LITTLESTONE COFFEE ROASTERS – Indie Trader of the Month
There is nothing like the smell of freshly ground coffee in the morning, or as Hugh Jackman puts it “To me, the smell of fresh coffee is one of the greatest inventions”.
Written by Stella Nicholls, Photography by Matt Austin supplied by Littlestone Coffee Roasters
Early morning, sitting at the Hotel Du Vin, having just ordered my first cup of coffee for the day, I was eagerly waiting to interview one of Exeter’s independent coffee roasters. Having sampled their coffee first hand and loving it, I knew I was in for a treat. Jack Limmer and Chloe Harvey, two of the owners and speciality coffee roasters at Littlestone Coffee, are down to earth and fun to talk to, passionate about their business whilst remaining humble and honest regarding their achievements and challenges.
We were soon settled in to discuss coffee beans, roasting and the journey that Jack and Chloe have been on to get to where they are now.
Jack initially started studying Oceanography at the University of Plymouth, but decided early on that his heart was elsewhere, particularly after having read an article about one of the coffee roasters in London. With a passion for food, he and his partner Chloe (who attended the same university graduating with a master’s in education-based studies) would often cook for each other. Always wanting to support the smaller businesses, they would source fresh produce and natural ingredients to cook everything from scratch. Jack mentioned that he attended an all-boys school growing up, where there was no option for any cooking subjects, or he probably would have gotten involved in cooking a lot earlier.
Having attended a short coffee roasting course in London, doing a lot of research and even more practice, Jack knew that coffee roasting was something that he wanted to do as a career. Choosing Exeter as their location was a strategic decision, as Chloe from Cornwall and Jack from Hertfordshire, felt that Exeter, in between both locations, was a vibrant city in which to begin the next phase of their lives.
On deciding a name for the business, they decided on Littlestone – the name of the house that Jack grew up in. Jack said ‘nothing sounded right at first, so we needed to keep saying it’ but it is a great name and it stuck. Chloe went on to say that people sometimes think the name links to coffee beans in some way, which would be a nice touch but isn’t the case.
The roastery officially started two and a half years ago in a warehouse in Marsh Barton but did not begin operating as a business until 2016, with Jack and Chloe attending their first market in the January of that year. They continued to spend the best part of that year at markets and small events – gaining experience in the world of coffee, learning what worked and what didn’t and gradually built the business up to the success that it is today.
Initially, Jack worked on his own a lot of the time, with his dad – the third partner in the business, popping in from Hertfordshire on occasion and Chloe, who had continued to work, only available to help at weekends. Being new to the area and having left many of their friends behind, Jack missed the ‘office banter’ normally enjoyed when working in an office environment and realised that being alone for hours was a challenge that he hadn’t foreseen when starting the business. Fortunately, they were soon able to take on Chloe full time, which meant that they had each other for company.
With new businesses, come risks but Chloe says that she is grateful that Jack took the leap and ‘just went for it’. They balance each other out well as Jack is a person that says ‘yes’ to things, whilst she is inclined to be more careful before committing to something. Both their families have also been hugely supportive and have encouraged them every step of the way.
In fact, Chloe and Jack say the best life advice they have received is ‘Just go for it’ – life isn’t a dress rehearsal and they have committed wholeheartedly to making the business a success, but they also value their ‘downtime’ taking time out to live life; time to switch off. Chloe mentioned that they try to stop discussing the business after 7 o’clock as they have found that with working and living together, business talk can be all-encompassing.
On to coffee beans, which Jack and Chloe source from all over the world, using a middleman to find the perfect arabica green beans. They ensure that the farmers are fairly treated, the coffee is ethically grown, with the workers being treated well; the middleman also makes sure that the coffee tastes good and is up to the standard that Jack requires for the business. Coffee is seasonally grown around the world and Jack follows whatever region is in season to source their coffee. Each country has different harvest times, as well as the time taken to process it from the cherry part to the green bean that Jack buys. Some countries have much longer seasons, others a narrower time frame; countries like Brazil are so huge that one side of the country generally has a different harvest time to the other side, coffee heaven!
Their suppliers have been helpful in recommending various beans, which enables Jack to pick out coffees that will work together and that he can source throughout the year. This has resulted in them launching a ‘house coffee’ by blending three different coffees from Brazil, Guatemala and Kenya, which is delicious.
I asked Jack what he would recommend as a ‘favourite’ coffee, he replied that it depends what you prefer as a flavour; they have a roasters choice tube which contains an Ethiopian and Kenyan bean, which is popular. For Jack himself, he says it depends on whether they are having a milky coffee or black and that they like them all for different reasons.
Whilst a lot of the coffee that Jack roasts is to Chloe and Jack’s taste, they will try and create flavours for people at their request. Jack says that they may not have the exact coffee that a person has tried because there are so many farms with so many variables, but chances are if they know roughly where it’s from or the customer describes the flavour, he can create something similar.
They also sell coffee with a white label on the bag, so that people wanting to start their own venture can create their own branding, and have even started offering a branding service, for those that may need help getting logo ideas.
For Jack and Chloe, interacting with their customers is one of the high points of the business, they loved the Exeter Food Festival held recently and the plan for 2018 is to book and attend as many shows as possible. This has meant that they don’t have a lot of free weekends in the year ahead, but Chloe remarked that they are treating their time away as ‘mini holidays’ whilst getting to meet different people, which is great.
Jack and Chloe are a delight to chat to and their enthusiasm coupled with the quality coffee that they roast certainly points to a bright future.
To get it touch with Jack or Chloe at Littlestones Coffee, visit their website, www.littlestonecoffee.co.uk, or follow them @Lstonecoffee