First we hear from Jamie, who landed head first into the specialty coffee world with Climpson & Sons back in 2013. Soon after, he started Upside Coffee in Dublin and has been roasting for both wholesale and retail since 2016.
Find out more at upsidecoffee.com
What got you into coffee? And what was your eureka moment in specialty coffee?
I had worked in hospitality since I was a teenager and went from working in restaurants and bars to cafes, where, along with the more sociable hours, I loved being behind the espresso machine and chatting to the regulars. This was well before specialty coffee was really a thing in Dublin, so there were old-school espresso roasts, flavour syrups, wonky latte art, and minimal weighing of shots. I was itching to learn more about coffee and wanted to focus on it professionally.
My partner (now wife) and I moved to London back in 2011 where I worked in a few cafes. During a training session in a roastery that was supplying the cafe I was in, I saw a warehouse full of coffee bags from exotic countries and the beasts of machines that roasted the coffee. At that moment I knew I wanted to go down the coffee roasting rabbit hole!
Having previously only tried chocolate and nut-like Central and South American coffees, my eureka moment in specialty coffee was trying a filter roast of an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe that tasted bang on like tinned peach. It was the first time a tasting note so noticeably matched up with what was in the cup.
What was your role at Climpson and Sons?
I worked at Climpson’s from 2013 to 2015, starting out in the cafe on Broadway Market. I then moved on to the roastery where I packed bags, helped out with cuppings, and eventually moved on to a production roasting role. There was a great crowd of people there and I learned heaps!
Any favourite memories?
Many boozy nights in Off Broadway and The Dove after work. Adam breakdancing after a very late night, closing the shutters in the roastery sticks in my mind for some reason. Also I think it was Dan Dunne singing "Simon (Clarke)'s Dispatch System" to the tune of the Temper Trap hit. That is an earworm that gets stuck in my head to this day. Hanging out in the cafe with Rebecca, Nicole, Matt, Alex. Vergard the very polite Norwegian giant losing his cool and shouting customer's names progressively louder and louder when they didn't collect their coffee promptly. Tom Haigh's hand-crafted (and x-rated) leaving gift to me that still has pride of place on my shelf. Trying to fix machinery and ending up with a load of extra bolts and washers after I had finished putting it back together. I was famous for that.
Any big learnings or inspiration taken from your time at Climpsons?
I got so much from my time at Climpsons! The main inspiration I took from there is the value of people and relationships - from the coffee origin, the team in the cafe and roastery, the locals and regulars to the wholesale partners, relationships are so important. Also, bouncing ideas off colleagues in an encouraging environment to try to constantly improve on what you are doing. From the founder, Ian, always thinking of new ideas, to Danny Davies, a great people person who made everyone feel like they had a valuable role to play, and Nicole developing relationships and pushing things forward in terms of marketing, business development, etc, this trickled down in a way that didn't feel like anyone was a cog in a machine, that we were an independent roastery doing our own thing. Climpsons always felt like we were striving to make great coffee, but not at all in the pretentious way you often see in the industry. It has had an enormous impact on how I approach my own work.
How did you take the plunge in setting up your own business? How did it start? And where are you now?
I started Upside Coffee Roasters in 2016, in a little industrial space down the road from where I am living. I had a tiny roaster that could only produce around 2kg per batch. After pounding the pavements for a while, and gaining a few wholesale partners, it got to a stage where I was often sitting beside this pipsqueak roaster until midnight trying to roast enough for the week's orders! Over time, I was able to invest in a larger roaster, and the business has since grown organically with a solid amount of online and wholesale orders going out weekly. We are lucky to have some excellent people on our team, and independent cafe partners that we are proud to be working with.
What is important to you in sourcing coffee?
There are 3 things I am always thinking about when sourcing coffee:
- Taste - Would I happily gulp down a cup of this coffee? (If not, is there something a bit out there or different that would justify a rare exception to this?)
- Provenance - Is it sourced from a trusted intermediary, and am I confident the producer and harvester is being paid a fair amount per lb/kilo?
- Seasonality - Is the coffee as fresh a crop as possible, and how much should we get to ensure we can roast it before it starts to lose its flavour?
For most of our espresso roasts, we are looking to get rich, smooth and easy-drinking Brazilian coffees that will pair well with milk drinks, but the more interesting part for us is getting in the smaller micro lots from Colombia, Kenya, etc, that have more out-there tasting notes and will give you that special filter brew. As different origins harvest and ship at various times throughout the year, there is always something exciting around the corner!
What is important to your business overall? What are your values?
I believe that coffee is one of life's little joy givers, and I aim for this to come through in our relationships and how we present ourselves. We want to source and roast delicious coffees, and present them in a way that is fun and positive. Also, we always have one or two slightly more traditional roast styles in our range to complement the lighter fancy stuff - knowing that either a 25 year old or a 60 year old can browse our shop and get a style of coffee that they will be really happy with is important to us - so egalitarian and not elitist is our MO. From a partnership point of view, we are a small, independent business and we love working with small, independent producers and businesses that are in the same boat as us - this is what makes us tick!
Next up, we meet Tatiana who joined Climpsons as a pour-over obsessed barista back in 2019. She shares where her love affair with coffee first started and spills the beans (... sorry!) on her new roasting and coffee cart venture, Roastrip Coffee Roasters, currently hitting the road in the South of France.
Follow Tatiana’s journey at https://roastripcoffeeroasters.com/
What got you into coffee? And what was your ‘eureka’ moment in specialty coffee?
