Culture: Discovering speciality coffee

Richard Clark
Richard Clark

This week Culture introduces Bury-based speciality coffee suppliers Frank and Earnest to its stable of columnists. Here co-founder Richard Clark tells us where his passion for coffee began

Coffee has long been one of the most widely consumed and best-loved drinks in the world. There has, however, been a shift in recent years towards a focus on quality and traceability.

Within the industry, we are witnessing a new culture emerge: it is not only setting higher standards for how we grow and produce coffee, but how we serve it to you, our customers. If you are aware of this, then you may well know that I am talking about speciality coffee; and if you aren’t, then I hope to shed some light on the matter through sharing how I first took an interest.

My first experience of speciality coffee was back in 2006. At this point I was living in the small town of Wanaka, New Zealand. While exploring the area, I happened upon a local coffee shop and roastery – I can still remember the incredible aroma that met me as I stepped through the door!

I should note, however, this was by no means the first time I’d encountered freshly-ground coffee; nor had it been at my previous job in a coffee shop (the one I’d taken to save up for that very trip). If my memory serves me correctly, it was standing in Ridley’s Grocers on Abbeygate Street. I was a child at the time, and so would often accompany my mother on her weekly shop. I remember watching as the assistant scooped dark roasted beans into the hopper of an antiquated grinder, and out would come freshly-ground coffee for us to brew at home.

Despite also being of coffee, the experience in Wanaka was worlds apart from everything I’d known before. Here, I could see the whole roasting process before me, from the green unroasted beans in hessian sacks, to the lightly roasted beans that emerged from the roasting drum, cracking as they came out. Up to this point, I hadn’t been aware of the complex flavours that could be found in coffee beans, but as I took the first sip of my – surprisingly small – long black, I was amazed at how pronounced they were. It may surprise you, as it did me, but some coffees can taste like citrus fruits and that was exactly what I got in my cup that day.

This chance encounter was the start of my journey as a coffee lover. Fast forward to 2015 and I found myself, along with my childhood friend Ben Lion, setting up our first coffee business: Frank and Earnest Crafted Coffee. I have learnt a lot about coffee since my time in New Zealand and have come to realise that speciality coffee isn’t just a drink, it is an ethos that can be traced back from the consumer; it runs through the barista, the roaster and the importer, all the way back to the farmer. Speciality coffee is about working together to improve the quality of the beans, while enriching the lives of those involved – I am proud to be a part of it!

Frank and Earnest Coffee, Britannia House,

Brunel Business Court,

Bury St Edmunds

Roastery, 1 Tayfen Road,

Bury St Edmunds