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Craft House Coffee in Henfield

Tom Osborne at Craft House Coffee

Published on 1st May 2019


Tom Osborne on the success of Craft House Coffee in Henfield...


The amount of times that I get called a hipster is insane! I make coffee and have a beard, and that’s seemingly enough to qualify! In reality, I’m just passionate about my product. 

I've always loved coffee. I used to drink Nespresso pods, which I would never disparage  as they helped me develop my love of coffee. Gradually, I turned to darker, more bitter flavours, thinking they were fantastic.

Then, in 2010, I went to see my dad in Arizona and we visited Groundwork Coffee Co, where I had the most incredible single shot latte. Back then, I typically drank coffee with milk with sugar, but this tasted great without. It wasn’t dark or bitter and had incredible flavour, so I asked the barista what it was. He explained that it was a naturally-processed coffee from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia. It was a real eye-opener! 

I can be Obsessive with coffee.

I threw myself into researching the process of making great coffee, from farming methods to roasting and serving. I wanted to know what went into making amazing coffee. That is how Craft House Coffee was born.

We launched in November 2015 with little fanfare. It was something I did solely at evenings and weekends. Every day, I would commute by motorbike to London, where I worked in IT, then head straight to Henfield to make coffee. Initially, we had a small unit in a converted pig sty. Then, I would ride home to Crawley, often after midnight, before rising again for work at 5.30am. It was exhausting, but I loved it!  

I didn't know if the business was ever going to make money. But orders steadily increased and it reached a point where I could commit fully to Craft House Coffee and give up my job in the City.

Gradually, my knowledge of coffee increased.

I remember people asking me about roasting beans in their espresso machines. ‘How much can be roasted, at what temperature, and for how long?’ But I didn't know. It’s only with experience that I have gained that knowledge. Not only do I now know the answers, I even sell and service espresso machines.

You can buy coffee from anywhere, but from the outset, I didn’t want to take shortcuts. To create great coffee, you have to understand the product and how flavours vary. We established relationships with co-operatives in Colombia, Brazil, Nicaragua and other countries, so we can tell the full story of what’s in the cup. 

The first coffee I put into the roaster was a Colombian bean. When we ran out, I called the co-operative and the conversation ended with me travelling to Colombia to see how it was produced! I was sceptical as I read travel advice on the Foreign Office website and could see that the farm was close to danger areas. But the experience was fantastic!  

I met the owners of the co-operative and they took me up to the mountain where the coffee is grown. The entire area was once associated with drugs cultivation, but has been transformed in recent years. I saw first-hand how coffee was benefiting the whole community. 

We focus on single origin coffee.

I’ve since travelled to other coffee-producing nations, developing working relationships with co-operatives that offer consistent quality that meets our standards. 

Craft House Coffee creates two core blends. Industrial is a medium roast espresso, blending Brazilian and Colombian beans, giving it a strong chocolate and caramel body with fruity notes. The second is Development, a smooth and darker blend of Brazilian and Ethiopian. When I started out, my personal preference was for medium roast coffee with a hint of fruitiness. 

But many people still love the more traditional, richer flavoured coffee, so we have these contrasting blends. 

Everything else we sell is single origin coffee, which we alter depending on the season. Currently, we have coffee from Bolivia, El Salvador, Brazil, Rwanda, Kenya and two Colombians. 

My assumption was that Craft House Coffee would supply local cafes and restaurants, but I discovered business doesn’t work that way. Our customers come from across the country and as far as Qatar. Most are independent businesses or coffee houses that are willing to spend a little extra for an exceptional product. However, we will be supplying a new bar in Piries Place (formerly The Dead Parrot) and we set up a market stall in the Carfax most Saturdays.

I test our coffee at Horsham Market.

No matter what happens in the future, I would like to maintain our presence in the Carfax. We are stuck in the factory for most of the week, so the market presents an opportunity to meet people and chat about coffee.

Horsham folk typically like traditional coffee, so we serve our Industrial blend. Now and again, we throw a curve ball by serving something like a fruity Ethiopian coffee, just to see what the feedback is like.

As sales have increased, so has our capacity. We moved into a bigger unit in Henfield and took delivery of a new Gisesen W15 roaster. Our previous 6kg machine made it difficult to achieve consistency between batches, whereas the 15kg roaster gives us that. Now, with every order, the customer can trace the coffee from the farm where the coffee was picked, right through to the roasting batch number.

Am I a coffee snob?

Some would say I am! But I have to be, as good quality coffee is becoming more accessible. It is everywhere! Everybody wants a decent cup of coffee and what was once considered ‘Artisan’ is now becoming mainstream. That is why we go that extra mile to ensure we offer something special.

Pop along to Craft House Coffee’s market stall most Saturdays in the Carfax, or visit www.crafthousecoffee.co.uk