Meet Kent coffee roaster Luke Underdown

PUBLISHED: 16:36 03 June 2016 | UPDATED: 16:36 03 June 2016

Luke Underdown

Luke Underdown

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Luke Underdown on his ‘hobby gone wrong,’ the importance of the roasting process and a good palate.

Your name: Luke Underdown

Your job title: Owner, Garage Coffee

Where your business is based: Hoath, Canterbury

Tell us about your business

I grew up exactly where my business is based; my parents run a campsite, Southview, and that is where I have set up the roastery. So grew up in the lovely Kentish countryside, meeting different people every summer and I always loved helping out. I went to school at Barton Court in Canterbury, then on to the University of Surrey to study International Hospitality Management, which is where I developed my love of coffee. Working in the university coffee shop, I learnt more and more about coffee, and was fascinated by everything the industry had to offer. After graduating I went to work for Harris + Hoole and went on their coffee and barista training. I’ve continued my love of coffee from there.

How long have you been inBusiness?

I wrote the business plan last spring/summer when I saw funding was 
available through Kent County 
Council’s Expansion East Kent Scheme. I was successful in getting funding, which allowed me to purchase my roaster and the premises that I am now in. I then started roasting in October 2015, and made my first sale shortly after that.

What makes your business different?

All the coffees I have are speciality grade, which means they are some of the finest the world has to offer. What I really love about coffee is when you get a flavour that is really interesting or different, such as my coffee from Vietnam which is really citrus-y and quite unusual. Also, all of the coffee is fully traceable right back to the farmer who grows it, so I can be confident about the quality of my beans.

Most coffee in the supermarket has been roasted for around three months before it even gets on the shelves, which means actually all the coffee in your local supermarket is usually stale. I roast all my coffee to order, so that you’ll never receive beans that are more than seven days old – so it is as fresh as possible.

How do you promote? It has predominantly been word of mouth and social media so far. I do try and attend as many markets as I can, and have built up quite a following at the Whitstable Farmers’ Market.

Formal training?

No, not really. I have visited a number of roasters in London, which is really what inspired me to get into roasting. I have always had a good palate and know good flavours, so a combination of knowing what tastes great and lots of practice on the roaster has allowed me to refine the art of roasting.

How do you market?

I built the business to be online based, but to spread the word I have been attending Kent Markets. I am now a regular at the Whitstable Farmers’ Market which is extremely popular. I’m planning to do larger events in the future, like the Kent County Show.

Do you employ any staff?

No – not yet!

Describe a typical working day
As many self-employed people will tell you, no day is ever the same and for me it’s no different. The business spans many different avenues, whether it’s offering customers coffee training, holding a sampling session or delivering a coffee talk, I like to get involved in it all. My day with the strictest routine is probably my roasting day, as I have to work to schedule to make sure it all gets done. Usually the night before I’ll prepare my roast list, as well as printing any labels and postage, so when my roast day arrives I can light up the fires and get on with it.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I have built the business because I love coffee. I often describe it as a hobby gone wrong. What I love about the industry is that it can take you anywhere. Britain is becoming more and more about good quality coffee, which is great for me.

My real ambition is to represent amazing coffee in Kent, it’s always struck me that for a county with such a vibrant food and drink scene, coffee has always fallen a bit flat. I would love the business to grow and thrive, but I always want to make sure Garage Coffee is represented in the right way, with quality always being paramount.

your favourite coffee?

I don’t think I could ever answer that one. All my coffees are seasonal so they come and go, which is great because there is always something new to try. I have really enjoyed a coffee I have had in from Vietnam recently, but also tried a really interesting one from Kenya the other week that tasted like strawberries.

Marks out of 10?

If I didn’t love what I did, I simply couldn’t do it – so it’s a 10 from me. w

Get in touch

Garage Coffee, Southview, Maypole Lane, Hoath, Canterbury CT3 4LL

07784 947657, www.garageroasted.co.uk

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