Looking for the best coffee roasters? Coffee experts from the UK’s best coffee roasters give us the lowdown on the independent coffee scene in the UK, from Caravan coffee roasters to the man behind The London Coffee Festival. Next, check out the best coffee beans and best coffee grinders to buy from our expert coffee contributor, Celeste Wong.
Ancoats Coffee Co, Manchester
Housed in a former cotton mill, Ancoats Coffee Co has quickly established itself as one of the go-to places for coffee in the north-west. Owner Jamie Boland first experienced great coffee when he was sleeping on a friend’s sofa in Melbourne, where he found work as a barista. When he returned to Manchester, he decided to bring some of the Australian coffee culture back to the city by setting up his own business.
Try it yourself: Set against the bare brick walls and iron pillars of the Royal Mills, try the appropriately named Warehouse City seasonal espresso roasted in small batches in the café itself. ancoats-coffee.co.uk
Dear Green, Glasgow
Glasgow roastery Dear Green runs training sessions for barista skills and sensory skills, as well as roasting exceptional coffee. Lisa Lawson (below) of Dear Green says bringing education to baristas not only adds value to its offering but also ensures that the product is executed with the same commitment to flavour, care and attention as the growers on the farms supplying the beans.
As well as being a Living Wage employer, Dear Green has an ethical approach when it comes to coffee. Lawson believes it’s important to have the same values throughout the supply chain: buying in some of the poorest countries in the world brings its own moral challenge. Dear Green buys coffee with a conscience, working with trusted importers who go to the farms, instead of being driven by their bottom line, which encourages purchasing non-traceable, low-quality coffee.
Try it yourself: Although the house blend Goosedubbs is Dear Green’s biggest-selling product, lots of customers buy a subscription and wait for the weekly recommendation to arrive at their door. A recent favourite was the Kenyan Jokambu AB – sourced following a staff trip there this year. deargreencoffee.com
Caravan Coffee Roasters, London
Providing quality coffee is a key aspect to running Caravan Coffee Roasters. For Freda Yuan, head of quality control , a normal working day might see her drinking up to 40 cups, tasting the production roasts from the previous day to confirm the quality is up to standard and consistently maintained.
Yuan is also a licensed Q grader – grading coffee based on its attributes like flavour, aroma, mouth-feel and acidity – which is the highest certification in the coffee industry (you need to pass 22 sensory exams in three days to prove you’re good enough).
Try it yourself: Enjoy cups of Guatemalan Christian Rasch (with its “apricot, tangerine and white chocolate” notes) as roasted by Freda and her team at one of the Caravan restaurants in King’s Cross, Bankside or Exmouth Market. Don’t forget to order a slice of chocolate stout cake with chocolate caramel and burnt coffee cream while you’re at it. caravancoffeeroasters.co.uk
Colonna Coffee, Wiltshire
Highly regarded Colonna Coffee in Wiltshire is a roastery that has also devised its own compostable coffee capsules (there’s a coffee shop – Colonna & Small’s – in Bath, too). Head roaster Bethany Williams says there’s plenty of science involved in creating the perfect cup. The roast is essentially a series of chemical reactions, with roasters altering the machinery to manipulate these reactions to accentuate the flavours they want to show in the bean and minimise those they don’t. The processing that the beans undergo can, therefore, produce a myriad of flavours in the final cup.
Full Court Press, Bristol
Outside of London, Bristol has one of the most flourishing coffee scenes in the UK, with a number of high-end coffee shops and roasteries. Central to the city’s scene is Mat North, who runs his own excellent coffee shop Full Court Press, where the choice of filter and espresso-based coffees changes every few days. One week it might be Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees, another week they may be from Yemen and Sumatra.
North says that speciality coffee stores do what the chains do, however the quality of raw ingredient, the service and other factors are of a higher quality. For example, Full Court Press offers traceable coffees of high quality and pay good money for them, not unlike a good burger restaurant choosing high-quality beef.
Having started his coffee career as a barista at Caffè Nero, North has worked both ends of the coffee industry, an experience that has helped him run his own place. In the heart of Bristol’s old banking district and law courts, North’s tiny two-floor coffee shop offers two espresso coffees and two filters by a team of highly skilled baristas. fcpcoffee.com
Assembly Coffee, Brixton
Launched by Nick Mabey, a certified Q grader – the coffee world’s equivalent of being a qualified wine sommelier – and Michael Cleland at the London Coffee Festival in 2015, Brixton-based Assembly works closely with many of the UK’s best coffee shops, supplying delicious coffees such as Santa Theresa (from Panama) with its promised notes of rum and raisin and bourbon, Manuka honey and tropical fruits.
For Mabey, it takes more than perfectly roasted beans to make a great cup of coffee. Mabey believes the people behind making or serving the coffee can enhance the experience, outside of the seemingly endless variations possible in flavour and profiles of the raw materials. assemblycoffee.co.uk
Bean Shot Coffee, Somerset
Tucked away on an industrial estate in the pretty Somerset town of Bruton, you’ll find Bean Shot Coffee’s roastery, barista school and coffee bar. Launched in 2013 by Australian Nick Law, Bean Shot Coffee produces speciality, ‘micro lot’ coffee, most of it sourced ‘direct trade’ from farmers. It roasts the highest-quality single-origin coffees and releases new coffees each month, with previous offerings from farms in Java, Honduras and Costa Rica.
Since opening, Bean Shot Coffee has grown to supply outlets across the UK, the Middle East and Spain, as well as its own coffee shop in Sherbourne. Focussing on just coffee, coffee equipment and method, it was a brave move to open in the Dorset town, but Law says the reaction has been “superb”. beanshot.co.uk
London’s expanding coffee scene has been captured in a new book featuring the stories of the people and the places that created it. Written by Lani Kingston, author of the bestseller How to Make Coffee, and with stunning photography from Canadian lensman David Post, it takes the reader on a fascinating journey around the capital’s roasteries and coffee houses.
From contemporary Scandinavian- style coffee houses to timeless Italian cafés passed down through the generations, the book looks at the city’s long love affair with the black stuff (£20, Hoxton Mini Press).
Words | Mark Taylor
Photography | GU Photography, Gavin Smart, Brian Sweene, Zsuzsa Zicho, Tom Sparey, Charlie Mckay