This time of year I normally do a post about numbers. You know, the number of kg’s roasted, the number origins, varieties and processes. Without stating the obvious it’s been a different year to remember.. (or forget). No point doing the same then.
This time I thought I’d tell the story of the Crankhouse year in a different way.
The year started with the road outside the roastery being dug up to install mains gas into the building, scaffolding on my neighbours dilapidated roof for a week (which was supposed to be there for 1 day), having an engineer with me for way longer than I’d anticipated trying to make a 25 year old roaster behave like a modern one.
Then March 18th came. Cafes were forced to close and our business went fully online . One of the big changes was the amount of packaging time and costs associated with this shift in production. The need to roast 200Kg a week for wholesale and support them was gone. April came and online sales continued at an energising rate.
One seminal event in April that also energised me was my first ‘zoom’ cupping with 8 other UK roasters that Lisa from Dear Green put together. We swapped unlabelled coffees with each other and cupped them live and revealed what the coffees were. It was fun and inspiring and gave me one of those itches I found difficult to scratch. That network of coffee friends became a great sounding board for the rest of the year.
Our new Cafe finally opened its doors on the 1st June and finally the people of Exeter could see the roastery and cafe operation working together even in that strange takeaway only mode. Cafe sales rose rapidly with Tony and Rosie’s brewing and baking skills along with their friendly and welcoming nature and the retail bags on the shelves started to fly out. Good for the Cafe and good for the roastery.
One of the main differences between online/retail customers and wholesale customers (cafe’s etc) is that the former generally desire a frequently changing offer list with interesting coffees such as different origins, varieties and processes. The latter require a low-cost ‘good’ coffee that stays constant, and isn’t too challenging for their baristas or customers. The move to being more focused on online sales therefore requires a different green coffee buying regime. More expensive, less volume, trying to keep it interesting and varied. Luckily it’s why I first got into roasting coffee.. because I wanted to roast these types of coffees.
This year Crankhouse has had some exceptional coffees, culminating in two that I would never had envisaged buying 12 months ago. A unique Yemeni coffee as part of an auction and a rare Sudan Rume variety from Cafe Granja La Esperanza in Colombia. Two incredible coffees that were too expensive to be considered anything other than marketing material. These are the coffees that get noticed by the coffee geeks, baristas and fellow roasters. They shout about it, tell their friends and so on. The power of Social Media is incredible and evident from the spikes in online sales. It really works.
Another high was the Roaster Wars competition which I helped organise, which came to me as an idea following on from that Zoom cupping back in April. 20 of some of the best UK roasters, roasting 5Kg of the same coffee on the same day on their own roasting machines, after having submitted a detailed roasting plan and sensory analysis of a 100g green sample. The response to the challenge was incredible and the WhatsApp chat before and during brought a small community of coffee professionals together.
So that’s an end to 2020. I feel lucky to have had a small roasting business that was able to adapt quickly to the changing marketplace. 2021 will bring some changes with the completion of a training facility for home brewers to take espresso and filter classes, a new roaster and new packaging.
I feel doubly lucky to have a loyal customer base (you) that continue to support us and buy our coffees. A roaster is only as good as their last coffee. The pressure is on to continue buying great coffees and provide a great purchasing experience.
To that end and to get your interest piqued for what’s next, here’s a list of the coffees already lined up for 2021.. roughly in order of appearance:
- Nicaragua Anna Carolina Peach Candy
- Brazil Daterra Moonlight
- Ethiopia Boji Kochere Natural
- Burundi Rotheca Swiss Water Decaf
- Burundi Izuba washed
- Burundi Izuba Natural
- Nicaragua Brix Breaker Natural Pacamara
- Colombia Ricardo Chilo
- Colombia Gilberto Chilo
- Costa Rica Las Lajas black diamond
- Colombia Granja Esperanza Las Margaritas Pacamara natural
- Colombia Los Alpes Project Carbonic Maceration
- Rwanda Gasharu CWS Ireme Experimental Micro-lot Nyamasheke
- Ecuador Finca La Florida Loja, Typica Anaerobic
- Ecuador Finca La Florida. Loja Sidra, Natural
- Costa Rica Finca Genesis Natural SL28
- Costa Rica Finca Genesis Natural Typica
- Ecuador Finca Santa Rosa. Pichincha Typica Double fermentation
- Brazil Fazenda Recanto 64hr Fermented Topázio
Don’t worry.. if that’s not enough, there will be more. That’s a guarantee.
Thanks for all your support during 2020. Here’s to a different 2021. A better 2021.
Happy New Year