Interview with Andrew Tolley of Harris + Hoole

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June 21, 2013 by Beans Ahoy

What most came across about Andrew Tolley was his knowledge of coffee and his enthusiasm for the product. His role in H+H is as head of coffee and it was refreshing to meet someone in the large retail coffee industry that really knows their product and what makes great coffee.

Many thanks for the interview H+H and I wish you all the best for the future. I am sure it holds great success for you guys.

What got you and your siblings into coffee?
We always had a background in hospitality and I was always involved in coffee, tea, wine and food. Coffee has always been a big part of what I have done. There is also a big café culture in Australia which has always done really well and usually leads the way.

I would agree, quite a large part of Beans Ahoy’s readership comes from Australia.
Well based on my trip to Melbourne, and it hurts to say this because I’m from Sydney, but Melbourne really does seem to be leading the way in coffee trends. They are doing a superb job at blending the café culture with quality coffee.

What was the reason behind starting H+H?
It’s really quite simple. We wanted to bring good quality coffee to as many people as possible. We know that once you’ve taste good coffee, it’s really hard to go back to drinking the regular stuff. We also see the importance of ensuring that people have access to a wide variety of coffees including some of the soft brew coffees that we are now doing.

If you had to choose three things that make H+H different from other high street coffee like Costa and Starbucks, what would they be?
Haha, only three is quite difficult, but I would have to start by focusing on what makes good coffee. First, good quality beans, we use a far higher grade of coffee. Secondly, the barista training. All of our staff are rigorously trained, making good coffee is a craft and no one serves coffee here until they have done four and a half days of intensive training. Finally, the machinery. We are using top quality machinery that holds excellent pressure and temperature meaning that a good cup can be achieved every time.

What are your future plans for the UK?
Well we have 17 branches at the moment. There are several more in the pipeline, but we are going to make sure H+H lives up to the high standards for each shop, and only expand when we are sure that each shop is operating well.

Where do you see UK coffee going in the UK in the next 5 years?
I think there is a push to higher quality coffee, but I think there will also be an increased awareness around the origin and even the estates, its about being able to appreciate the different flavours that come out of coffee. I also think there will be a greater focus on roasting to ensure that the roasts used are good for the coffee as well.

Do you have a personal favorite coffee?
That’s a difficult one. I like different types of coffee at different times of the day, but I would have to say if I could drink only one coffee for the rest of my life it would probably be Kenyan.

What many people don’t realise is that freshly roasted coffee, that has been roasted the same day, is not actually very good. What rest time do you try and obtain with H+H?
Well we like to try and get coffee drunk within the 10 to 20 day window, but I think it’s also very important for a buyer to have a roast date to ensure they know what they are buying.

What is your opinion on the buying of coffee and the fair trade model?
We always like to see ‘direct trade’ coffee, because sourcing coffee from farmers enables you to build a relationship with the grower and that ensures that you know where your coffee is coming from and that good practices are being used. It is these relationships that ensure you are able to source the best coffee for future seasons.

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