London is full of great coffee shops but Workshop Coffee stands out from the crowd. We go behind the scenes and speak to its wholesale support manager, Stuart Ritson, to find out more about this pioneer roaster, its involvement with One Farmer, One Roaster, and the secret to a great coffee.
Workshop Coffee launched on to the London coffee scene in 2011 with a promise to source, roast and serve “the best coffee possible”. Three-years later, it has more than delivered on its promise, remaining synonymous with London’s third generation of coffee roasters responsible for the city’s now cafe culture.
“At the time the coffee movement was well under way but still relatively new; there weren’t as many shops as there are now and not as much emphasis on quality. Roasters like Workshop made people think about the origins of coffee for the first time,” explains Stuart Ritson, its wholesale support manager.
The showcase for the coffee was its Clerkenwell site, a converted textile factory. One of the first roaster cafes, Workshop introduced London to a new coffee experience, a place to learn about coffee — from its origins through to its roasting from enthusiastic, well-trained baristas.
London was hooked. Several accolades followed including 'Best Independent Cafe' at the 2012 Cafe Society Awards and ‘Best Independent Cafe Europe’ in 2013, as well as two coffee bars: one in Marylebone and the other, more recently in Holborn.
As for the coffee itself, Workshop has always been about “coffee first,” says Ritson, “really good fresh green coffee, tasty, sweet”. This has meant continued investing in sourcing, frequent travel to farmers and cooperatives (“in the last six months, we have been to Ethiopia twice, Columbia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala”) and participating in projects like One Farmer, One Roaster.
This initiative invests in the infrastructure of coffee farms in Yiracheffe Ethiopia to promote single origin coffee from the region. “We have always been quite forward in where we get our coffee from and that’s because we recognise that hundreds and hundreds of hours go into producing the green coffee before we even roast it or serve it,” is how Ritson explains their involvement.
Beyond its café/ restaurant and coffee bars, Workshop Coffee places great emphasis on how it works with cafes with Stuart in his role providing training, social media support and general advice. And with London’s coffee scene flourishing, Workshop Coffee continues its uncompromised focus on quality and consistency. Its coffee menu features only the best available (“ones that we are proud to serve”) and the quest for the perfect bean continues with an online dispensary. Coffee is roasted to order (beans only) with subscriptions available at six or twelve months.
A good coffee is …
Very personal. At Workshop we look for a clean, sweet, fresh coffee that has lots of life, has interesting character and that leaves a sweet aftertaste. When buying coffee, people should look for when it was roasted (within the last few weeks) and if possible, when it was harvested (within twelve months). We were one of the first roasters to print the harvest date on our packets.
My coffee of choice …
We have a lot of great coffee but for the last few months I have really enjoyed Hunkute from Ethiopia. It is a really sweet floral coffee — very easy to drink, lots of character, slightly lighter on the body. It’s the best coffee that I’ve tasted either as a filter or espresso. Espresso can be a really intensive way of enjoying coffee but can often be disappointing. I found this one really interesting and I’m pleased to say that we will have this coffee again later in the year.
London as a food city …
London is highly competitive so what emerges is very good. As rents go up and space gets more difficult to find, we are all working harder to deliver something unique and special. You have to be good at everything, including great service and great branding. At the moment that’s what makes London so great.
Inside my London larder ...
You’ll find meat from Ginger Pig (@ GingerPigLtd) — they are one of our meat suppliers at Workshop Coffee. Something from General Store (@general_store) as a treat and I always enjoy Kernel Beer (@kernelbrewery). That’s my top three.
A London food secret …
There are a few places that I would want to keep to myself but I would say Embassy East in Hoxton and The General Store in Peckham. It’s a small place. It’s only open five days a week, has great produce and the serve is amazing.
My perfect London day-out …
I’m lucky enough to do this often. So I’d get a coffee at Workshop Marylebone and then a burger at Tommi’s Burger Joint (@BurgerJointUk). It’s very relaxed and the food is really good. I’ll then try and get over to Maltby Street Market (@MaltbyStMkt), which is only open on the weekends. It’s a great market; on Sunday it is definitely quieter and the traders there are really interesting. I love going down there. In the evening, I would go over to Cây Tre in Soho for some really good Vietnamese pho (@caytrevietgrill) and then Quo Vadis (@QuoVadisSoho) for cocktails. That would be my perfect day.
27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN
60A Holborn Viaduct, EC1A 2FD
75 Wigmore Street, W1U 1QD