A post from entrepreneur Sam Priestley.

I have been a coffee fanatic ever since I happened to move in to a flat a few doors down from where the world barista champion and Gwilym Davies had set up a little coffee stall.

It opened my eyes. For I could get this luxurious, hand-crafted delicacy. Made before my eyes by the most famous craftsman in the world. All for just £2.5!

Imagine that being true for any other luxury good? If I wanted to try the best wine in the world or to be cooked for by the best chef. I would need to be rich or famous.

But king or carpenter it doesn’t matter. We can all enjoy the best coffee.

Gwilym Davies at his little coffee cart in Shoreditch circa 2012

Setting Up My Coffee Shop

I was always an online businessman and had made a lot of money from a mixture of matched betting and e-commerce. But the beauty and romance of coffee hooked me. And I decided to try opening my very own coffee shop.

A foolish and naive decision! But one I threw myself into wholeheartedly. Learning everything I could about coffee and the industry.

I visited the masters and hassled them for advice. I attended conferences and coffee making competitions. And I made a ton of coffee.

Then in March 2014, we opened our doors!

The dream had come true. And the hard work paid off.

We hit the London coffee scene with a bang and won The Best New Coffee Shop 2014.

The Dark Truth Of Artisan Coffee

But while the coffee we were serving was winning awards it quite quickly became clear that you cannot make money from serving world-class coffee.

The time and money that goes into it just didn’t add up. That £2.5 you spend on a flat white isn’t close to covering everything that went into it. The time training. The coffees wasted practising. The salaries. The rent. The premium beans.

Big brand coffee shops make their money from quantity over quality.

We were advised from the get-go that if we wanted to break even we would need another source of income. Wanna make the best coffee? You need to make your money selling food, or alcohol, or something else.

But that wasn’t my passion. I wanted to make the best coffee, I didn’t want to run a sandwich shop.

I achieved the best coffee. But never made it financially viable and in 2017 sold the business.

Nowadays I make flavoured gin - another hand-crafted artisan product, and one that we can sell for a premium price. But I will forever be a true coffee lover.

I am now back to where I started. Hunting out the best beans and the best baristas. Enjoying every sip of my common man’s gold. But left with an even greater appreciation of what an absolute bargain artisan coffee is.



February 09, 2019 — Guy Wilmot

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