Meet the maker: Ashley Palmer-Watts
Douglas Blyde learns about the enterprising chef’s dedication, olfactory and visual, to coffee culture…
What inspired you to co-found Artisan Coffee Co.?
When I first met my business partner, Grant Tromans, we spent hours talking about how people brewed at home and what opportunities lay ahead. I wanted to apply the last twenty years of my Fat Duck experience – thinking from a chef’s perspective – and incorporate the emotional side of coffee, including customers relationships with coffee. I wanted to look at developing blends specifically for each process in order to maximise the taste experience. The next thing I wanted to do was to make coffee more accessible, given you don’t need to be a coffee expert to understand how to make coffee at home. For a lot of people, this has been a major barrier in allowing them to explore better and higher quality coffee.
Describe your sourcing process and range?
Currently, we are sourcing beans from thirteen different origins, buying sustainably and building strong and positive relationships right through to the farms. We also have a range of coffee certifications from Fair Trade, Organic and Rain Forest Alliance origins.
What is something even habitual coffee drinkers may not know about coffee?
Something which became apparent to me is no matter how you make a coffee at home, the human element plays a huge part in the process which is reflected in the cup. Therefore, that first taste is where the drinker assesses the quality of their work and if they have done a good job.
Why should restaurants and bars think deeper about their coffee offer, and how can you help them?
I think people now expect great coffee wherever they go. Coffee seems to sometimes fall into no man’s land within some restaurants unless there is someone within the team who loves coffee and really takes the subject on. For me, the old-school process of being supplied a coffee machine supposedly for “free” to tie restaurants into one coffee supplier means that there is no flexibility to change to a better one. I think this is changing, as the industry is now giving more autonomy and control to the customer (i.e. restaurants/bars) and putting more responsibility onto the coffee supplier to input on training and support. Coffee is the last thing people experience before leaving a venue – it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Which venues of note do you supply?
We are supplying a wide range of venues from The Fuller Smith & Turner PLC. group, Bel & The Dragon inns, The Hurlingham Club, and a new hotel brand in Berlin called “June Six”. We have some fantastic locations launching soon, including a new opening in London and other very exciting projects which I can’t talk about just yet. But we have had a great first year!
Does coffee have applications in cocktails and dishes?
I have been developing a range of exciting cocktails over the last year, for instance, incorporating complex cold brew coffee in a reduced alcohol Old Fashioned. Our coffee also has ample uses in a range of dishes, ranging from a Tiramisu to a delicious Mocha Tart. I also extract coffee into a cream and use it to make a coffee caramel sauce – the options are endless.
Do you have any restaurant, pub or coffee shop projects in the pipeline?
Not at the moment, as currently, we are very focused on partnering with great people who want to develop their coffee experience to the next level, inspiring the teams and growing the coffee culture which is needed. Our most recent partnership is with talented creative artist who goes by the name, Autistic Ian, who has helped to create a selection of limited-edition prints inspired by the six different coffee blends offered by Artisan Coffee Co. which have been scientifically created to enhance the at-home coffee experience. His partnership with Artisan Coffee Co. is his first commercial venture and will see Ian bring to life the taste, flavour, and character of coffee, through art. The partnership will see all six blends depicted visually in a collectible limited-edition series of A5 prints, which will be available to customers who make a purchase of £50 or more from the Artisan Coffee Co. website. Images from the art series will also be available on a range of merchandise, ranging from coffee cups to casual wear, with royalties from every sale donated to the National Autistic Society.
Find out more: artisancoffeeco.com