As promised in my recent State of the Nation(s) 2014 post, I present the first of four Saturday Supplements taken from an extended version of my article in Issue 6 of Caffeine Magazine. This was my feature on the coffee scene in Newcastle, which, since Scott wouldn’t let me fill the entire magazine with one article, had to be cut down somewhat. This left me with lots of interesting things to say, but nowhere to say them.
Until now, that is…
We start, appropriately enough, with where it all began in Newcastle, and that’s Pumphrey’s, a venerable company which can trace its roots all the way back to 1750 when Leigh Smith established the company that was to become Pumphrey’s.
Each of these Special Saturday Supplements can be read as a stand-alone article or the four can be read together as a coherent whole. It also forms part of the Meet the Roaster series, although it wasn’t written specifically a Meet the Roaster. The more astute amongst you will appreciate that I’ve actually published this Saturday Supplement on a Thursday, but that’s just the way it is…
You can read the rest of the article after the gallery (which is from my original post about Pumphrey’s Brewing Emporium).
Our current story starts in the 1980s when Pumphrey’s was suffering as Britain fell for instant coffee. The company came into the hands of current owners, the Archer family (for Radio 4 listeners, no, not that Archer family!). Now under the guidance of the second & third generation of Archers, Stuart Lee Archer & his daughter Paula Archer, Pumphrey’s is once again playing a leading role in Newcastle’s coffee industry.
Perhaps the best tribute to Pumphrey’s came from another leading light of Newcastle’s coffee scene, Flat Caps Coffee’s Joe Meagher:
“What I love about Pumphrey’s is their ethics. They’re family led; I’ve found that any time I’ve dealt with them their ethics have been supporting the customer and what’s right for me as a customer. You can trust Pumphrey’s.”
Pumphrey’s sits in an interesting position, bridging the gap between the hospitality industry and the high-end speciality coffee market. It’s experienced consistent growth in the last decade, based largely on that emphasis on quality and trust. This is particularly true since opening Pumphrey’s Brewing Emporium, a coffee bar in Grainger Market, part of Pumphrey’s long-standing retail outlet. Here you can get anything/everything from a quick espresso to a V60 or Aeropress using any of the beans on sale on the other side of the counter. As a tool for educating consumers and showcasing Pumphrey’s quality, it’s invaluable, as roaster and barista-trainer Andy Payne explained to me. He cited the example of a customer who came to Pumphrey’s Brewing Emporium and liked the coffee so much that he ordered it for his business, a well-known local boutique and country-house hotel.
According to Andy, awareness is the key to growth. People’s tastes evolve, much as in other specialities such as craft beer. Along with other speciality roasters, Pumphrey’s can play a part by educating coffee drinkers and showing them the different tastes that can be created.
“We’ve got the Coffee of the Month that we bring out once a month, a new coffee that allows customers to try something completely different each time from all around the world. For example, we saw a Chinese coffee on the market and decided to roast it. It was really bold and a lot of body; the espresso was like syrup.”
While admitting that a large part of Pumphrey’s customer base is very conservative, favouring the traditional dark roasts, Andy sees this as a good thing, providing Pumphrey’s a core business selling its traditional blends, while allowing room for experimentation. Pumphrey’s now offers single-origin coffees along with its Coffee of the Month, and promotes new brewing methods such as the V60 and Aeropress, which account for about 25% of the coffee drunk at the Brewing Emporium.
Pumphrey’s roasts on two open-flame Whitmee roasters, which, according to Andy, takes some getting used to, but allows Pumphrey’s to create some unique coffee, bringing out more of the coffee’s acidity compared to more traditional roasters.
Andy sees plenty of room for growth in all areas of Pumphrey’s business, including the hospitality market, where quality is increasingly important, especially in the wake of recent scandals such as the horsemeat debacle. This has made businesses much more conscious of supply-chain issues and has them looking for companies which they can trust, echoing Joe Meagher’s comment: “you can trust Pumphrey’s”.
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