Business hotting up for Ford coffee company

Jay in the Edgcumbes cafe in Ford
Jay in the Edgcumbes cafe in Ford

Usually, when I am asked if I would like a cuppa there is only one answer – ‘yes’.

However at Edgcumbes in Ford this starts a fascinating conversation.

Chris roasting the coffee beans

Chris roasting the coffee beans

“People do come in here thinking they will just get a coffee then it is like ‘wow, this is an emporium’,” smiles director Alice Rendle.

The family business has certainly grown since Alice’s father-in-law launched it with one blend of tea when he returned from India.

However, 35 years later, the rainbow of loose leaf jars and coffee pots are just one of the changes.

“To me it is like a whole new business now,” Alice agrees, talking of the new retail venture. “I can’t tell you how exciting that is for me.

Director Alice Rendle

Director Alice Rendle

“Before, when we were just wholesaling to others, we were a step removed,” she explains. “It’s been a whirlwind but we’ve found people are desperate to learn, and this opens up people’s worlds.”

So much so Alice believes ‘coffee is now becoming the new wine’.

“Fifteen years ago people wouldn’t have known the difference between the different types of reds, they would just say ‘French’ or ‘Italian’,” she enthuses. “Coffee is becoming a connoisseur’s market.”

This demand, coupled with Edgcumbes’ desire to educate, has inspired a range of workshops and has already sparked plans for a bigger on-site café.

“Everything we do is about people being given the chance to experiment,” says Alice. “Once you taste freshly roasted it is hard to go back.

“Most supermarket coffee will have been roasted six or even seven months ago but most people won’t know the difference until they have tried it – it is like eating fresh bread.”

There’s no doubt the smell is just as enticing.

Alice aptly describes the current shop as ‘a window in to what we do’ as it literally allows just that as customers can see the beans being roasted and ground to order while they stand at the counter.

“We are very transparent. It is saying ‘this is what we do, this is what we sell’,” she reveals. “People of your generation love it because it is local and there is an issue of environmental footprint.”

On this topic Edgcumbes also runs a ‘3R’ scheme where the coffee is sold in reusable tins which, if brought back and refilled also give customers 20 per cent off.

“It means people don’t pay for the packaging that they are just going to throw away anyway,” says Alice simply.

Working as manufacturer and retailer means the business can respond quickly, compared to caterers which Alice insists ‘can be two years behind’ because they ‘respond to what the customer asks for’ and then have to filter it through the chain.

Learning that 100 kilos will, at the end of the process, make just 12 it is easy to understand why the team believe coffee deserves to be treated with respect.

“I don’t think it is much different to what chefs are doing,” says shop manager Jay Bull. “It is about going back to basics and great ingredients.

“People are used to reaching for the sugar, because they have been brought up with it being bitter,” adds Alice.

“But if you taste fresh there is a sweetness, a fruitiness, to it.

“It is like a piece of meat, you can boil it and it will taste foul or you can carefully pan fry it and it will be sublime.”

There’s also plenty to inspire tea drinkers from innovative brewing devices to bespoke blends.

“They are all loose leaves which is so much nicer than bags,” Alice insists. “It is about helping people realise they can make good tea and coffee at home rather than having to spend a fortune in cafes.

“It’s for everyone. I don’t know anyone who is not interested in tea or coffee, but they have grown up with a very base level,” she continues.

“We want to make it accessible and prove you don’t have to have an expensive machine, what you do need to have is fantastic coffee.”

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