What does your job typically entail?
Typically, day to day, I make coffee, quite simply. It’s honest work and the joy I get from teaching others to make good coffee is what keeps me going. It’s also a welcome break from the larger business-related stuff. Outside that, we’re another small independent coffee company operating in the thriving London coffee scene, and we’re all still trying to figure out the nature of the beast. In the face of large companies holding so much of the market, how do we compete, and how do we convert the audience? These are a few of the larger challenges that, I suppose, my job entails, along with understanding our brand, our vibe and how to create something that the audience can’t get from anywhere else.
How did you get into the industry?
I had a flat white at Flat White on Berwick Street when I was 15 years old. It was the time when the third wave was just breaking over London and that completely altered the landscape. I went off and worked bars, I travelled, I learnt a few things about coffee from a wonderful Australian barista and then met some good people who wanted to do coffee, but at a higher calibre to what we were seeing in London. I’ve winged a few things in life; I’ve said yes to things where I felt there was a strong possibility that it could all go horribly wrong and I don’t think I’ve ever felt as physically sick as the night before we opened Stir Coffee. However, through it all – bad, good, real ugly – it’s been worth it.
What’s your favourite part of your working day?
When the people you’ve been training begin to get it, when they begin to understand why they’re doing it. When they realise that you’re not being a hard ass for the sake of it, but you expect a standard that they didn’t know they had.
And your least favourite?
When you realise you could have handled a situation with a bit more tact. Working with people can be tough sometimes.
What’s your favourite food and beverage?
Beer, a crisp, pale ale. Think Buxton Brewery Special Pale. Also, ramen will fix any problem that I am currently facing.
And your least favourite?
Bad coffee, across the board, is the worst thing. It’s a failure in training and passion and is a constant battle. In particular, really good restaurants who have obviously gone to great lengths to deliver exceptional food and wine and yet seem to forget that coffee deserves the same treatment.
What is the biggest factor currently affecting the OOH industry?
Large companies producing an inferior product and charging big prices. It’s admirable that they know how to target the consumer so effectively that they can perpetuate this status quo. Where we’re at, in the speciality coffee industry, we’ve done a wonderful job at alienating our audience, coffee drinkers. They’re not speciality coffee drinkers, they’re coffee drinkers. There should be no differentiation between the two, but I think somewhere along the way, in this new emerging industry, we forgot our audience and created a divide there. We need to address how this happened, why it happened and how we can make amends because we need to stay malleable and include everyone, as coffee and coffee shops are for everyone.
What one piece of advice would you offer someone working in the OOH industry?
Find good people. Invest in them. Support where they want to go. If it involves a ton of training and time on your part to get them there, it will be worth it.