Roasting Plant’s UK CEO Jamie Robertson on launching a Mayfair store and his mission to build a British coffee empire
Words: Will Moffitt
Like any coffee connoisseur worth his salt Jamie Robertson switches his fix according to his mood. If he’s craving something fruity he’ll opt for Roasting Plant’s Ethiopian beans; for something nuttier it’s a just-roasted Guatemalan. When the sun burns a little brighter he’ll turn to a flash-chilled just-roasted Ugandan over ice to cool things down.
“Many people have learned to accept stale coffee that’s flat and bitter as part of their everyday routine, but we want to disrupt this mind set,” Roasting Plant’s UK CEO tells me. As someone that has been sampling Roasting Plant coffee for a few months I can confirm that the brand’s output is neither stale nor flat nor bitter.
Nestled on Mayfair’s South Molton Street which Robertson describes as “an iconic cut-through” for shoppers, office workers and residents “to find respite from the crowds of Oxford and Bond Street”, Roasting Plant’s new store is an artisanal coffee haven that blends beans to suit all manner of tastes. From full bodied and bold to milder and sweeter varieties, the store looks a lot like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory due to its snaking pipes and steaming contraptions that turn mounds of beans into caffeinated magic.
Founded in 2007 by American entrepreneur Mike Caswell who invented a device that blended raw coffee from scratch in his garage, Roasting Plant has grown from a small shop in New York’s Lower East Side to a dual national business that sources its beans from places as remote as the slopes of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains (along Uganda’s western border) to the Gayo Highlands in Sumatra.
Roasting Plant’s model favours freshness and flavour: by grinding, blending and roasting coffee in store through Caswell’s machine (the Javabot) customers get an artisan-quality cup crafted in half the usual time.
As Robertson puts it: “This ability to offer exceptional taste at speed, at scale, through automation, is where we really bridge the gap between the convenience of large high-street coffee chains and the high-quality taste traditionally only offered by small independent shops.”
The company launched in the UK in 2019 and has five London-based stores, but it has grand ambitions to expand its coffee empire and to establish itself as a staple brand on British high streets. That means launching over 200 locations within the next five years.
“We are currently in five central London locations, including Mayfair, so this is a big target to set looking at where we are now, but one that we feel is achievable,” Robertson says.
“Quality speaks for itself and the amount of people who grab a coffee as part of their daily routine is huge, so there’s a massive amount of both consumer demand and the potential to really shake up the industry,” he adds. “The fact we’ve seen such success in London already speaks for itself.”
It’s a blueprint backed up by hard data. Recent research suggests that the UK’s café market is expected to grow by 14 per cent in 2022, with independent coffee shops and cafes alone expected to see large growth of 25 per cent this year. Due to the emergence of healthier lifestyles and an increased focus on supply chain transparency and experiential consumers Roasting Plant looks well placed to expand its coffee empire and capitalise on a market that is full of beans.
Roasting Plant Coffee can be found at 46 S Molton St, London W1K 5RX