York Coffee Emporium

An obsession with great coffee initiated a conversation with my local coffee merchant to ask how they did it. How did they guarantee a good cup of coffee every time? What’s the secret?

The local coffee merchant in question is York Coffee Emporium. So, I took the opportunity to speak to the owner, Philippa Beardmore, and asked her to explain how she and her husband, Laurence – have built York Coffee Emporium into the success it is today:

Philippa, I was amazed at how your business has grown in such a short time. How did you manage it?

“Well, it’s grown forty fold in in four years. It’s grown massively in that time because of a massive appetite for (a) good quality coffee, and people like the idea of being supplied by a local roaster. One of the key things we offer is for people to come up to the roastery and taste the coffee and have a look round and understand our process.”

Would you say that’s your unique selling proposition? That it’s local.

“That’s part of it.  We take great care in roasting our coffee and sourcing. That’s one of the things we do, we roast all our beans individually and then we blend them together after being roasted … so I always use the analogy to customers that, if you were to roast  a joint of beef, pork and lamb, you wouldn’t put them all in the oven at the same temperature for the same amount of time ..they all need slightly different temperatures for slightly different times – and it’s exactly the same with coffee. Each bean has it’s own profile to maximise it’s flavour. So we roast them all individually, as origins, then we develop the blend, putting them together for the coffee.
..we have a number of blends, and we’re able, depending on the size of the customer, to develop some bespoke and individual (blends) …but we have within the York Coffee Emporium, a number of blends that we develop anyway. So our USP is essentially that (although) the coffees might all taste slightly different, but they’re all going to taste great because they’ve all been individually roasted and blended but they’ll all have slightly different flavour notes; just as in wine, you have the difference between a chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc or a merlot, it’s the same with coffee …you find a coffee flavour that you’re particularly pleased with, or your customers enjoy.”

So you’re not just coffee enthusiasts, you’re coming at this as business people?

“Well you have to, if you’re passionate about a product – but you need the business skills to make it work.”

How have you built up your suppliers? How did you find people you knew you could trust / rely on?

“In coffee there are a few good coffee suppliers – green bean suppliers – so coffee is essentially a commodity, that trades on the market, it’s the second largest commodity in the world, second to oil.
So we buy our coffee from a number of suppliers, because we have a number of customer demands made on us – some customers are wanting coffee with accreditation, some customers are wanting great coffee, some are wanting premium speciality coffee. So we have a number of suppliers we work with based on the markets and we work with some suppliers not based on the markets at all, that have much closer relationships with the farmers, and we deal direct with them to ensure that our coffee is sourced ethically and high quality.
Those are the two parameters that we’ve (found) to get great coffee. The other aspect that we’ve found (is that) we have a very wide range of coffee, and to get a wide range of coffee, you need a wide range of suppliers. To get fresh coffee you need to work with different farms, different suppliers.”

Who would you say are your main customers? Wholesale? Retail? People who buy equipment?

“All sorts. We sell coffee, tea, hot chocolate, gift ideas, services (such as barista training) and blending, consultancy and support. Then we have a market web shop active, home and wholesale coffee equipment. The largest part is the wholesale.”

In your reply to my email, you offered an update on York Coffee Emporium and it’s activities. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

“What we do and how we do it! We’re growing from strength to strength in (our) new premises and that has allowed us to expand and take people on. We’re developing training, ..getting professional qualifications into the organisation – because that’s really important. We employ up to ten people, variably, full-time and part-time, in York. We have a showroom here that we can bring potential customers so they can taste the coffee, so they can train on the machines, see the roasters in action …all shipped from here …various collection points so that local people …. delicious coffee at home.”

What does the future hold for York Coffee Emporium now that it’s been acquired by the Upton Group?

“Well, it’s a very sunny future. (We have the investment) that’s helps us to grow, and establish ourselves, and bring more people on board – so that’s really helped. We’re still a separate limited company under the Upton Group parent company. We still have our own identity, we still have our own (logo?), we still roast in exactly the same way, we have our own brand, we have our own image.
So basically York Coffee Emporium stay, and is enhanced by, being part of the parent body of the Upton Group. So the acquisition means more investment, we can supply more outlets, we can have security moving forward, being part of a larger organisation and we can keep true to our goals of making sure that the quality of the coffee and the (sorting/filtering) of the coffee is always optimised. So we have access to a wider range of facilities, larger customers, …a one-stop shop if you’re a large hotel chain (we can) provide everything you may need, from room service to breakfast service, to a vending facility in a conference room – as well as providing great artisanal coffee for the artisan local artisan cafes in town.”

Do you foresee any changes in your day-to-day management of the company due to this change?

“No. The Upton Group’s goal is to enhance us, for us to grow, so they’re really (making) backward and forward decisions.
They’re celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, which is a fantastic feat for another (local) family business as well and if they desire that York Coffee Emporium grows, enhances and expands (that’s a) compliment, we very much complement each other.
We’ve not experienced any downsides, we’ve only experienced positivity. The main thing is, from our customers’ point of view, we’re not hiding anything. We’ve explained the situation to all our customers, and they’re okay. The key thing is that the quality of service, the quality of the product stays the same – and gets better. …so moving forward, from an employment point of view, we’ve managed to employ a few extra people – and from a local point of view, it’s very much a win-win situation. …so you’ve got a great product, you’ve got great employment, and it’s great for the local community as well.”

p.s.  Isn’t it ever the case that, after writing a piece, more information turns up! I’ve just come across an interview with Laurence Beardmore in Boughton’s September 2015 issue.

In keeping with the food and drink theme, here is an interview with Al Kippax of the Bluebird Bakery in 2016.