from our production department, to changes to our stores and the refinement of the Workshop Coffee brand itself. 

A new Roastery.

First, the Workshop Coffee Roastery. Our new space affords us two important developments in our quality-driven approach: resource and time.

The installation of a brand new 25kg Probat has an immediate effect on our capacity, allowing us to roast larger batches whilst continuing to carefully monitor our output through the ever-reliable Cropster. We've also built a climate-controlled storage room that will allow us to dictate the temperature at which our coffee is stored, diminishing the impact of yet another difficult-to-control variable that has a considerable impact on taste and flavour. Meanwhile, our still new and somewhat unfamiliar ColourTrack laser analysis unit that sits across the room from our roaster provides us another window into better understanding the numerous elements and variables that help us roast the best coffee possible.

The benefits of all of this are already beginning to be seen in the area we are going to be spending even more time on than we currently do: the cupping table. With greater levels of capacity and resource come increased opportunities to cup, taste, evaluate and continue improving every coffee we roast in the space. A renewed focus on this crucial point in our feedback loop can only mean greater consistency in our roasting process and we're excited to showcase the results in the coming weeks and months. 

A new package. 

Having had numerous discussions with our wholesale partners, our customers and members of our own team, we've also developed a new, bespoke coffee bag.

We've scrutinised everything, from their shape and height to the design of the label that adorns them, ensuring quality at every stage and level.

The custom-made, resealable bags -- available in all of our stores and online from today -- continue to allow for ongoing freshness and we've sought to unpack the details of each coffee into a clear and approachable grid system to ensure continued quality of information.

Most excitingly, we've also changed our bag size. A switch to our 250g bags has allowed us to create a product that, for 1- and 2-bag orders, is capable of fitting through almost every conveivable letterbox. That means that our online and subscription customers can now expect to arrive home to our freshly roasted coffee ready and waiting for them to enjoy. 

And a new look. 

As you'll have no doubt already noticed, in the process of improving our packaging we've also taken the opportunity to refine our brand. From today, a new bold and distinctive 'W' will feature on each and every one of our coffee bags. We've also been working over the weekend to bring that new look to our website and into our stores.

In short, a number of things have changed. Our new look will manifest itself in the bigger ways we've already outlined and in the countless details of our everyday operations: signage, aprons, takeaway cups, to name but a few. And, as is always the way with projects such as these, things will continue to adapt and iterate over time as we acquire feedback and learn lessons along the way.

However, fundamentally, nothing has changed.  We continue to source, roast and brew the cleanest, sweetest, freshest coffee possible and these advances will allow us to do that better than we ever have. 

October 06, 2015


Notes from NYC

Last weekend, in an impressively cavernous space just off New York City's Lexington Avenue and 25th Street, the inaugural New York Coffee Festival took place.

Normally home to the New York Army National Guard's 69th Infantry Regiment, for three days it was filled with coffee roasters, cafes and food equipment suppliers from the city itself, as well as across the US and the rest of the world -- and we were amongst them. 

Brewing and serving our Los Altares and Gachatha AA for the entirety of the event, we also hosted one of the weekends many Lab sessions. Introducing our Barista Roadmap, we touched on our key successes and learnings from the last 18 months before opening up the floor for a spot of Q&A. 

Having served over 1,300 coffees, had hundreds of conversations and answered all manner of questions, we touched back down in the UK one week ago. Having put paid to our jet lag, here's a small snapshot of what we experienced. 

Photo credits: Zsuzsa Zicho

Where To Drink It: Lundenwic

This year has seen a number of new Wholesale Partners joining the roster and in a tip of the hat to Sprudge's 'Build Outs Of Summer', we thought we'd show a little of how Lundenwic, recently opened in July, came together over the first months of summer.

Lundenwic is an ambitious new Scandinavian-style cafe named after the seventh century Anglo-Saxon settlement, in the area by the Thames that became Aldwych. Set up by Ollie Hiam and Dominic Hamdy, the team behind Scotchtails, the cafe is located between the main Covent Garden theatres and Somerset House and brings much needed specialty coffee to the area.

Previously an old fashioned British Snack Bar, the Lundenwic team has been hard at work stripping out old kitchen equipment, yellowing walls and previously boarded up windows. Creating this cleaner, exposed interior, the focus has shifted onto the food and drink where vibrant salads and cold-press juices bring welcome colour to the space.

Setting up a cafe is never easy, but what the team at Lundenwic have achieved is quite spectacular in such a short amount of time. Be sure to drop by for a Cult of Done Espresso and a bite to eat, allowing yourself a moment to admire their handiwork in person.

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Lundenwic

Address
45 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4DW

Twitter
@Lundenwic

Hours
Mon to Friday – 7am to 7pm
Saturday - 10am to 7pm
Sunday - Closed