First Published - February 19, 2013 (By Steven – Co-Founder)
Most commuters couldn’t claim their station coffee was ‘worth the wait’, however at Queenstown Road in Battersea, London, Coffee Affair believe theirs is. Check into the old waiting room to see for yourself, or read on.
- What do you love most about your job?The challenge and the social aspect.The more we learn, the more we realize how much more there is to know! Coffee is a vast subject which may not be appreciated at the beginning. The chemistry and physics involved in the processing and brewing methods provides challenges and rewards alike. It’s good to be continually tested mentally!Socially, the shop is in a very diverse area not always obvious at first sight. Our customers include classical guitar makers, stone masons, travel writers, designers, architects, location & film crews, many businesses hidden under the railway arches. There is always an interesting discussion to be had or something new to learn. We love it when customers get to know each other and have a natter. It’s a great feeling of community.
- And loathe the most?!Unfortunately, being in a Railway Station people can be very edgy when they have a train to catch, even when there’s another one 5 minutes later. You are doing your best to craft a little masterpiece in a cup whilst some pace up & down looking at their watch! Another challenge is the amount of queries we get from non customers who march into the shop demanding their travel enquiries be answered!
- Time in the industry, and why coffee?Six and a half years. We fell into coffee. Leaving the office environment behind, we set about a plan including coffee and this unloved local Grade II listed station. We started the adventure together when previous work contracts were completed. I thought a year break and I’ll return to my career….but coffee slowly took over and we’ve upgraded from a Piaggio Ape in the freezing ticket hall to a cosy coffee shop in the old ticket office.
- Favourite coffee?It’s not the most exciting answer perhaps, but we love our espresso blend Organic Natural Spirit made of Mexican (Chiapas Highlands), Peruvian (San Ignacio)and Ethiopian (Yirgacheffe) beans. The blend can produce the most wonderful rich espresso with a sweet lemon front, which develops into bitter sweet chocolate. Most recently in terms of drip coffee, we really love a Kenyan we had from the Karatina Mill.
- You’re in a very competitive area, how do you attract customers, and then retain them – with the lure of the high street chains ever present?We don’t compete with the high street. We are two stops from Waterloo and one stop from Clapham Junction…which are full of the chains. It would be foolish to compete with a product which is so different from ours. The ingredients and attention to detail going into each cup means our customers appreciate the time it takes to create. Most of our customers are regulars, some who have been with us since the Piaggio days. It’s a nice feeling to ask for ‘my usual please’ and know it will be carefully prepared. For those who don’t care about the difference between the Speciality Coffee Industry and the chains, we can try to engage with them and hope the coffee does the rest. Luckily enough, there are many who do care and given half the chance we will chat coffee as long as they are interested!
- Biggest business challenge at the moment?Being able to price the product appropriately in a very competitive market, where people often don’t fully appreciate the spectrum of costs involved. To achieve a move away from price focus to quality focus and change the notion that being a barista is just a job rather than a profession is a challenge. For people whose passion in coffee leads them to a career choice, there needs to be sufficient reward financially for this to be a possible option.
- Who is your most famous customer? OR who would you most love to serve?With Battersea Park and Battersea Power Station around the corner being used as film locations, we have had a few famous faces coming in for coffee. Michael swears Meryl Streep walked past during the filming of Iron Lady, but if it was her, she passed us by!
- Filter or espresso? – And why?!We really enjoy a fruity, lush and well balanced citrus filter in summer, but in winter I go for espresso with its’ rich full mouth feel.
- Is there a particular coffee which sells better than others?In terms of drip coffee, we found Central American coffees such as El Dimante, Huehuetenango, Guatemala and Hacienda La Esperanza, Boquete, Panama received great feedback. We have tried other espresso beans, but none get such enthusiastic feedback as Organic Natural Spirit.
- What slogan / strapline would be on your advertising campaign?We don’t advertise and in an ideal world we would prefer word of mouth – a more organic journey to growth. Given the newish setup only time will tell if this works, but in the meantime some signage may not be a bad idea with a strap line of ‘worth the wait’!