Category Archives: Our people

A Rwandan Tradition

Umuganda1

Our trainees spend a lot of time visiting the people who grow and supply our coffee and tea. We asked Becky, who travelled alongside fellow trainee Jamie, to write about some of her experiences. Here’s her second report.

Pictured on the right – Becky and Jamie digging in Karengera, Rwanda.

“During our visit to Rwanda, Jamie and I had the unexpected opportunity to take part in a very old and very special Rwandan tradition with some of our coffee farmers: Umuganda.

“In Rwanda, Umuganda means ‘coming together in common purpose’ and in traditional Rwandan culture community members would perform Umuganda to help their friends, family and neighbours with difficult tasks such as building houses.

“In an effort to reconstruct Rwandan society in the wake of the 1994 genocide, the Rwandan government drew on the idea of Umuganda to create a monthly national day of community building, where members come together to work to make their communities better.

“As everyone volunteers to take part on the last Saturday of every month, Jamie and I were no exception. We donned our hiking boots and headed out with Ignace Ntazinda, from our suppliers KZ Noir, to help dig a water channel near Karengera, on the shores of Lake Kivu.

“Many of the farmers who grow the delicious Rwandan coffee we buy were also there and lent us spades for the day so we could get stuck in. Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills, so mastering the climbs was tough work.

“But it was worth it, and we even got a special mention at the thank you meeting afterwards. It was great to spend time with some of our farmers working together on Umuganda. We’ll always remember it when we drink their coffee.”

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Smart Coffee Growing in Kenya

Our trainees spend a lot of time visiting the people who grow and supply our coffee and tea. We asked Becky, who’s travelling alongside fellow trainee Jamie, to write about some of her experiences. Here’s her first report.

Pictured on the right are coffee grower and retired maths teacher, Geoffrey Mwai Mbogu, and agronomist James Mugi.

“As part of my training in Taylors’ sourcing department, I recently set out on a trip to meet some of the suppliers who grow and produce the fantastic quality tea and coffee that is so important to us at Taylors. This week I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the Kenyan farmers who grow the bright citric coffee which is such an important part of some of our blends.

“One farmer I was really excited to meet was Geoffrey Mwai Mbogu, who grows coffee in Kirinyaga County in Central Kenya, and is a member of Mutira Co-operative. Geoffrey is a retired maths teacher who started growing coffee 11 years ago in order to help fund the education of his children, one of whom is now training to be a doctor. He owns 500 coffee trees, but also grows papayas, peppers and pineapples, as well as owning a cow and some chickens.

“What particularly impressed me about Geoffrey was his passion and commitment to growing the best possible quality coffee on his farm. As part of Mutira Co-operative he’s been working with James Mugi, the Cooperative’s agronomist and trainer, to introduce practices on his farm which will care for the environment while at the same time ensuring his coffee tastes even more delicious. This has included regular pruning of his coffee trees, planting shade trees so the coffee isn’t grown in full sun, and applying fertiliser at the optimum time of the year.

“Since working with James, Geoffrey has seen the quality of his coffee cherries rise dramatically, which at the same time has led to higher income, helping Geoffrey continue to support his family.

“It was very inspiring for me to meet farmers like Geoffrey across our supply chain in Kenya, and to see the work and commitment they put into growing such fantastic quality coffee for our blends.”

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10 Tips for Great Coffee

Do you know how to brew a great cup of coffee?

Of course you do!

How do we know that? Well, you’re currently reading the Taylors Coffee blog… which tells us that you’re browsing the Taylors Coffee website… which tells us that you’re interested in Taylors Coffee… which tells us that you have great taste.

In fact, you’re precisely the kind of person who would know how to make a cracking cup of coffee. We wouldn’t insult you by suggesting otherwise.

But have you ever wondered about the fine details? Ever pondered about the perfect brewing temperature, or the golden ratio of coffee grounds to water. Ever brewed it for a little bit longer to make a stronger coffee, then wondered if you might be missing out on an even tastier tactic?

Then have we got the video for you. With the help of Jamie and Jamie from our coffee team (all the best coffee companies have two Jamies) here are 10 quick tips for great coffee.

And you can view more of our lovely videos right here.

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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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Meet the Rwanda shift

On Monday night, we launched a brand new production shift – we know that might not sound exciting to you. But seriously, it’s a huge deal for us.

The shifts at our factory haven’t changed for 20 years. There are two of them, named India and Kenya, and they make sure we’re roasting, blending and packing coffee from 6am to 10pm every weekday.

To date, that’s been plenty to ensure we’re making enough for our customers – but new people keep falling for our coffee (and, for that matter, the teas we make too).

So we’ve been thinking about new ways of working in our factory, and we’ve created the Rwanda shift – an overnight shift made up of 13 Taylors staff.

“We are all quite relaxed individuals who enjoy working together,” said Stuart Carr, a production technician on the shift.

“We have a good mix of characters that gives a good balance to the shift.”

At the moment the team is making tea products, but it’s ultimately going to mean we can make more coffee too.

And our staff chose the name Rwanda because that country is a big part of our future.

It has huge potential as a coffee producing nation, and we’re investing a lot of work in helping the industry there to grow in a responsible and sustainable way (you can read all about our project in Rwanda here).

We’ve invested the same kind of work in the shift. It’s a big change, so we’ve put a ton of work into making sure our Rwanda staff are happy, supported and connected to everyone else at Taylors.

We hope you’ll join us in wishing them luck.

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Meet our new Brazilian import

“In my father’s eyes, Taylors means a good thing,” says Lira Gonzaga, the daughter of one of our coffee suppliers.

Lira has joined us here in Harrogate for one-month’s work experience.

Lira’s father, Alexandre, is the owner of Minas Estate Coffee in Brazil and is actually the third Brazilian work experience student to come and see what things are like further down the supply chain.

Lira’s impressions of the business are very positive so far: “Taylors people all seem committed to their job, correct and honest,” she says. “I’m really surprised at how big the company is, yet there’s still such a strong family tradition. Everyone is really proud to work here. It’s a nice environment and I’m really enjoying it.”

So why do we offer work experience like this?

Hannah from coffee buying explains: “Lira’s dad Alexandre looked after me when I was in Brazil on my overseas training in 2007. He hosted part of my first trip, and this was a similar opportunity for Lira.”

“But it’s also about sharing knowledge and ideas, and learning more about each other’s companies. It’s a great opportunity to understand about the whole supply chain. Obviously Lira already has good experience surrounding producing and export, but here she gets to see manufacturing, roasting and sales and see the chain to its end.”

Got a question for Lira? Let us know in the comments below.

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Emily’s Big Trip

Hello, I’m Emily. I’m a trainee coffee buyer at Taylors of Harrogate and I started working here two and a half years ago. Since then, I’ve spent my time learning all about roasting, blending, tasting and buying coffee.

Now, I’m about to embark on the first part of my overseas training, which is the final and most important stage of a buyer’s training.

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Welcome to the School of Coffee!

Welcome to the School of Coffee, our brand new blog. We’ve given it this name to reflect the fact that coffee’s complexity can make it both a bewildering and a fascinating subject to study. Through the School of Coffee we hope to make it easier to understand, while also opening up some interesting hidden depths too.

Of course, you can’t have a school without teachers so to get us started, here’s a brief introduction to the inhabitants of the school ‘staffroom’ (aka our expert coffee buyers).

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