One of our core values here at the Larder is the championing of local artisans and ethical suppliers. The people we work with – from our sourdough bread-maker to our east London honey producer, all have amazing stories that shape what we do each day in our coffee shops.
Our monthly Q&A ‘In the Larder with…’ looks at some of our most loved suppliers so you can get to know the people behind the goods on our shelves. This month we sat down with Oliver Ritchie from Union Coffee – our speciality coffee co.
1. Tell us more about Union coffee and why it’s special?
Union is a family and our values have stayed true since day one. We source & roast high quality speciality coffee. “Union Direct Trade”, our sourcing principle, is more than just paying a fair price, it means we work in partnership with farmers to improve both quality of coffee and livelihoods, long term.
It’s about ‘trade, not aid’. Receiving sustainable prices for coffee lets farmers build viable livelihoods and have control over investments and development in their communities.
Ever since Jeremy and Steven first visited producers in Guatemala, back in 2001, they realised that we had to go further than just subsidies. We focus on the quality of coffee, not quantity. Seeking a living wage for workers, not just a minimum wage. It’s a better deal for everyone, and better beans for us. It’s the only way to do coffee. This is true sustainable development
2. What do you love most about the Larder’s Union blend?
The Larder uses our medium roast Revelation. It has delicious taste notes of treacle, cinnamon and dark chocolate and is made up of 4 key origins, Guatemala, Sumatra, Costa Rica and Rwanda. It complements milk or milk alternatives extremely well and also tastes great as an espresso or Americano.
3. How do you like your coffee?
It really depends on what time of the day or how I am feeling. My morning coffee (home brew) is a Chemex which is a classic elegant slow pour over that the brews extremely clean coffee. My second coffee is an oat milk flat white which is especially good on a cold winter’s day!
4. What’s your Larder breakfast order?
That’s an easy one for me! I am gluten-free and the Marrakesh is absolutely amazing!
5. We just opened a filter coffee bar in Wanstead, what’s to love about filter coffee?
This is music to my ears! Filter coffee can be so versatile and delicious. Gone are the days of burnt old coffee sitting on hot plates tasting bitter and awful. Either a batch brew or pour over is a brilliant option. We have so many exciting coffee options with beautiful seasonal microlots and single origins. We’re also about to launch some amazing coffees from Rwanda that are juicy and sweet.
Plus, the beauty of having multiple filter coffee options is you can satisfy everyone’s taste, sweetness, body, acidity or floral, you have so many choices!
6. What’s the secret to a perfect cup of coffee?
I think attention to detail is extremely important. Firstly you need to have high quality coffee roasted to perfection. Then you need to have the right equipment for the job, a solid clean espresso machine, consistent grinder, scales, milk jugs etc. Then you need a well trained barista to manipulate the grind to achieve a beautiful, complex, well-extracted espresso with silky smooth sweet milk at the perfect temperature. With all of these factors in play you will have yourself the perfect cup of coffee.
7. What coffee gadgets or accessories are must haves?
I think scales are key for accuracy and consistency. Every coffee requires its own particular recipe and you need scales to measure the dose going in and coming out. Quality water is another key element of coffee. Lastly a solid grinder can be another key aspect as this means you have nice even grind size.
8. Do you have any favourite coffee cocktails?
Yes I do! The obvious espresso based martini is always a popular choice. Its good to mix this up though trying different spirit bases such as tequila, agave nectar, coco liquor. Mr Blacks is always a good addition to an espresso martini. We are now seeing all sorts of creative coffee cocktails in competitions such as Coffee and Good Spirits.
9. Is there any Union news we should know about?
We have lots of new coffees being launched monthly and we are also working on an exciting new development so keep an eye out…