Crankhouse was started with a desire to connect my two passions, cycling and coffee, perhaps with a goal one day of opening a cycle friendly cafe and having regular groups in for a pre or post ride social. After all, that was what got me into drinking coffee back in the late 90’s in Australia. Early morning week day training and a quick flat white at one of Brisbane’s go to cafe’s, sometimes a pre-race espresso heading out to the race on a Saturday or Sunday and a more lengthy social post race and on non-race days.
Perhaps not too discerning in the early days and it was more about the company than the quality of the coffee. Slowly some of us moved away from those heavily Italian influenced coffee bars towards the newer and trendy places offering third-wave coffee options (aka Melbourne style), cortados and piccolos and the ubiquitous 'smashed avo on sour-dough'. I remember waiting avidly for the high quality Australian published Ride magazine and its back page ‘Caffeine Culture’ which focused on the coffee and cycling scene in various cities and towns. The theme was clear and growing… there was a strong link between coffee and cycling. Of course that link didn’t start in Australia, or New Zealand, but in the old world bike racing countries of Western Europe.
Sponsorship of professional bike racing by coffee companies has been going on for nearly as long as long as the sport itself. Machine manufacturers like Faema (picture Eddy Merckx) and Saeco (picture Mario Cippolini) and coffee companies Cafe de Colombia and Segrafedo have been and still are synonymous with bike racing at the highest level. Successful brands with strong marketing campaigns.
(Me and Super Mario)
Brand strength comes from quality and service as well as a focus on a clear target market. Two British founded companies in these areas have nailed this perfectly. Rapha in cycling clothing, and Colonna in Coffee. I became a Rapha advocate from afar living in Aus but the distance and price meant that purchasing a Rapha garment was a treat rather than the norm. Plus the designs of the time were definitely more suited to the Northern hemisphere riding than the heat of downunder. The Rapha stores (Clubhouses) started popping up in the world's premier cities and I remember visiting the London store in SoHo back in 2012 when I’d first returned to the UK. I remember asking the barista what they were serving and they had Square Mile on house and JB Kaffe from Munich on guest. I knew the first, of course, being owned and run by one of the leading lights in speciality coffee James Hoffman. I hadn’t heard of JB Kaffe but the coffee was excellent from both. Crankhouse was no more than a thought at that time.
Colonna Coffee needs little introduction. Born out of Maxwell and Leslie Colonna-Dashwood’s iconic Colonna and Smalls excellent shop in Bath, it too has become a world-wide recognisable brand and has itself become a sponsor of a pro-continental cycling team. Maxwell is also one of the speciality coffee’s leaders and when I saw their Instagram post last year announcing that Colonna would be supplying coffee to Rapha UK stores I was more than a little envious. Having Crankhouse served in Rapha Clubhouses had been one of those dream boxes to tick.
Three weeks ago I got an email from Nick the Cafe Manager of the Rapha SoHo Clubhouse asking if I’d be interested in supplying them with coffee for their filter offerings and some retail packs for sale on their shelves. You can imagine my reaction ! It was also perfect timing since I’d just launched the Grand Tour blend in time for the start of the Tour De France. So, on the hottest day in the UK on record I travelled up to London to see and taste my coffee at Rapha SoHo. I hadn’t realised I already had a big fan at the store, the head barista Aguinelle had tasted a number of Crankhouse Coffees over the last couple of years and was definitely instrumental in getting my coffee into the store. As it happens the clever person that created the lovely GT Blend design was in London when Rapha received their first delivery and Clare popped in to see her illustration on display and have a brew.
When I arrived the shop was pretty full with lots of people sitting down watching one of the most crucial stages of this year's TdF unravel on the big screen. Plenty of customers drinking cold brew, some drinking filter, and some espresso based drinks. Nick served me a trio - Kenya Slopes of 8 (Crankhouse) on cold brew, house espresso (Colombia from Colonna) and Wolichu Wachu natural Ethiopian on batch (Crankhouse). All tasting great and I got my virtual pen out and ticked the big virtual box.
So with that box ticked what's next ? Well here's a little taster - we're moving..