Our shop is located in the heart of London's Portobello Road market. We open 7 days a week. We sell hot drinks, snacks, toasted sandwishes, smoothies and what we are famous for: freshly roasted coffee beans. We roast in our factory a couple of miles away in Acton and rush the coffee down to the shop twice weekly. We are opposite the Electric Cinema, one block after the world famous antiques market (visitors note - most stalls are only there Friday and Saturday). We send coffee all over the UK by carrier, you can order online or by phone. We also have a considerable wholesale business.
In 1985 journalist Ian Henshall started roasting coffee literally on the street corner in Portobello Road, London as way of financing his magazine Outlook, which was launched in 1987. The Evening Standard ran a feature on the combined operation. The coffee took off somewhat more than the publishing...
Reality hit Ian Henshall in a big way in 1994 in the form of newborn twins Stephen and Timothy with partner Jutta Wuttke, who later became well known to our Friday customers. Publishing was still a financial drain and Ian dropped Outlook, but with support from New Internationalist, The Big Issue and others, he helped form INK, the umbrella organisation for the UK's alternative press. The main visible result of INK so far is the INK joint subscription leaflet, of which 300,000 are printed and distributed in the UK.
The coffee shop was opened in 1997 near the old market stall. The wholesale business started to grow. With demand for organic produce booming and hardly any other roasters certified as organic it was a good time to increase capacity.
The boom in our wholesale business began when we identified a source of coffee that was both organic, Fairtrade and high quality. Since then our silver packs of coffee from Guatemala, Mexico and Peru have become a familiar sight to London's coffee purchasers in many different outlets. We believe we have the largest range of organic and/or fairly traded coffee in the UK
Then came a Hollywood movie, which most of us took little notice of at the time, Notting Hill. Of course hardly any of it was shot down here, and our sizeable minority of black people evaporated from Notting Hill's Notting Hill. The shop rents went up, the tourists flocked and the corporations moved in. In the wake of the stars came, you could probably guess it, Bill and Hillary. No, he didn't drink any of our coffee but he dined at a pub which sells it. Unfortunately there was a power cut at the time. Not for the fiorst time in his career, Clinton had greatness within his grasp but it eluded him.
Ian and Jutta moved to Brighton in 2002, but Ian is to be seen in the shop most weeks. Ian mainly handles new business, web and marketing activity, and suppliers. The philosophy: if your supplies are good the demand will follow. Anything more than minimal marketing puts up your costs and hence your prices. This seems to have worked so far.
The famous Electric Cinema opposite our shop reopened in 2002 and after massive building work added a preposterously expensive restaurant. It is one of the oldest cinemas in the world, but that's another story...
In July 2004 the shop moved to its third location in our parade, this time permanent, fully refurbished and custom designed for us. Danny Davies, general manager for five years left to pursue new opportunities in Australia. During his time our turnover grew by around 600% and our payroll from three to ten. Danny is now involved with one of the many coffee roaster/ retailers who have sprung up in London in recent years, several of which are run by or employ our alumni (so to speak).
Ian co-authored "9/11 Revealed" published in the UK and the US in August 2005, the first mainstream published book to question the official story of the attacks that became the pretext for NATO's wars without end. The book had a three page serialisation in the Daily Mail and became a non-fiction best seller, but was still ignored by most of the establishment. In the coffee business 2005 was a busy year too, we moved the roasting operation from John Hedges old micro-unit in Spittalfields to our current premises in Acton, London NW10.
In early 2006 we purchased a (very) second hand Probat L12 10kg coffee roaster. Shortly after, we consigned the latest of our home made roaster series to the skip. However our pre-war Uno shop roaster can still be seen in the shop, it was used by us not so long ago in Spittalfields
In September 2007 Ian's second book was published: “9/11 The New Evidence” and he has become a regular guest on the less mainstream media, from Talksport to Total Rock. In September 2008 on BBC Southern Counties radio he confronted producer Guy Smith who made the BBC's “Conspiracy Files”, a grossly misleading 9/11 whitewash.
Ian has fronted the Reinvestigate 9/11 campaign since 2009. His current activist project is RADTV, a current affairs TV show, which is available on Youtube (search for RADTV UK) and will hopefully be on a Sky channel by the summer. The plan is to break even by selling the programme to the many English language broadcasters across the planet who are not happy with the political slant of the current mostly NATO-linked news content suppliers.
At the end of 2012 the pretence has been abandoned that the great depression will be over any time soon. However, the change seems to have benefited us so far. Perhaps it's the manager in the shop Claudio Ambruoso and our best ever team of baristas. Perhaps our customers cannot afford so many foreign holidays, who knows. On the wholesale side, sharply rising prices have been a problem but they have fallen back without us having to introduce painful increases in the retail list. Having risen substantiall yin 2011 our trasde prices should be stable not for a year or two.
In 2009 we scrapped our old Probat and bought a brand new larger 30kg roaster to cope with the increased demand. We are looking to move into a larger factory unit. Without we hope any delusions of grandeur, and a sIan Henshall is mainly working on the RADTV project, we would like to expand modestly through partnership or franchising type relationships. Please take a look at the relevant page on this website for more information if any of this appeals to you.
Organic coffee and tea.
It was in the early nineties that organic and fairly traded coffees first appeared commercially. For us it was obvious: if the planet is to have a decent future, Fairtrade and organic products are the only way forward. In spite of the extra paperwork, we believe the audit trail which certification requires is essential to uphold the integrity of the organic system. An organic crop must not only start off as organic but be transported and processed in a chemical free environment too. Non-organic coffee, for instance, might be fumigated with strong insecticide during transport.
As the organic movement has become mainstream, a new problem has arisen - bulk producers supplying supermarkets with cheap, technically organic, produce which somehow doesn't taste good enough. Crops grown using the wrong strain, in the wrong soil or climate conditions can taste poor whether organic or not.
In the coffee market, which is highly volatile, the main advantage of Fairtrade is to put a floor under a market, so that in bad years the producers are not at risk of losing everything to creditors. Until 2007 when the financial world started to go beserk, the coffee market was depressed because the IMF put pressure on Vietnam to flood the market with low grade coffee.
Organic and Fairtrade.
We have extended our organic and Fairtrade lines so that by now most of our coffee is both organic and Fairtrade. This is welcome to caterers who can appeal to two often different markets with our coffee. We advise retailers however that the mains selling point is the quality of the coffee.
Why do we have any coffee which is not organic Fairtrade? Some origins still do not supply it, often because their high quality coffee sells very well anyway. This is the case with all Kenyan coffee and many premium estate coffees. Since the credit crunch, commodity prices have risen, including coffee. Fairtrade prices on the open market are now well above the Fairtrade support level.