Category Archives: General

The story of our Rwanda coffee

Taylors_Coffee_Rwanda - 1411

The fertile mountains of Rwanda produce some of the finest coffee in the world. Rich soil, abundant rainfall and high altitudes make for ideal growing conditions.

The country’s coffee industry is based not on large plantations, but smallholder farmers. There are over 400,000 of these farmers, and each of their incomes typically relies on a small area of trees.

At Taylors of Harrogate, we’re committed to using nothing but 100% independently certified coffee across our entire range. So we have been looking for new sources of East African Arabica coffee to meet our growing needs – but when we looked to the beautiful coffees of Rwanda, certified suppliers were hard to find.

The country has been rebuilding since 1994, when many Rwandans lost their lives in a genocide. It left a very steep path to recovery and redevelopment.

There’s a UK Government fund which provides help. Overseen by the Department for International Development, it’s called FRICH – the Food Industry Retail Challenge Fund – and its aim is to support African farmers by developing European trade links. To do this, it partners with companies which are keen to invest in developing countries.

That’s where we come in.

We’ve already done a lot of work with the Rainforest Alliance, helping a lot of our suppliers to reach certification. So working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH, we have extended this work to the coffee sector in Rwanda. The goal of the project was to work with 8,000 of these smallholder farmers to enable them to manage their coffee farms in a way that improves crop quality and yield – and to look after the environment to ensure coffee farming is maintained in future.

That means changes to farming practices, which at first glance can seem small. Things like planting shade trees between coffee plants, using manure and coffee cherry pulp instead of chemical fertiliser, and using mulching and terracing techniques to make sure the topsoil is not washed away.

Rwanda

But these simple methods make an immense difference. Not only can they make for better quality coffee, they can also dramatically increase the amount which grows – and that means a better livelihood for the farmers. And the sustainable approach to the environment helps to safeguard for the future, and provide some ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Last August, the project reached a huge milestone. Coffee supplier KZ Noir – which processes the beans grown by many of those farmers – became officially certified. It’s the first coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms in Rwanda.

Because of this work, we’ve guaranteed them a premium which is greater than the market price. It’s not pure altruism. It’s more sustainable than that – a strong, invested relationship of mutual benefit, which means we know we’ll be guaranteed the pick of the crop.

That’s why you should be excited about our Rwanda coffee. It’s a remarkable coffee, even without the back story: a complex, elegant, balance medium roast with sweet berry tones, crisp acidity and a lingering butter toffee finish.

It launched in February, and you can find it in Tesco and Morrisons.

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Our staff charities

_MCP1030 awards recp and staff 3

We like a bit of fundraising, here at Taylors Coffee.

Each year our staff choose some charities to raise money for, and then the total donation is matched by the business. And at the end of last year, we gave our biggest donation yet – just over £100,367!

That’s the picture of the handover day above, with our staff and representatives of the charities. And if it looks like a lot of staff, that’s because the project was a huge group effort, involving fundraising events organised by us and our sister companies, Bettys and Yorkshire Tea – like a cricket day, a clothing swap shop, raffles and an auction of promises.

Our community projects officer, Sarah, said: “Charity fundraising is part of the life blood of the company and staff from across the entire business are engaged in this work.

“Fundraising has a long history with us. Our first company charity of the year was to support a nurse called Mary Perkins working in war-torn Sudan and we raised £2,500. Since then, we’ve donated well over £1 million for charities, most of them here in Yorkshire.”

Eight charities shared the donation, including Taylors Coffee’s chosen two: Headlines, which supports those affected by Craniosynostosis, a condition which can require surgery at a young age; and Yorkshire Air Ambulance, which sends a rapid response helicopter to the scene of accidents, provides paramedic care and quickly gets patients to hospital.

We’re really pleased that we were able to help them, and we’re hoping that this year’s fundraising will be a big success too.

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Links we like

dunk mug

We don’t just drink coffee all day, you know. Sometimes we go on the internet to look at stuff. Related to coffee.

Here’s a selection of some of the interesting things we stumbled across:

A mug’s life
Love biscuits with your coffee, but never know where to store them? No, us neither – but even though this ingenious mug (the one in the picture above) isn’t solving a problem that actually exists, we love it all the same. Just don’t try it with chocolate digestives. Bit melty.

Who’s a mug?
While we’re on the subject of mugs, apparently this one’s a lot bigger on the inside.

Capputreeno
Our Christmas Blend has gone back into hibernation for 10 months or so – but if you’re experiencing festive withdrawal symptoms, take a look at this oddly mesmerising video featuring a Christmas tree drawn on top of a latte.

Tappy New Year
Coffee from a tap? This idea’s just crazy enough to work! The video goes on a bit, but you can get the idea after 30 seconds.

