There are probably few people in the local area who associate Wellington’s historic Tonedale Mill with coffee but coffee roaster Brazier has found a home there for its very distinctive business.
This is not a High Street coffee shop but a place where very special coffee beans from around the world are roasted, ground and packed to supply a wholesale market of customers in cafes and independent coffee shops in the South West and also a retail trade for coffee connoisseurs which will be developed over the next few months
Owner Tom Brazier arrived at the former Puttee Shop – where the strips of cloth woven at Tonedale and worn by WW1 soldiers were stored – via Australia and West Hatch. He was educated in Bristol but his wife Claire is Australian. The idea for a coffee business came to the couple in 2011 while they were in Brisbane. Tom explained: “We travel to Australia every year and realised how much better coffee was there. The speciality market there is much more advanced than here. Australia accounts for 60% of the total coffee market. A typical cafe in Australia might go through 70 kilos a week whereas here it might be nearer 10 kilos. The UK’s market is about 5% – but here it’s growing at 3 times the rate of other areas.”
Brazier moved to Tonedale from West Hatch less than 3 months ago when Tom saw the empty Puttee Shop whilst house-hunting and recognised its potential, not only as a place to store, roast, grind and supply his coffees but also to become his trade counter. He said, “From April people will be able to come here to sample and buy coffee roasted and ground on the premises. Whilst the majority of our trade is what we sell to cafes, hotels, restaurants and businesses as beans – which they then grind – the retail counter here will be a way of creating interest in the local public. We also hope to provide training and have coffee tastings so people can appreciate the variety of flavours.” Part of visitors’ experience will be to savour beans roasting on the huge Giesen roaster, sample coffees made on one of Brazier’s impressive machines and experience the whole process of producing very special cups of coffee.
Tom’s suppliers are small importers who have close relationships and investment programmes with individual farmers. These relationships encourage the ethical development of high grade coffee beans in some of the very best coffee-producing areas of the world – especially at high altitude in Ethiopia (which Tom said is “the most exciting country for coffee”) and South America.
At present Brazier has just 2 staff and Tom’s wife adding part-time support but, with exciting plans for the future and an atmospheric location, its growth in a rapidly expanding market should be secure. At the same time, another corner of Tonedale Mill is being brought back to life.