Following the steps of the craft beer and microbrewery movement closely, the proliferation of artisan roasteries in the UK has skyrocketed in the past few years. Coffee lovers, entirely dissatisfied by cheap, mass-produced coffee, have nowadays developed a more discerning palate and they are thirsty for more interesting, complex, and distinct flavours in their cup. They also are way more concerned about ethics, so the mission of more than 300 UK roasteries is to satisfy both those needs by providing a different coffee experience.
Coaltown is a speciality coffee roaster that focuses on sustainable and transparent trade with small, single estate farms from various coffee-growing regions of the world, and they are driven by the desire to ethically roast delicious coffee that is full of personality. The Welsh roastery has become the first b-Corp certified speciality coffee company in the UK and therefore, are now morally and legally committed to prioritising responsibility to the environment and society by balancing profit and purpose.
Coaltown was founded in 2013 by Scott James and his father Gordon in the small town of Ammanford, South Wales; a former mining community where anthracite coal (dubbed the ‘Black Gold’) used to fuel the local economy, until the last of the local collieries shut down in 2003. Scott and Gordon started roasting coffee in the garage of their family house. Nowadays, the company operates a state-of-the-art roastery (opened in 2018) inside a refurbished coal shed where they train and employ local people and sell Coaltown’s coffee blends and current single origins. The roastery also houses the Roastery Canteen, the Coaltown Academy, and a merch and equipment store. Additionally, Coaltown operates an Espresso Bar located in the heart of the Old Victorian Arcade; one of the most iconic historic buildings in the town of Ammanford.
The company’s founders are planning for a bright future for Coaltown and Ammanford, by bringing back an industry and get the town producing a new kind of Black Gold.
As our business grew, managing orders and shipping became a massive source of stress as we didn’t have the right set up to manage the volumes we were receiving. After doing some research, we decided to join Shiptheory and haven’t looked back since. Shiptheory has streamlined our order and shipping processes allowing us to ship to hundreds of more customers a day and has saved us hours of administration time. As well as adding various shipping carriers, we have also been able to merge multiple sales channels into one easy-to-use system. Scott James - Co-Founder
Q: Tell us about your story so far, and what makes Coaltown different from other roasters?
A: We are a speciality coffee roastery. We focus on sustainable and transparent trade with small farms from across the coffee-growing regions of the world and aim to uphold quality at every stage of our production. We are driven by remaining ethical, and by our desire to roast delicious coffee that's full of personality.
Q: What is the idea behind Coaltown Academy?
A: Ammanford is a small town of 5400 people. A former mining community where anthracite coal (Black Gold) fuelled the local economy. Unfortunately, in 2003, the last of the local collieries closed, bringing with it a slow demise with high unemployment with no prospect for the school leavers of today. Our plan is to change this. to bring back an industry and get this town producing a new form of black gold.
Q: Do you think Coaltown's success story can be an inspiration for local young people to create something new of their own?
A: 100%! I think seeing that it can be done will inspire others to follow their passions too. I’ve done a lot of events in local schools and charities talking about how as a young person it can sometimes feel that the system works against you but that you just need to persevere and keep going because the end result is so worth it.
Q: Tell us about your evolvement with Springboard Rural Enterprise Roadshow.
A: I did eight talks around Wales with other guest speakers; I spoke about the foundation of Coaltown and what it’s like to run a business at a young age. It was an amazing opportunity, and I felt very honoured to have been asked to do it.
Q: What's been Coaltown's most significant achievement to this point?
A: To choose one is too difficult, everything we have achieved has been significant. From the first roast in my parents’ garage to seeing our coffee on the shelves of Selfridges.
Q: What is the process of creating a new coffee blend?
A: We start with some basic criteria and flavour that we would like to achieve. Then we source various single-origin coffees that match the criteria and then host a cupping to assess how accurate these are to the original description. This is done regularly to new and existing blends due to the seasonality of the coffees.
Q: How does Shiptheory help you with managing your online orders?
A: As our business grew, managing orders and shipping became a massive source of stress as we didn’t have the right set up to manage the volumes we were receiving. After doing some research, we decided to join Shiptheory and haven’t looked back since. Shiptheory has streamlined our order and shipping processes allowing us to ship to hundreds of more customers a day and has saved us hours of administration time. As well as adding various shipping carriers, we have also been able to merge multiple sales channels into one easy-to-use system.
Q: What does the future of Coaltown look like?
A: The future of Coaltown is bright; we are looking at opening a host of new stores, focusing on E-commerce and a new range of products.