Speciality coffee explained

A quiet coffee revolution has been underway in the UK for some time now. There’s never been more appreciation for lighter, delicately roasted coffee, and for beans grown and roasted with greater attention. Not only that, but studies have found the volume of coffee we’re drinking is on the increase too. The number of independent coffee roasters has grown accordingly, springing up in railway arches, industrial estates and coffee shop back rooms across the country.  

This development is thanks in no small part to the likes of Allpress. First founded in Auckland in 1989, founder Michael Allpress had experienced the coffee revolution underway in Seattle and had decided to take it home with him and make it his own. Starting with a mobile coffee cart in a city centre park, the business grew from there – to now be a global enterprise, one which has retained a brand associated with quality, distinctive coffee.

Several decades on, and a whole generation of Antipodeans have exported their revamped coffee traditions – including, of course, the ubiquitous and much-adored flat white. But what if you’re a coffee fanatic who wants to make your own mark now, entering into this busy, competitive market? 

We spoke to Agnes Potter, Allpress’ general manager in the UK, to find out her top tips for any coffee businesses looking to start out now. 

How to start a successful coffee business – three key tips from Allpress

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1. Work out what your principles are – and stick to them

When Allpress was starting out, the market for speciality coffee and cafe culture wasn’t what it is now. Starting out first as a coffee cart, Michael Allpress didn’t necessarily have every aspect of his future business figured out, but he did know what he valued as important – that is, selling quality coffee and the enthusiastic cafe culture energy he’d encountered on his travels to the US.

As Potter explains, it was sticking firm to these underlying principles that supported the company’s future success. She says, “By insisting on the best and thinking about the future – be it by design, radical partnerships with other businesses or simply challenging the status quo, Allpress quickly found themselves implementing different ideas that just made sense at the time, but still provide the backbone of our business today.”

2. Put flavour first

When you’re starting out in the speciality coffee trade, it’s easy to get caught up with the many aspects of starting and running a new business. But it’s important to remember your core product: after all, it’s your ambition to create quality, high-end coffee that got you here in the first place, so before you proceed with anything else, make sure you’ve nailed down your supply chain, process and finished product.

“Flavour always needs to be your first priority,” Potter says. “If you don’t believe in putting flavour first and demanding the best you’re going to have a tough time standing out.”

3. Create a distinctive brand identity

Once you’ve nailed your product, you need to create a brand that makes people take note. For Allpress, this is something they’ve paid heed to from early on. A case in point: their recent merch lines to mark their 30th anniversary, which deploy their logo designs from when the company first started. They don’t create loads of merch, but they try to create an impact when they do. “We want to keep our priorities really clear and our offering quite simple,” Potter explains.

(For more on branding, head here for our guide on nailing brand identity.)

“A lot of people are doing amazing things in coffee and our industry gets busier and busier every year,” Potter says. “One of the main ways to differentiate is to create an iconic brand which people associate with quality and consistency in flavour.”

Want to create merch for your coffee business? ICON Printing offer fast turnaround printing on a range of garments, counting a number of clients in the coffee trade, as well as clients ranging from such as WeWork to Boiler Room and the Tate. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.