Owl the rage
Fancy petting an owl with your coffee? We’re not kidding – owl cafes are apparently quite the fashion in Tokyo. We’d say, “Don’t try this at home,” but we doubt you’ll get close enough to an owl to attempt it.

Afternoon delatte
What’s the perfect time for a coffee? 2.16pm, apparently. We still think a cup first thing in the morning takes some beating, but apparently science says otherwise.

Got any great coffee links to share? Then you should tell us all about them! Please come and get in touch on Twitter or Facebook.

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A Taste of Christmas

Each year, we head down to a big London food event called Taste of Christmas.

It’s a lovely chance to set up shop, meet the people who like our coffee and try to create new ones.

This year we filmed a bit of it, so we’ve got something to show people who didn’t have the chance to go. It’s focused on our lovely Christmas Blend – which, incidentally, you can find in the supermarkets.

Just ignore the bit where our coffee buyer Jamie asks you to pop down. Unless you’ve got a time machine, in which case… see you there!

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Yep – it’s a squirrel on a treadmill

Rich in squirrel costume

Meet Rich. He likes dressing up as a giant squirrel.

Well, it’s not strictly accurate to say “likes”. It’s probably something more like “hates” – especially after he spent five hours inside that squirrel costume running a marathon.

Why? Well, Rich works at Taylors HQ as an engineer, and this year he’s embarking on the biggest challenge of his life.

As he turns 30, he’s taking on 30 different physical events in the hopes of raising £30,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

It started with a 10 mile course with the parachute regiment at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire; and the other weekend he dressed up as a squirrel and ran the gruelling Kielder Marathon.

It wasn’t easy. At the end of it, to use his own words, he looked “like roadkill” (here’s the photo evidence).

He said: “Rather than do the usual thing and shy away from turning 30, I’d like to use it as an opportunity to do something different, in a way that can benefit others.

“Teenage Cancer Trust is very close to my heart. My sister, Dr Emma Lethbridge, is an oncology consultant and works very closely with Teenage Cancer Trust.

“I know of the vitally important work all the doctors, nurses and support staff do, day-in day-out, and I’ve met some amazing and incredibly brave patients.”

You can keep track of Rich’s progress at his website, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

But the biggest help would be to donate something via his JustGiving page – just click here to visit it.

We’ll give you an update on his progress in a few months’ time.

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Happy… but exhausted

Pete from Taylors

This is Pete. He might look fairly chipper in this picture, but he’s actually exhausted.

He’s just cycled 176 miles. Much of it in the middle of the night.

We do love an extra-curricular activity here at Taylors,  and one of the causes we’ve been involved with this year is Chance to Ride. It’s a fundraising bike ride between a bunch of cricket grounds, which took place from September 7-17 as England and Australia played a series of matches around the country.

It was organised by Chance to Shine, a charity that funds that encourages kids into sport (specifically cricket) from an early age.

Some real sporting royalty took part, including Michael Vaughan, Tim Henman, Victoria Pendleton and Jamie Redknapp.

And so did four people from Taylors HQ: our managing director Andy, Jess from marketing, John from engineering and Pete, who heads up our central procurement team. That’s the chap celebrating above.

What’s a central procurement team when it’s at home? Well, it’s the bit of the business that buys stuff which isn’t directly related to packs of coffee.

They help to sort out all the other stuff a business runs on – tables, cupboards, carpets, light bulbs, big noisy machines… you name it.

Pete joined the ride at Bristol, as the cyclists headed from SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

“We started in Bristol on Sunday morning (Sep 15)” he says. “We left at about 11am, and then we had 93 miles to Southampton – which meant we arrived in the pitch dark.”

The riders got a bit of a rest, in preparation for a night time ride the next day.

“We saw some of the cricket at Southampton on the Monday. We saw the Aussie innings, when they ran up an enormous score, and set off a bit after 10pm.”

86 miles and 11 hours later, he arrived at The Oval in London.

“Riding at night was fantastic,” says Pete. “The Moon was out, the stars were out. You go an hour without seeing a car.

“It was a mixture of tiny country lanes in pitch dark and a bit on major roads with street lights – and a horrendous hill at 4.30 in the morning.

“Weirdly, I didn’t feel tired through lack of sleep. I mean, you kind of need to stay awake, otherwise you end up in a hedge.”

While Pete’s a pretty keen cyclist, this is by far the biggest endurance test he’s had on a bike.

“I have done 91 miles before in a day. But I’ve certainly never done the same again the next day.

“I’d definitely do it again. There’s a lot of camaraderie with people you are cycling with. A bit of banter, chatting as you’re cycling along.

“And the night ride was extraordinary.”

If you’d like to find out more about Chance to Shine, you can visit their website here.

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Get involved!

