We’re incredibly proud to work with some amazing producers and suppliers, who all help make our food that bit more delicious. We want to share some of our favourite stories with you and we recently caught up with Ted Posner from Redemption Roasters to talk all things coffee. Read on to find out more about the brand behind your Social Pantry Café caffeine fix.
For anyone that doesn’t know, what is Redemption Roasters and what do you do?
Redemption Roasters is a specialty coffee roastery and wholesaler, but with a big difference: we roast our coffee in a Aylesbury Prison! There, we train young offenders how to be baristas and roastery assistants then help them to find a job in the coffee industry on release.
What was your initial inspiration to start Redemption Roasters?
The Ministry of Justice are looking around for better training initiatives to put in prisons and at making them more relevant to the modern jobs market. We were approached through a contact in the industry to start a barista school at a prison. We looked at this, and thought ”we could, but…why not start whole roastery?” The opportunities in our industry are so much better for someone if they have some roasting knowledge and it’s something that takes a lot of time to master, and to be blunt, that’s what a lot of these guys have.
What are the core values of Redemption Roasters?
We want to show the coffee community and the world that a positive environment can be created behind bars and that exceptional specialty coffee can come from places and people you wouldn’t expect.
Operating out of a prison must bring up a number of logistical difficulties, what is the biggest challenge you have faced since starting the business?
Getting green tea in and out. You can imagine what the gate staff thought that was. I jest, but true story!
Some things have been remarkably easy – getting technical staff, raw materials and casual visitors in for example is something the prison works very hard to accommodate and we appreciate their cooperation a lot. They’re a big fan of the project, so that makes it easier.
Some things are more difficult. Getting shipments out was challenging at first because courier and pallet companies are not set up to comply with the requirements of bringing a vehicle into a prison. We have now overcome that by engaging a specialist logistics company, but it does mean our costs are higher.
What has been the most rewarding thing about starting the business and what has been your greatest achievement to date?
I think just getting the roaster up and running then completing the first roast has to be up there. Also, at our official launch, some of our apprentices did little coffee-related presentations to guests; it was touching to see how far they’ve come since they started.
The individual event that has given me the most pleasure was being thanked by one of the apprentices for “giving me [him] a new life”.
From one business to another, what advice would you give you other entrepreneurs wanting to start their own company?
In my humble opinion, play to your strengths, know what they are, and hire based on your weaknesses. For me, specialist, technical coffee knowledge is not my forte. Clearly, when you’re actually in the coffee industry, this can be a problem! Hence, I have hired Harry, Thomas and David, all of whom are coffee nerds. Now we have a company that’s extremely strong in an area that I’m not.
What is your favourite part of working with prisoners at Aylesbury?
They’re really funny. I like watching how people interact with each other and the way these guys play off each other is genuinely hilarious. Most of them are extremely quick-witted and love a laugh.
What does the future have in store for Redemption Roasters?
We hope to grow our wholesale to a level whereby we can no longer keep up with the demand producing at Aylesbury alone. That would allow us to open up another prison roastery and touch more offenders’ lives.
We want to get our new café in Lamb’s Conduit Street, Holborn, up and running well. Soon, we hope to use it to offer work placements to both our offenders and others when they’re released. That would complete the ‘story’ very nicely.
Have you noticed any exciting emerging food trends for the next year or so?
I’m hoping for food delivery by drone soon. That would be pretty awesome. And I’ve noticed more and more cafes in churches, so I’m expecting more of them in Zone 1, London. Probably helps them pay the rent. Didn’t know God charged rent but anyway.
Besides coffee beans, are there any specific foods you couldn’t live without?
Me personally? Toast. I bloody love toast.