Small Batch Coffee was born in 2007 when friends Alan Tomlins and Brad Jacobsen left their jobs as chefs to start a wholesale micro roaster in Brighton, a seaside town about 50 miles south of London that is home to a diverse, liberal, and generally young crowd.
When it launched, Small Batch was just a small-scale business aimed at roasting, well, small batches of high-quality coffee in a five-kilogram roasting machine. Tomlins and Jacobsen were working out of an industrial estate just outside of Brighton and supplying coffee to local cafes and pubs.
After a couple of years spent learning everything about roasting and wholesale trading, they moved the roastery to central Hove, in a shop big enough to fit the roasting machine at the back and a hole-in-the-wall espresso bar at the front. Having a public-facing coffee bar helped Small Batch Coffee to get the cash flow in and to become well known in the area, thanks to its strategic location on the way to and from Hove’s train station. It proved to be a good time to start a specialty coffee business: as the economic crisis unfolded in England, Small Batch Coffee was the local bar offering a casual environment and great coffee—a small luxury that customers could afford.
Since then, Small Batch Coffee has grown into a highly successful retail and wholesale coffee seller, which supplies high-quality coffee to cafes and restaurants all over the south of England (including London), but also as far north as Manchester and the Midlands. They sell coffee online to retail customers and have expanded their stores to include five cafes and two coffee carts between Hove and Brighton. Their staff now numbers 80 people in total—of which around 60 are baristas.
The next move for Small Batch Coffee will be larger batches, as the team plans to move its roastery to a larger space. Their current demand is a strain on the small 12-kilogram Diedrich roaster and limited green storage, where roasters work 6am–4pm shifts daily roasting their espresso blends and Cup of Excellence “Grand Fromage” single-origin coffees.
Brighton and Hove are home to a progressive community, so people here are generally more open to try new things than in more conservative parts of the country. There is definitely a growing interest in niche, high-quality, and independent shops. This is definitely not London, there is none of the image-conscious vibe you get in some of the coolest East London shops; rather, Small Batch Coffee has a laid-back, inclusive atmosphere, whether it’s the buzzing vibe and modern fit-out of the Jubilee Street shop in Brighton’s city center or the oak-wood paneled cafe in the tranquil Seven Dials neighborhood.
The main focus for Small Batch Coffee going forward will be to maintain their high standards across all their shops and further develop their wholesale and online business, but also to create spaces for the locals to interact. Social events and collaborations with partners like Falcon or La Marzocco will help them engage the local community and excite curiosity in the world of specialty coffee—and in Brighton.