It all started when I was a waitress in a hotel and restaurant in Alice Springs, Australia. A customer ordered a flat white and, having no idea what that was, I brought him a local beer called ‘Fat Yat Pale Ale’. Oops. I had never heard of flat white before. We all had a good laugh! Not long after I moved to New Zealand and I applied for a barista position. They gave me a kitchen position, but I really wanted to learn to make coffee, so on my free time I asked the barista to teach me.
When I arrived in London I got my first full barista job. I would dip mini pastries from the restaurant in my cafe latte, my morning moment. Then one day, I accidentally made the most perfect espresso shot and my coffee was delicious. Wow! They were using The Baron from Climpson & Sons. We had a coffee training with Dan Dunne and that was my first interaction with the London specialty scene.
My second eureka moment hit on my next specialty training with Caravan when Stu, the coffee trainer, made a V60 and in my mind I was sceptical thinking “oh no, I don’t like black coffee!” but it was so delicious. I’ve been drinking filter ever since.
When did you come to work at Climpsons?
I always wanted to improve my barista skills and learn more, so I went from job to job working as a freelance and event barista. I was working at a different coffee shop everyday so I had the opportunity to try loads of different specialty coffee roasters. I still wanted to learn more, so I started the SCA education programme with Sara from Prufrock and Rose from Origin. That was the time I started seeing coffee as something I would like to do as my own business. I decided I needed to learn from a roastery so I sent my CV to Climpson & Sons and started working as a barista.
At Climpsons we were using 4 different beans for espresso, plus much more for filter, changing with the seasons. That was a coffee paradise. We were all passionate about trying different recipes and sharing them. I was making V60’s all the time! During the Christmas season I had the opportunity to help at the roastery two days a week. That was my first look on the roastery side and a new world opened to me. It was so cool to learn from Simon (Head Roaster) and all the team. Emily (Production Manager) allowed me to do my first roast during her Ikawa Home workshop. I wanted to roast so much that I bought my own Ikawa Pro a little after that!
Any favourite memories?
The first was my job interview with Joel (Cafe Manager) was the best job interview I’ve ever had. We were so passionate, talking about coffee, we talked for hours ! Another favourite memory was when I went to watch my first barista competition. Lisa-Laura was competing and we were all supporting. It was right before I got the job at Climpsons, and it felt like we already knew each other. When I got the job, I had the feeling that I was at the right place and the right time.
Are there any big learnings or inspiration that you’ve taken from your time at Climpsons?
The first thing I really loved was the engagement with sustainability. I felt like I had finally found a company with the same values as me. In my business, I definitely take inspiration from Climpson’s for that. When you’re starting with a limited budget you have to make hard decisions, sometimes paying three or four times the price on a product to have the lowest environmental impact overall. It feels good to know that you are doing your best so I say to myself , yes - I want to be proud of what I do and know it’s the best environmental choice I can make. I love to see Climpson’s are constantly making changes to preserve our planet.
I also take huge inspiration from Ian. When I heard about his story, making specialty coffee on farmers market, starting with a low budget and roasting his own beans I was impressed. Now that I am in the same position as him, even if the beginning is tough and it’s easy to get discouraged I like to think about him and what he has built. It’s good to see that it’s possible to make it happen.
How did you take the plunge into setting up your own business? And where are you now?
I bought a V60 kit and started to get crazy about brewing! I bought a VST refractometer because I wanted to understand coffee extraction. I got my SCA barista, brewing and sensory. I was obsessed with improving my cup. I couldn’t stop, it was my therapy.
I graduated from art school and went to travel the world because I didn’t understand the purpose of life. I wanted to feel like I’m here for a reason, that I have something to offer the world. Discovering specialty coffee taught me so much about life. I wanted to find a way to share that. I remember talking with Joe and Becky during a cafe shift, imagining my future coffee brand. It was so nourishing to share this dream with people who believe that you can make it happen. Covid was another reason it’s real now, otherwise I would probably still be in London working at Climpsons.
I opened my coffee cart in November 2022. I’m serving coffee, mostly on farmers markets in the South of France. Le Beausset, Le Castellet and Saint-Cyr sur Mer, villages between Marseille and Nice. I have 4 different coffees, a basic spectrum of all the different nuances you can find into specialty coffee. My cart is a nomad version of my dream coffee shop. I pour shots on a La Marzocco Linea PB and grind on a Mahlkonig EK43S. I roast my beans on a Probat roaster in Marseille at La Tisserie coffee shop. We are a part of a co-roasting community with the goal of making specialty coffee in France more accessible. And I’m proud to announce that I am going to represent my little business at the Paris Cafe Festival in May 2023 as part of the co-roasting group.
What is important to you in sourcing coffee?
What I love about specialty coffee is the feeling of unity. Everyone has a talent, and we are sharing them across the chain to make a piece of art. What is important in sourcing coffee is to ensure that people are treated equally, giving an opportunity of a better life. Also I like to source from responsible farms that work with, not against, nature. Traceability in coffee is a great way to be transparent.
What is important to your business overall? What are your values?
At first I had to unlearn everything I learned so far. I wanted to trust in the slower process of life. So I let go of the need to control everything, and I let my business grow like a flower. Giving it what it needs to grow and letting life do the rest. I want to show that we don’t have to change ourselves to make a working business, we just need to act differently. Of course it takes more time, but it will pay off in the long run. It’s all about making every little choice matter, encouraging quality products in a sustainable way and working as a community.
Thanks to both Tatiana and Jamie for sharing their coffee stories with us. It’s always an inspiration to see what our talented alumni get up to and follow their business ventures. We’ll be sharing more stories from ex-Climpsons over the coming months.