Recently I sat down with Clark, the manager of Estate Office Coffee. They recently opened their second specialty coffee shop in Streatham, London on Greyhound Lane close to Streatham Common train station. In 2018 they won the most loved local coffee place in Streatham in the Love London Timeout awards. It was great to speak with him and learn more about his thoughts on coffee.
M: How long have you been with Estate Office Coffee?
C: Nearly three years come October since the original shop opened.
M: And you were there from the start?
C: I was. So I knew Joe and we came up with the idea of Estate Office Coffee together about three and a half years ago.
M: Great! How has it been setting up the new shop?
C: It's been great, it's been exciting. A lot more different processes than the last shop that I wasn't anticipating. Obviously everything is on a much larger scale. Learning the rhythms of the day and what people want in different areas is always interesting. In about a month or so I reckon we will have found more of a rhythm.
M: What was the original vision for Estate Office Coffee?
C: So basically what we wanted to do was do everything as hand-crafted and best quality as possible. Rather than looking at what we could do to get the biggest margins on things, we looked at what we could do to get the best quality and be proud of what we sold. So aiming for the best coffee, the best cakes, the best pastries, the best people around. The best product to the people! A good cake is going to cost the customer about the same as a bad cake so it makes sense to try to give them the best experience they can for the price that they're paying. So that's my kind of ethos. And with customer service just give the best you can. The £6-£7 a customer pays for a coffee and a cake is essentially wasted if they don't enjoy what you give them. It is important to give people what they want as much as possible.
M: Well it looks like you do that so that's good. How did you get into coffee before Estate Office Coffee?
C: So I started making coffee 13 years ago (on the 26th of August this month). I used to go a creperie in Dublin in the city when I was a teenager that was known for good coffee as well and worked there for seven years. My primary job was the quality of the food so I did start out in the industry more with the food side of things. Estate Office Coffee has been the first place where I can focus on the coffee side of things a bit more which has been nice as it means I once again start to learn a lot more about what I'm working with rather than just espresso. For example filter, cold brew and the different brewing processes. It's been self-taught for the most part as well as asking people who know more than I do.
M: Nice. So on the topic of training baristas for your shops, how has that been? What have been the main challenges and what has worked well?
C: So the trickiest part I suppose would be trying to take on too much of that at once. In an ideal world you'd hire a great barista with a great personality who's happy to do everything. It doesn't always work like that in practice. I'd rather get the right people with the right mentality and train them to have the right skills. So I guess the challenge is taking on too much with too many staff at the same time as everyone learns at different levels. Managing expectations when training is also key. I've been quite lucky with who has come through. Everyone's been quite competent and taken to it quite well with a genuine interest as well. That's one thing I look at when hiring, do they have a genuine interest about coffee or to learn or not. You can tell the difference between those who have an interest and those who don't and it's definitely the ones who do that care about what they're doing that little bit more.
M: Do you do any training out of hours or do you find it works in shop periods?
C: So we're quite lucky in the sense that the afternoons in the first shop we had were quite quiet in between rushes of customers so you could teach people the basics over time in the quiet times to make use of those times the most. So rather than just sat doing nothing or not achieving much, the goal has been to get staff to learn something when they're not doing anything more valuable. Obviously having as many good baristas as possible is the best thing a coffee shop can do to have consistency. We've been quite lucky with having people learning in the afternoons.
M: Do you have any advice for people who wish to get into coffee and aren't sure where to start?
C: If you're a barista, make sure you're happy to work long hours and on your feet and then just enjoy what you do. Make sure you enjoy talking to people as that is a massive part of the job. Just enjoying the day for what it is. Making coffee is very interesting in itself but enjoy the whole experience. Talking and interacting with customers and learning what different eccentricities people have can keep the days interesting. Look at the bigger picture, the overall thing and just enjoy what you're doing for what it is. Enjoy that little bit of happiness you give to people when they get a nice interaction in a coffee shop. Everyone likes to be treated well and have a nice chat with people. If you can be part of that there's nothing wrong with that, not in my opinion anyway.
M: Brilliant. Ok last thing then, what's your favourite coffee and brew method?
C: Favourite brew method at the moment would be the V60. I got into it the last year and a half and received one as a birthday present last year. I think I'm really enjoying it as it is something different to what I do at work. It's a real nice methodical ten minutes for yourself. You can have peace, make it right and enjoy it. It's nice taking that time out and always improving what you've done wrong the last one-hundred times. In terms of coffee I always go for a natural. I suppose the best I've had would be a natural Kenyan that I had last year, out of this world from Mission. They just had a very small batch of it. But then I am enjoying the natural Colombian that Brew Coffee Plus are doing at the moment. That is a little bit too tasty for it's own good.
Thanks to Clark for his time today, you can find Estate Office Coffee on instagram here.