Saturday, 19 September 2009

We have been selling our coffee’s over the internet for some time now and recently decided to expand our horizons and customer base by getting ourselves out of the comfort zone and sell our coffee’s face to face to the customers.

We also hope to find out whether or not people realize there are many different coffees out there that taste completely different to the ones they pick off the shelves at the local supermarket designated as instant, and if they didn’t, try and educate them and their sense of taste and smell to something far superior, that of coffee freshly roasted that is mainly single origin and that does taste different but great.

It’s the beginning of August and after sorting things out with Martin and Janet Pooks organizers of the local farmers market we arranged to have a stall at Burley in the New Forest in September.

So after ensuring our equipment had been electrically tested and buying tables that required a few considerations before purchase such as size, easy to put up, easy to store and easy to put into the car, could we find the right tables, it wasn’t easy. In the end and due to the time constraints I went for a B&Q special mm, what a palaver after spending an hour to manufacture one of the two of these tables I had bought I needed a rest, how frustrating was that, I now know why when I asked if I could have the display model in the shop why they wouldn’t sell it to me, ideal for the green house or maybe not and ok I suppose, for now anyway, for a market stall. Anyway over the next few days we set up the stall in our workshop / roastery, continually refining the layout of the products and equipment on the tables to best display our goods before the big day, and after numerous changes and discussions we eventually seemed happy with what we are going to be doing. Completing a few final touches with our labels for packaging and signs for the stall we felt ready.

Soon it was the day before market day, and we were ready to roast our little hearts out. It was fun. We do enjoy working in our roastery it’s the satisfying feeling you get when you are actually producing something that you can share with others and hope that they enjoy just as much the end result as we do. We decided to sell ten coffee’s eight of which are single origin, one decaffeinated which had under gone CO2 natural decaffeination process, and one that was already blended when we purchased it from the merchants by two farms in Brazil. We roasted most of the beans to just after the completion of the first crack but two, in particular the Kenyan Gethumbwini Estate, AA and El Salvador Finca Suiza we roasted for a slightly longer time until the commencement of the second crack only by a few seconds but what will hopefully bring out these two beans more distinct local flavors for the areas of origin. It was a long day but it came together as planned and we were happy with our end results the aromas were fantastic and different for each bean as were the colours with the ever changing profiles required for each coffee it was as usual very hands on but brilliant.

Although we were going to grind the beans in front of the customer, to their the customers required grind or even sell them as whole beans so to ensure freshness of the product, we decided to grind and package a couple of bags of each bean to add to the presentation of the coffee’s on the stall and for easy customer service. So the following morning the morning of the market having gotten up at 0500 we set about grinding the beans, but first we needed to cup the coffees for our logs, ideally we would have waited 24hrs after the roasting process before doing so but time wasn’t on our side, although

when the market was open and when we were selling to the customer would be the ideal 24 hrs after roasting and when the coffees would be at their best, we wanted or needed to ensure they tasted impeccable for the customers.

‘Cupping’ is a procedure that allows the main characteristics of each coffee to be evaluated through sensory evaluation. Rather like ‘tastings’ are for wine, this is the method used for coffee. Using the technique allows us to compare and contrast coffees and to identify and distinguish one flavour characteristic from another, also taking into consideration the aroma, acidity, body, flavour, balance, complexity and aftertaste of each coffee.Having packed the flimsy B&Q greenhouse tables the previous evening into the car we then crammed in everything else, including the garden table and camping chairs and grinder and scales and scoops, oh and packaging sealer, and off we went to market as one little piggy said to his mate.

‘It’s still early’ as I was reminded and as we set off, we hoped at the very least to sell at least one item, and to give out lots of our leaflets so to make customers aware of us and our products, we were basically feeling very nervous. This was very new to us and we reminded ourselves why we were really there, a) sell as much coffee as possible b) the experience c) find out people’s knowledge of freshly roasted coffee d) customer awareness about us and our products. However an article I had read some time ago keeps popping up in my head, an famous roaster who is now doing rather well selling over the internet, when he first started out tried to sell his coffee’s at a market and sold only one bag of coffee, only to have it returned later in the day as the customer didn’t quiet know how to brew it. I just hope we don’t have any returned.

