Speciality coffee - who are our customers?
There is an image in most people’s minds about speciality coffee drinkers- and this extends obviously to those who work in the coffee industry. When we started roasting coffee nearly 5 years ago we were well aware that we were entering a ‘cool’ industry where image is everything. Quite tricky for 2 decidedly uncool individuals. Bradley is a geek. That’s not a mean comment, I’m in awe of his singleminded determination to learn facts about everything, from air flow in coffee roasting to search engine optimisation - It’s fair to say that the growth of Horsham Coffee Roaster is almost entirely down to his geekiness. I will take some of the credit for being his sounding board and pretending to look interested while he explains more and more scientific articles he has found at 11pm at night, but it is mainly his fact-loving brain and hard work that has allowed us to roast more and more coffee, and to produce better quality coffee beans. This in turn has lead to being able to offer jobs to some brilliant people, with significant knowledge and experience from within the coffee industry who have added massively to HCR, and to also visit the people growing and harvesting our coffee. It’s amazing to see the effect a bit of nerdiness can have on a huge amount of people. In fact most important people in the coffee industry are the same- because what is the word geek unless it is just a word for people who are interested in particular topic to the point of being an expert?
I am also not cool - case in point: I was an RE teacher before we started roasting coffee (No offence to RE teachers). Nothing confirmed to me that perhaps we were not the best ambassadors for our brand like the first time I attended the London Coffee Festival. It was 2013 and I was hugely pregnant. We were still in the early stages of HCR, we had a stall at the Horsham Market which I was staffing despite having never been a barista before. I retrospectively apologise for the coffees I made you people of Horsham (actually, it was pretty decent!). The London Coffee Festival was a sea of Hipsters, I’ve never seen so many beards, and all immaculately groomed. Beautiful, cool people who looked like they sat outside cafes drinking espresso and talking about existentialism. I was a tad intimidated but it turns out they were just normal people with great styling, who knew?!
In those days our customers were limited to those living around Horsham, people who liked buying locally and who happened to see us at the market. Over the years our customer base has expanded. We’ve held open days and I’ve been astounded by how varied our customer base is. People from all over the country (and even some international customers), all different demographics, with one uniting factor: their love of good coffee. More and more people are interested in buying speciality coffee. I think we have some of the big chains to thank for that. It’s got people into a coffee drinking culture that just wasn’t there 30 years ago. And as people have started to drink more coffee, they’ve also started to think about the quality of the product they are drinking, and where it comes from. People are more interested in ethical products, learning about where it comes from and how the person producing it is treated. This is why we are so interested in forging relationships with coffee growers which sees us going back to the origin year on year to see how our relationship with them is beneficial to their production. It isn’t charity as such, but ongoing support. Knowing that we will buy their coffees means they have a guaranteed income which means more investment in drying tables etc, which means more, better quality coffee beans for us. It is a symbiotic relationship for us both. Read more about our origin trips and relationship coffee links with Rwanda.
So finally to summarise, speciality coffee is for everyone and it's becoming more and more accessible. We are now finding great coffee served in cafes and restaurants around the country, not just in speciality focused coffee shops and this is a great thing! In addition, more and more people are learning to brew fantastic coffee at home using whole bean coffee and good grinders. Long may it continue!
Written by Amelia Steenkamp