On Tuesday, 21 October, the UK Coffee Week team had the chance to sit down with Eirik Holth, one of the founders of Black Sheep Coffee, at their store on Camden High Street. We discussed a range of topics from their personal journey to their involvement in UK Coffee Week 2015. Black Sheep is a London-based coffee company that challenges the traditional coffee scene with their cleverly titled, “Robusta Revival.” Here’s how our afternoon went.
Eirik spared no details in telling us their inspiring story and what they have learned throughout their experience of building a coffee empire. Our discussion centred on Black Sheep’s “leave the herd behind” slogan. As explained, Eirik, Gabe, Anders, and Max were friends and flatmates from University. They went off to different parts of the world, held corporate jobs, but felt that they wanted more with their careers. That was when they collaborated on their shared passion for coffee and “left the herd behind,” so to speak. Eirik emphasized that the four friends “...wanted something that had potential...Most importantly, we wanted something that we owned.” The group quit their jobs [in 2013] and got to work quickly, despite the fact that they hadn’t named the company yet.
Black Sheep not only learned a lot about the London coffee scene upon opening, but also about being business owners and running a successful small business. To them, trust is one of the most important aspects of running a business. All channels need to be cohesive and headed towards a shared goal. Eirik told the UKCW team that, “a lot goes into the creation of a small business...and mistakes will happen.”
The group of friends did more than just “leave the herd behind” when they left their corporate jobs; they strayed from the pack and became Black Sheep of the coffee industry through their “Robusta Revival.” The artisan coffee industry has traditionally been dominated by Arabica beans, however, the Black Sheep founders decided to take an innovative approach to creating the perfect cup of coffee. They set about trying to find a Robusta coffee which met all their criteria. Eirik explained that, “If we can find a Robusta that ‘stacks up’ and can be served on its own then that is a really interesting angle. It is fundamentally different from what you can find on the market.” Eirik explained how they wanted to take more of a common sense approach to coffee by taking a step back and saying if it tastes good, that’s a great starting point; “We’re really challenging the status quo by doing things differently.”
We also had the chance to discuss UK Coffee Week 2015, where Black Sheep is “definitely participating.” We bounced around a few ideas with Eirik, and we can’t wait for everyone to enjoy them at UK Coffee Week 2015. As UK Coffee Week is a celebration of coffee and charity, the UKCW team welcomes participants who are part of the local coffee scene and want to help us achieve our charitable goals. Each coffee shop has their special way of contributing to UK Coffee Week. This is the first year we are introducing London Coffee Night, and it will be fantastic to see the London coffee scene at its best. Black Sheep has already been experimenting with ‘booze and beans’ espresso martinis, which would make a great addition to the night. We are always looking for enthusiasts who share our passions for coffee and our goal to bring clean water and proper sanitation to coffee growing communities through Project Waterfall.
Our afternoon with Eirik was filled with education, great discussion, and delicious coffee (ours was a Southern Indian Robusta). Next time you’re out, stop by Black Sheep and keep an eye out for them during UK Coffee Week 2015! You can find them at these locations:
Camden High Street, Charlotte Street, Old Street Station, Urban Outfitters on Oxford Street