Arriving for the market about an hour and half before it started gave us plenty of time to set up, we were given our pitch and set about getting the stall ready. All went well and we thought or hoped we were organized, reminding ourselves of the routines we would use when measuring out the beans on the scales before grinding them so to eradicate waste but ensuring the correct amount was packaged, ensuring the right labels go on the right product, at the same time trying to have a conversation with the customer, as that’s what farmers markets are all about, face to face contact. We were ready, putting on our aprons we started to appreciate our location, there were some 12 – 13 stalls selling a variety of produce, bread, fruit and vegetables, meats, poultry, cheeses, and us selling freshly roasted coffee, we were in between a man selling olives and a family selling apples from their orchard. All of this set in the idyllic country setting of Burley.

It was fantastic I felt as if John Craven was nearby doing ‘Country File’ and would jump out and interview us. There were donkeys behind us the chickens over there the goats on the other side of us, sheep in the nearby fields and horses and riders every where with the occasional goose walking about, absolutely beautiful as if I had stepped back in time, the weather was good warm and sunny with views to match.

Every thing was going smoothly when for some reason the grinder stopped working, good job we had already kept ahead of things and had some coffee already ground and packaged, as we sold the pre packaged coffee we always made another ready to replace the one sold. We couldn’t identify the fault and soon realized all our equipment was not

working, which meant it wasn’t our equipment breaking down but a fault further down the line, what a relief, looking around a few of the other stalls holders were looking bemused, soon we realized it was the mains connection and after the fault was rectified electricity was soon flowing once again and we could resume grinding.

For a small place in the country the footfall through the market was quiet high, Burley is a pretty village and always seems to have a constant traffic of visitors especially at weekends hence the reason to have a farmers market here.

I was relived and yet pleasantly surprised at the interest people had for our coffees; all were good positive comments most people knew the difference between what we were trying to do that is to sell freshly roasted coffee from the coffees that can be bought in jars in the shop. More importantly they knew how to brew the coffee using either a cafeteria or filter machine and in some cases customers bought beans as they had grinders or bean to cup machines in their homes.

The smell of freshly roasted coffee that was being emitted from our coffees enticed people to approach the stall giving us the opportunity to give out our leaflets and for them to ask questions. I do think people are more aware of the different coffees available to them now because of the many micro roasters such as ourselves that are appearing these days selling over the internet and with local coffee shops and indeed supermarkets selling packets of coffee that require the different brewing techniques, all of which adds to a good base of general public knowledge and interest, also with interest a few customers were very much aware of sustainability regarding the coffee industry. This is probably a good time to mention that the coffees we were selling were bought with the farmer in mind buying it at a fair price provides sustainable incomes and well being for local communities at source.

Five hours later it was time to pack everything away, and still people kept coming up to use to either buy or show an interest. It wasn’t a hurried affair everything was completed in a relaxed and leisurely manner. We eventually put the last pieces in the back of the car and were one of the last to leave, but as we turned the car round to leave, we looked back to where we had set up the stall and saw our precious grinder still in its place, so sheepishly turned the car back around and picked it up after already saying our goodbyes to Martin and Janet Pooks and our neighboring stall holders. By the way thank you to the family who give us a bag of their apples, they made a delicious apple pie.

All in all we had satisfied most of what we set out to achieve a) It was a fantastic experience which we will most certainly do again next month. b) It was good to see the customers were interested in the different coffees on our stall and who realized there is a difference between freshly roasted coffee and those that you buy in the supermarkets. c) Certainly customers became aware of our company and hopefully will peruse and buy our coffees through our web page or indeed come again to Burley and buy direct from us next month. d) As for selling vast amounts of coffee, we surprised ourselves having sold a lot more than we thought we would, (yes more than two bags) we were more than happy with the end result, enough so when asked if we would do it again next month the answer was yes so see you soon at Burley if not check out our web page at ‘’

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