Our story through the eyes of Fabio Ferreira, Co-Founder.
My grandpa worked on coffee plantations from a very early age. In 1929, he married my grandma and bought his first and only coffee farm in São Paulo State, Brazil. All six of my grandparents’ children, including my father worked on the coffee plantation. Sadly, in 1969, they realised the farm simply wasn’t financially viable for a small producer, so they made the difficult decision to sell.
Today, the lack of financial sustainability across small coffee producers is still a major problem around the world, with many families being forced to give up their farms to migrate to the big cities to pursue a better quality of life. Something, as an industry, we need to come together to address.
With such firm roots grounded in coffee, you would naturally think my passion for it was born from my family history. This was not the case. Before 2004, coffee wasn’t really my beverage of choice and if I did drink it, I did with a lot of sugar. It just didn’t seduce my palette.
In 2004, my wife and I travelled to Italy, France and England, where I discovered speciality coffee. London stole our hearts. It reminded us of São Paulo – crowded and cosmopolitan, with numerous options for great entertainment and gastronomy. It felt like a city of freedom, opportunities and where minorities mattered.
When I returned home to Brazil, I started researching coffee and taking courses to learn the art of being a barista, whilst also visiting a number of coffee farms.
In 2007, we moved to London and the city’s takeaway coffee culture really fascinated me – definitely not something to be found in Brazil!
My door to the world of speciality coffee opened in 2005, when I enrolled for a barista training course in Brazil. This was very early days for speciality coffee. However, it was pure joy - an explosion of flavours and beautiful lingering aromas in my mouth, which completely changed my perception.
Learning and developing my skills in speciality coffee re-connected me with my family roots. In 2007, I entered and won the prestigious Brazilian ‘Coffee in Good Spirits’ Barista championship. It was at this time that I realised I could make a difference in the speciality coffee sector, whilst achieving something great in an industry I was truly in love with.
A meeting of minds
Meeting my Co-Founder, Rob Robinson in 2008, was literally fate. Taking a new route home around Victoria, I stopped at a street market at Strutton Ground to have a coffee from his cart.
Rob and I over a cup of coffee (of course), discussed our love for speciality coffee and the possibility of us becoming partners with the coffee street van.
Following a few years of selling our premium coffee from a cart in London, we were introduced to our partners who had a music shop near Trafalgar Square, and it was from here that Notes Coffee was born. This was closely followed in 2013 by our first Roastery near King’s Cross.
Today, I’m proud to say that Rob and I continue to run our small coffee cart venture from Strutton Ground.
Fulfilling our vision
Today, we continue to grow organically, with nine prime central London locations, delivering a coffee shop and relaxed wine bar experience, complemented by an artisan food offering. Currently, we are serving over 1.4 million cups of coffee a year.
As a premium, speciality coffee operator, sourcing directly from small farms and co-operatives around the world, we roast our coffee from our Roastery in Canning Town. We focus on high grade (minimum 84+), seasonal, single origin coffee, small batch roasted so that every delicate and unique flavour is translated in the cup.
As operators who understand operators, we are focusing on expanding our B2B trade offering to the hospitality industry. Because we’re operators, we know what our customers want from a great cup of coffee, which means we know how to grow coffee sales for hotel, restaurant and pub & bar operators.
We have been working with Colicci, a family brand of 40 cafés, kiosks and restaurants across London for nearly three years. Colicci buy 36 tonnes of coffee from us a year. We have increased their coffee sales year-on-year by an average of 20%. Here’s what Rob Colicci had to say: “Notes were the starting point of a new era for us as a brand. Their coffee is the spine of our operation.”
There’s this interesting myth going around the buyers’ circle, that speciality, single origin coffee is a complicated product to offer to customers. This couldn’t be further from the truth. What we offer is speciality coffee simplified.
Our wider solutions ensure the process is very simple for operators. We offer an extensive barista training programme, supply of coffee equipment and machines, plus support for operators across set ups and maintenance.
Our partnership with our farming communities
To serve premium, speciality, single origin coffee, it has to start with the beans. Our coffee beans are always direct trade, straight from the farmers who take as much care in nurturing their coffee plants as we do in roasting and brewing our beans.
We are constantly looking into the impact of buying coffee from specific communities, whilst also ensuring our farmers are paid fairly to be financially sustainable.
As we progress with small producers, one of our key missions is to encourage and support producers to invest in organic handling across their estates – so, sourcing coffee morally with high quality farming management, which in turn we know has a huge impact on the entire community.
More recently, we donated $2,500 to pay for water treatment work at the farm of one of our producers.
To be the No.1 speciality, single origin coffee operator and supplier in the UK, sourced ethically and proving to be financially sustainable for coffee farmers and our partners.
Quite frankly, nothing less will do.
Fabio Ferreira, Co-Founder