North Star coffee seems to be stocked wherever we turn at the moment and as North Star Micro Roasters seem to increasingly find themselves in our view, it was time to ask Krag (Alex Kragiopoulos – one half of North Star Micro Roasters) a few questions about the company, their suppliers and the importance of celebrating the coffee industry outside of London.
Where did the idea from North Star Micro Roasters come from?
During my final year at university, my research on the slave trade in East Africa took me to Kenya and Zanzibar. I was accompanied by my girlfriend who was also doing her dissertation research in Kenya, on the impact of Fairtrade on coffee farming communities. So I found myself in an incredible coffee-growing region looking at the harvesting and processing of a crop that I had never previously appreciated. I found her work far more relevant and interesting than mine! I knew from then that I wanted to try and succeed in an industry that could make a real difference to people like the farmers we met. From that point on I dedicated myself to learning as much as I could about the different growing, roasting and brewing techniques involved in making the perfect cup of coffee and I was lucky enough to spend some time training with an established coffee roastery in Cambridge.
I was very fortunate to have met Ellis Hall, our head barista and coffee trainer. He was working in a speciality coffee shop in Harrogate, where I now live after graduating from university. I could tell straight away that he really had a passion for coffee and this came across when he was interacting with customers. We got chatting one day and I mentioned about the possibility of setting up a coffee roastery. I could tell straight away that Ellis was really excited about the prospect of being involved in a project that would allow him to expand his knowledge on all aspects of the coffee supply chain. I spent my whole life growing up in Leeds and I suddenly came to realise that there wasn’t anybody currently roasting coffee in the city. As a result, we really wanted to be the first ‘micro’ roastery in this great city.
How did you identify and discover the farms and smallholders that you wanted to work with?
At the moment we are a micro roastery operating from a small industrial unit in Meanwood on the outskirts of Leeds city centre and therefore we are not in a position where we are able to directly source green coffee ourselves, but that’s where Falcon Speciality come in. Falcon are a speciality green coffee importers based in Pannal, which is only 20 minutes away from where we are. Headed up by Mike Riley, who has more than 25 years’ experience in the coffee industry, they work directly with farmers to source some of the best quality coffees around. We are very lucky to have access to Falcon’s expertise and hopefully in the not too distance future we will be heading out to origin to expand our knowledge of the coffee supply chain.
How would you describe North Star in one sentence to someone who had never come across your company?
We are a speciality micro-roastery based in Leeds, dedicated to sourcing, roasting and brewing the finest coffees we can get our hands on.
For you, how do you think the bar can be raised in the coffee industry?
We personally feel that the bar in coffee is always being raised. There is so much competition these days that people are constantly doing new and exciting things to try and make them stand out. Year on year the coffee industry is going from strength to strength and we feel it is imperative that roasters and baristas continue to push the boundaries in order for the speciality scene to continue in the way it has. As it goes for the northern coffee scene, we feel that the increased events are taking a step in the right direction in helping to raise the bar.
How important is it that the wider coffee industry is celebrated and brought together outside of London and other European capital cities?
We feel it’s really important that the coffee industry is celebrated in other towns and cities outside of London. Although London and other European capitals are seen to be at the forefront of the industry, as I touched on before I think it’s imperative that we also celebrate what’s happening outside of the capital; after all coffee is drunk all over the country. Of course it will always be difficult for events happening outside of London as they will always be compared to the London Coffee Festival, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be as equally passionate for coffee and the ever growing industry. With Cup North and other events just around the corner, it really is an exciting time to be part of the northern coffee scene.
For more information about North Star Micro Roasters visit their website.