It’s been roughly a week since the launch of BlankBox Coffee at the London Coffee Festival and I’m still buzzing having been no less than blown away by the response.
The choice to launch at the festival was definitely the right one. You can research and ask and read and plan until you go blue in the face, but there is no substitute to talking with those you are meaning to work with as a business and serve as customers. I had a chance to speak to roasters, baristas, green coffee traders, farmers and coffee drinkers over the course of the four days. Sunday found me voiceless and absolutely knackered, but with a smile that still lingers.
Those I spoke to absolutely loved the idea behind BlankBox and following some final testing on our payment system, I should be sending out details on how to subscribe very shortly – first boxes to drop through your letter boxes 1st week of June, if all goes according to plan.
The weekend was also an affirmation of what I found during my research and what ultimately shaped what I envisage for BlankBox over the next couple of years – the stories behind the scenes.
So many roasters visited the stand and each one had a story that I would love to tell. From family businesses stretching over generations to brand new roasters setting up shop, telling their stories with unconfined enthusiasm of how they are being helped by more experienced roasters. And this is not the contrived excitement of sales men. It is the excitement of people that want to get out there and roast coffee because they are passionate about it and just happened to want to make a living out of it.
One of the highlights for me happened on Friday. In between the steady stream of roasters and baristas wanting to know more, a tall German guy came up to the stand. While explaining about BlankBox he started smiling and said “I know those guys” pointing at the picture of Richard and Gerard from Nude Espresso. Suddenly, after reading a bit more, he started laughing. He just realised that one of the featured coffees in BlankBox, the Red Bourbon, is from Sonora, a farm in Costa Rica. “I know the farmer very well, I go surfing with them quite often!” See Sachca sells green coffee, has a roastery in Berlin and recently bought his own coffee farm in Costa Rica. He immediately jotted down the page with the link to Sonora and promised to e-mail the farmer to let him know. It was a moment that will stay with me for a long time as an example of what I am aiming to achieve with BlankBox. A space where people can discover the stories behind the roasters, the coffees and, occasionally, the Sachas of the coffee world.
That evening, at Nude’s party, whilst reluctantly declining a third Espresso Martini, I spent a long time talking to the guys from Small Batch Coffee. From their recent visit to Berlin to the intricacies behind preparing a cold drip coffee, it was one constant stream of excitement about what it is they are doing down in Brighton. Lovely lovely guys and girls with a tangible friendship amongst them that draws you in.
Meeting the coffee drinkers on the Saturday and the Sunday was “full on” as my friend Michael would say. Yet, I couldn’t dream up a better response than the one we had. So many people loved the idea and I must have spent, on average, 6-8 minutes with each group of people that stopped at the stand. Often I forgot to mention that I am actually selling boxes on the day, just to be reminded by an extremely helpful Alessandra that it might be useful to mention it now and then.
In the week following the Festival, the support through Twitter from those who bought BlankBoxes and those interested in subscribing was, again, a reassurance that we are doing the right thing. To those first adopters that “get” what it is we are doing, thanks guys.
Finally, a huge thank you to the organisers of the festival, especially Kristina who was responsible for running the Showroom and looked after us so well. All the friends that came to say hello or to help for a while, thanks guys, I really appreciate it. And then a special thank you to Ale – without your help at the stand and insistence on me eating something, it would not have happened the way it did. Grazie mille Pupa.