This year over 24,000 coffee lovers descended upon the London Coffee Festival at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. It is now a key date on the marketing calendar for the coffee industry and a great opportunity to connect with consumers experientially.
We caught up with our client, The Gentleman Baristas – a three-pronged coffee business composed of a barista training school, a line of speciality coffees and a coffee house in Bermondsey – at the launch of our latest project, a collaboration with Bulleit Bourbon, to create a whisky barrel aged coffee.
How did your collaboration with Bulleit Bourbon come about?
We were introduced to Bulleit Bourbon’s global brand ambassador, Tim Judge, and came up with this idea of ageing coffee beans in a bourbon cask. It was something that had been done on a small scale in America but hadn’t been tried here. There’s a filter option from Colombia and an espresso from El Salvador.
Both of them have been aged in a bourbon cask for 14 days so that the flavour of the whiskey and wood can impart onto the coffee. It’s very limited. We only produce 120 kilos every 4-5 weeks at The Roastery Department in Mile End.
How did The Gentleman Baristas start?
Henry and I were working for a larger coffee company and had fallen out of love with it. We didn’t like their practices. They were about selling lots of coffee, and Henry and I were more interested in small batch roasting, staff training, and customer service. So we decided to have three businesses operating under The Gentleman Baristas brand: a coffee house, wholesale offer and a training program, but on a small scale.
How did your brand develop?
We wanted to take a stand against the ‘baristocracy’ and coffee snobbery. Our tagline; the thing we always go back to is: ‘Well mannered coffee’. It covers everything we do. Coffee that’s good natured; the gentlemanly quality. The service is a huge part of it. The kind of friendly welcome that people get and the small details. It’s about tradition but it’s also tongue in cheek.
How did you develop your brand identity?
Around the time the business launched, I’d had no sleep and was up all night with worry, and then we sat down with Toby (Egelnick) who took us to the New Jamaica Inn, one of the first coffee houses in London, up near Bank. I’m a bit of a rambler and so is Henry, but what they do as a company is listen, and take those ideas and turn it into something amazing.
It had everything we wanted. It was a logo and brand identity that could be taken seriously and at the same time had a light touch to it; a sense of humour that reflected the personality of our brand.
Is your Bermondsey location an important part of your brand?
The history behind the building is fascinating. It was an original London coffee house back in the early 1800s. They used to roast coffee downstairs and upstairs was a coffee house. So that history is great. We have become that place where people meet and talk, and that’s what we wanted.
How does that translate into what you do as a brand?
We try to pay homage to where we are. There used to be a hat maker around the corner from here; the first to make bowler hats, in fact. So we thought that a lovely way to distinguish the coffees in our product range would be to name them after classic hats, an idea which Egelnick + Webb brought to life with a series of beautiful illustrations.
Our single origin from Nicaragua is called Top-hat, and then there’s the Deerstalker, a Brazilian Sumatran blend. Sherlock Holmes mentions Sumatran coffee, and so we thought, ‘Perfect, lets call it Deerstalker’, after his famous hat.
How important is your brand?
Hugely important. I suppose it’s brand familiarity. If you look at the high street shops – they might not produce good coffee but when people see their brand they recognise it. They think, ‘Well I know what I’m going to get’. If they buy from an independent, they ask, ‘Is it going to be good?’
What about packaging?
With speciality coffee it’s about the information that’s on the label. Where was the coffee roasted? When was it roasted? Even the altitude at which the coffee was grown. All of these things are really important but you don’t want it to kill your label.
You don’t want to exclude people. That information is specialist knowledge. It’s having the right information for people that want to know without alienating others. Egelnick + Webb developed a system and hierarchy to help us organise this information.
What we think
The right brand collaboration is one of the most effective ways of reaching new audiences and new markets, and also a way to give both brand partners extra personality and colour. It’s important that both brands compliment each other, but are also sufficiently different to leverage each other’s audience. The Gentleman Baristas and Bulleit Bourbon were a perfect example.
Engaging experiential events are a great way to get consumers to talk about new product launches and collaborations. The queue for The Gentleman Baristas X Bulleit Bourbon espressos and cocktails was huge, with drinkers instagramming and tweeting about their experience in real time. The innovative brand collaboration combined with the London Coffee Festival experience generated a huge online response in a cost effective way.