Just a quick post this week – a reminder that there are many more ways to get in touch with us than reading this blog.

If you’re a Twitter fan, why not pop on over and follow us? In a week or two, we’ll be running a competition that might make it worth your while! Here’s the link: Taylors Coffee on Twitter.

And if you’re a Facebook user, you can join the 30,000 people who have Liked us there. And don’t worry, it’s not just product information and chit-chat – there’s often stuff to win there too! Here’s the link: Taylors Coffee on Facebook.

Lastly, if you ever fancy chatting at more length, just drop our customer services team a line by emailing hello@taylorscoffee.co.uk.

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Coffee beer wins an award!

Did you know that one of Yorkshire best beers contains a touch of Taylors coffee?

Londinium is a traditional coffee porter, made by the talented Rooster’s brewery just a couple of miles down the road from us in neighbouring Knaresborough.

And the coffee it uses is our After Dark blend – which gives it lovely, slightly chocolaty aftertaste.

Last week, Londinium was named Best Dark Beer at the Market Town Taverns Yorkshire Beer Awards – a gong it picked up after a blind tasting by specialist beer judges, followed by a public vote.

We always knew it was good, but it’s nice to know that the pros agree.

If you fancy seeing what all the fuss is about, you can get hold of a bottle or two here.

Market Town Taverns is a small chain of around 15 Yorkshire pubs (rather nice ones, too, with lots of draft ales and interesting bottled imports). There’s one in the aforementioned Knaresborough and two in our home turf of Harrogate.

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Our “community scrap shop” is 10

I can’t quite believe it’s been 10 years,” says Chris Powell, “and it was all inspired by a child’s imagination.”

Chris is the man behind one of our more unusual projects. It’s our community scrap store, the Cone Exchange, and it has just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

To explain just what it is, let’s go back to how it started.

Chris’ role began when he was showing pupils from Springwater Special School (based just down the road from our Harrogate HQ) around the Taylors factory and one pupil spotted a used cone – which had been used to spool the cotton onto tagged tea bags. “She had a vision,” says Chris, “and asked if she could take it home to make an angel.”

Word spread around local parents, schools and groups and the demand for cone angels grew. Eventually they were in put in local shop windows and people paid to ‘adopt’ them. The money raised went towards a local project setting up an after-school gardening club.

“I was really inspired by that,” says Chris, “and it just grew from there.”

It was around that time that Chris’ alter ego – the pirate Captain Rummage – started to appear at school assemblies around the area promoting the ‘three arrrs’ (reduce, reuse, recycle) and encouraging children to donate glasses, mobiles and stamps to Oxfam.

For a while Chris operated out of a shed at Springwater School, before moving in to his current building near our head office five years ago. The projects the Cone Exchange was playing a part in grew too, with charities using old coffee barrels and sacks to create furniture and bags and mroe and more and more items which had previously been considered to be wasted – from us and other local businesses – being sold through the scrap store.

It was only three years ago that Chris began devoting all his work time to the Cone Exchange and put all his energy into the project, while receiving support from a group of dedicated volunteers.

He’s now busy travelling the country to hold talks with WIs, hosting craft workshops in the local area and acting as a young enterprise advisor – all while helping eight local students with special educational needs to gain work experience in the Cone Exchange itself, producing craft packs that are sold to raise funds for our Yorkshire Rainforest Project.

As well as raising money for that, Chris and his team play an important role in reducing our waste and making a positive impact in our local communities.

Along the way Chris and the Cone Exchange have received various awards and honours. He’s been down to Buckingham Palace twice – first as part of a group collecting the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Business, then again eight months later collecting an MBE. He’s also scooped gold at the prestigious Food and Drink Federation Community Partnership Awards in the Environment Category and won plenty more besides.

“There have been lots of great highlights and milestones,” says Chris. “It’s been an incredible pirate adventure that’s gone a bit crazy, but I’m crazy myself, so it works very well.”

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An annual celebration of coffee

It’s UK Coffee Week this week (April 22 – 28).

Set up in 2011, this annual event is run by a charity called the Allegra Foundation, and it’s billed as a chance for the coffee industry to collaborate and raise money for clean water projects in Africa.

The cause, named Project Waterfall, aims to improve access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in coffee-growing countries in Africa. Its first project is in Tanzania.

There are all sorts of events organised as part of UK Coffee Week, and the biggie is the London Coffee Festival – which includes everything from coffee science presentations to Italian coffee museum exhibits and the UK Barista Championships.

All told, it’s a good excuse to indulge in an extra cup or two this week – and a great reason to think more about where your coffee comes from.

You can read more about Project Waterfall here.

And if you’re interested in our charity and sustainability work, you can read about our grant schemes here and here, or about our Yorkshire Rainforest Project, which aims to save an area of rainforest the size of Yorkshire.

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