This month we chat with Rory Lloyd, co-founder of the Coffee Officina in Essex, England.
Tell us a bit about the Coffee Officina. How long has the company been running and how did it start?
The Coffee Officina was founded by Marcella and myself in 2013. We were both working and living in London and wanted to bring some of the experience we had in the coffee industry here to Essex, where we felt the market for speciality coffee was still new and underdeveloped.
How did you come up with its name?
The word ‘Officina’ roughly translates as ‘workshop’, a place where raw materials come in, then are worked and transformed into a ‘new’ product. Marcella is Italian and draws some inspiration for the name from her father who started his ‘Officina’ in his garage, where he made pots, pans and other things for the kitchen, including Italian Moka pots.
How did you come to work in coffee?
During my studies I started working in a small cafe in Cambridge. The owner was from NZ and roasted her own coffee in-store. This was about 15 years ago and I had never seen anything like it. The more I researched the wider industry, I became fascinated with the intricacies of roasting and brewing coffee. Around 2010 I went travelling in NZ and OZ and visited many different roasters while I was there.
Tell us about your career in coffee and your current role.
After working in Cambridge, I moved to London and worked for a few different cafes as a barista. Then I got an opportunity to work for an up and coming coffee roastery who were setting up a roastery and cafe in Shoreditch. There I started as head barista and soon moved on to training wholesale clients and roasting. This was a great experience and gave me the chance to meet many brilliant people in the industry. Meanwhile, my partner Marcella was working for a design agency and did a lot of work in cafe and restaurant interiors. She was determined to start her own business and persuaded me to set up our own roasting operation outside of London.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in coffee?
I have worked as a photographer in the past and I absolutely love taking photos with film. Marcella and I do all the photography for our website and social media together, so that’s another way we can be very creative with the business.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day obviously starts with a cup of coffee, either an Aeropress or Moka pot brew. If it’s a roast day, I generally get up very early to roast so I can free my time during the day. Usually late morning we will cup some coffees roasted that week and any samples we may have received. We have a lot of local customers and do most deliveries ourselves. We also have recently started a refill tub scheme where we swap empty tubs for full ones. This gives us a chance to stay in touch more with our customers and is always a good opportunity to make sure everyone’s machines are calibrated well and coffee is being served to a high standard.
Is there a particular ethos that you follow when approaching sourcing and roasting coffee?
It depends on what kind of coffee we are sourcing and for what purpose. If we are looking for a new single origin, for instance, we will always look for what is new and in season. But I think for us, one of the main thing we look for is flavour. Something that we know that people will like or something with very unique characteristics. Having the in-depth information that DRW can give us about the farm and its suitable practices is a big thing for us as well. We love telling the story of all the coffees we choose through our social media and the events we host.
We love the Coffee Officina mugs that have been designed to enhance the coffee drinking experience! Could you tell us a bit about the development of these?
With Marcella’s design background, this is something she has wanted to do for a long time and when she met local ceramicist Beci Callow, this was a great opportunity to produce them. Each mug is individually made and has its own perfect imperfections, which we think adds character. The mugs have a wide bottom and slightly smaller rim, which we find enhances the aroma of the coffee. We love using these mugs for filter coffee. Marcella also added a ‘baby’ sized mug recently! We will also continue to release newly designed products inspired by coffee, so keep an eye out for them!
Your packaging is also beautiful. Does design play a big part for you when it comes to coffee?
Absolutely! With the packaging, we try to match the label colours to the flavour profiles of coffees. Marcella is always working hard to improve packaging functionality whilst balancing that with using more sustainable materials and practices in the production of the bags. As well as the TCO mugs, Marcella has also designed a few other products including a cupping spoon and barista apron. These are available at thedesignofficina.com. We believe design should go hand in hand with coffee. A good coffee deserves good packaging and vice versa, as well as care and attention in all the details and every step of the process.
What’s your favourite thing about living where you do or where you come from?
The roastery is in Essex and so are a lot of our customers. Although they are scattered around the county, everything is within a short drive. One thing I love about where we are based is that every little pocket of the county has its own individual character. We love Leigh on Sea which is by the sea and is full of independent cafes, restaurants and shops and also has a great community of artists and makers.
Where would you head when you have time / a day off if we weren’t in a pandemic?
We have a lot of family and friends in London, so we are there quite a bit. We love visiting art galleries and discovering new restaurants in the city. Marcella being from Italy, we get to go there a couple of times a year. We also love the cafe/coffee culture there and searching out specialty coffee, which is really growing in Italy now!
Do you have any local tips? Maybe there’s a hidden gem you’d like to share?
There are a lot of destination cafes and restaurants around Essex that you have to search out and you will be surprised to find in the middle of the countryside! For example, we have a client called Bonnefire Box who make amazing pizzas. Their cafe is on a small industrial estate in the middle of nowhere near Saffron Walden in north Essex. They have gained a great local following and are always super busy.