Last month saw several moves in the trend towards roaster-retailing, including the introduction of the unusual Neotech Neorost roasting machine at the Ismail café in Tunbridge Wells.
Roaster-retailing is the practice, already well-established in the USA and Nordic countries, in which a café roasts its own coffee beans inside its premises. The benefit of the process is that customers can be guaranteed absolute freshness of product (coffee deteriorates fastest when it has been roasted) while enjoying the an element of attention-grabbing ‘theatre'.
The most high-profile move in roaster-retailing recently was at Harrod's, where Andronicas Coffee established a ‘roast-while-you-wait' service.
The latest opening is from an old-style tea and coffee merchant which launched in Blackpool in 1925, and has come round full-circle to roasting again.
"I studied the demographics for the customers that were likely to pay extra for the best coffee, and the demographic fitted Tunbridge Wells," the company's Raschid Gibrail told Coffee House
The reason for this is in the use of the comparatively-rare Neotech Neorost. Neotech is a maker of gigantic roasting machines for the giant 'industrial' coffee brands, and created their small model, with its unusual see-through design, for their own internal training and testing purposes.
Ismail has managed to get hold of one of these machines, and will show a customer their own coffee being roasted, in quantities as low as 125gm.
"The biggest hazard to roaster-retailing is an environmental one," Raschid Gibrail told us. "Whatever kit you use, you have to be very careful that the fumes are dealt with, and having a chimney in the middle of your shop may not be ideal!
"Neotech looked at this early - they sent their specs to environmental authorities in the UK first, to make sure their equipment was acceptable.
"We are still not allowed to send smoke down the road, and in theory we're not allowed to send the smell out of the door, eitherâ¦ but we call it 'our silent salesman'!"
Also in the roaster-retail world, the launch will soon be announced of The Roasted Bean Boutique, which offers a franchise arrangement for in-store roasting, offering the Imex DigiPro roasting machines.
By Ian Boughton