While North Wales may not be the obvious location to get great, local, coffee, there is something of an artisan coffee scene emerging within the region. Kate Hamilton reports.
Now when you think of the products that come out of North Wales, coffee isn’t probably the first thing that springs to mind. But, in recent years, the region has seen something of a coffee boost with roasteries popping up throughout the region.
Mug Run is a bijou coffee roastery based in Rhyl that hand crafts ethically sourced speciality coffees using, where possible, sustainable and responsible methods in both the production and its packing. Another aim of the business is to celebrate coffee’s uniqueness, increasing awareness of its complexities, its production and the simplicity of its brewing techniques.
“Originally my interest in coffee developed when I was introduced to the use of a cafetiere by my Dad to brew actual ground coffee as opposed to the instant I had been drinking,” explains owner Tim Parry. “Later on, by using a grinder for the beans to make a cup of coffee, I was hooked and my adventure into the world of coffee had begun.”
Just five years ago, while working in the hospitality industry, Tim was inspired to create a coffee emporium where he could roast and blend his own coffees.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to afford an emporium so, by watching YouTube videos on coffee roasting, I realised that I could buy a cheap Popcorn maker to start teaching myself how to roast green coffee beans,” he explains. “A few months later I purchased my first actual roaster and moved to the shed in my garden to produce and sell my own coffee. Now I have moved into a bigger shed, upscaling my roaster to a preloved basic 10kg machine in order to supply various shops and food events throughout the area.”
But the beauty of buying locally roasted coffee is that there are benefits to the local community too.
“In the future I hope to expand by making connections with coffee growing communities to raise customers’ awareness,” adds Tim. “By investing more into my community I am increasing the positivity of the towns image, for example I have begun supporting one of the local schools who have a gardening project by providing them with material from the roasting process for composting.”
Poblado Coffi also believes in the benefits of local coffee. With a roastery that looks out over the Snowdonia National Park, Poblado aims to stay connected to the World’s global village by bringing some of its finest coffee beans to North Wales in order to be lovingly roasted and blended.
“Our philosophy here at Poblado Coffi is to put our main focus on the product –the coffee itself,” explains founder Steffan Huws. There is no sales department or marketing gimmicks – if you like coffee, ethical trading and supporting your local producers, then we believe you will like what we are doing.”
Artisan coffee roasting in small batches allows Poblado to get the freshest coffee to its customers. It can also inform its customers exactly where the coffee comes from, as well as create some amazing and unique blends.
“As long as the green beans themselves are of the highest quality, and we roast them properly, we can continue to deliver the best coffee offering we can to all our customers in North Wales and further afield,” continues Steffan.
And, while great coffee might be available in North Wales today, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, Heartland Coffi was launched simply because of the lack of good, local coffee.
“Our passion for great tasting coffee was birthed in New Zealand’s burgeoning independent café scene during the mid to late 90’s,” explains co-founder Malcolm Klose. “My wife Tara and I always dreamed of opening a café of our own one day, and we’d discuss what it would be like as we drank flat whites in our favourite hangouts in New Zealand. It was when we moved to London in 2000 and found it impossible to get a decent cup of coffee, let alone find someone who knew what a flat white was, that we saw an opportunity to introduce Londoners to the style of coffee we were used to back home. So we bought a small 3kg coffee roaster and began roasting coffee and selling it at a local market.”
Hence a new passion was born. And, like the majority of artisan businesses, it started off on a pretty small scale.
“For a few years we juggled the demands of coffee roasting around nine to five office jobs and starting a family,” adds Malcolm. “It was a bit of a struggle and so we moved to North Wales for what – to us – is a more familiar lifestyle and environment in which to bring up our three children. North Wales reminds us so much of where we lived in New Zealand it instantly felt like home.”
So Malcolm and Tara relocated the coffee roasting operation, went full time on the coffee and launched Heartland Coffee Roasters. And the response, they are pleased to say, has been fantastic.
“You only have to look at cafés like Providero as an example of how the North Wales coffee scene has developed over the past four or five years,” adds Malcolm. “There’s an amazing number of artisan food producers here in North Wales and we feel as though we’ve taped into that artisan foodie vibe.”
So, simply a case of good timing, or is there another secret to the Heartland success?
“It’s all about freshness, responding to the local market, and being there for the consumer. From the moment coffee is roasted it has about a three week time window for extracting the maximum flavour and aroma,” continues Malcolm. “So we roast to order in small batches to ensure that customers are drinking the coffee inside that window. Small batch roasting also means that we can roast lots of different single origin beans that offer a wide variety of flavours and change them around from week to week.”
And Heartland isn’t stopping there. In fact, the company recently launched its own Nitro Cold Brew, which is a cold-brewed style coffee infused with nitrogen that has been all the rage in the USA for the past 12 months.
“Think iced black coffee with a smooth, creamy consistency that looks just like a Guinness in the glass,” concludes Malcolm, who is also about to open Heartland coffee bar, where you can sit in the roastery, enjoy a range of coffees and take in the sights, sounds and passion of the Heartland Roastery at work.
Another husband and wife team keen to make their mark on the local coffee industry is Richard & Rhian Cattell of Owen & Edwards. Coffee runs in their family, and they have a long history in the business.
“We’ve been able to learn our trade and get unlimited support from master roasters and baristas, which has been an enormous help in getting our own business up and running,” explains Rhian, who was born and raised in the Vale of Clwyd. “When we were setting up our business it was a natural choice for us to choose our local area as a setting for our roastery. We have such amazing cafés and restaurants in the local area who have a strong ethos of purchasing good quality, local, produce – and they have been a great support to us.”
Owen & Edwards carefully selects its green (raw) beans from the best organic farms and cooperatives – its favourites tend to come from countries where they are grown slowly at very high altitudes, which gives a good depth of flavour. Then they roast by hand in small batches, making fine adjustments to get the best out of the coffee as it changes through the seasons.
“We deliver to our customers within a few days of roasting, so we can guarantee the quality and freshness,” continues Rhian. “We know each of our trade customers, so we’re able to support them with training, take feedback and tailor blends for them too. We offer a much more personal service than a mass producer ever could.”
And while Owen & Edwards is about to move to bigger premises, the company certainly hasn’t forgotten it’s local roots.
“All of our packaging is in both English and Welsh, which has been greatly received by our customers in North Wales,” concludes Rhian. “Most of our coffee blends also have Welsh names, or names of local landmarks. We have named one blend ‘Famau’ after Moel Famau which we can see from our roastery and reminds us of our beautiful landscape.”
And if ever a good cup of coffee was made for anything, it was to enjoy while savouring a stunning view. No wonder North Wales is the new home of excellent, artisan coffee…
Dave Rothnie is a comedy promoter and compere of Stand-up at the Seaside, a monthly comedy club that takes place at The Station in Colwyn Bay.