Red Bank Coffee Roasters in Coniston
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 October 2015 | UPDATED: 19:04 13 April 2016
Tom Prestwich and Fernanda Nunez have turned an obsession into a business. Emma Mayoh reports
‘It was a real wow moment for me,’ explained Tom Prestwich, founder of Red Bank Coffee Roasters in Coniston. ‘I had never tasted anything like it before. It was a Kenyan Ngunguru. It was my first cup of real coffee and I had no idea it could taste so good. It was bursting with rich berry flavours. It was wonderful.’
It was while Bolton-born Tom was working as a lawyer for film company Studio Canal in London, that this first experience of a ‘proper’ cup of coffee sparked an obsession. At that point his working days were spent brokering financial deals and working with productions for the film studio which has produced top films including Paddington, The Imitation Game and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But as his coffee passion grew he yearned for a lifestyle change.
‘After that first cup of coffee I became absolutely obsessed. I read about coffee, did research about it and totally immersed myself in any information I could get about it. I was lucky to have a great job but I wanted a change.
‘Starting our own coffee roasting business seemed like a perfect idea. It was time for a change. It was exciting.’
Tom, 33, runs Red Bank with Uruguay-born wife Fernanda Nunez, who he met seven years ago. Their thoughts of setting up the coffee company also tied in with another of their obsessions – climbing mountains in the Lake District.
Tom explained: ‘I used to head up to the Lakes for family holidays as a youngster. In 1995, when I was 13, my father organised a three peaks challenge to raise money for Macmillan nurses and along with about 30 other people we climbed Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Pillar in one day.
‘Looking back this is probably what sparked my love for the Lakes and made me realise that the elation at reaching the top is always worth the hardship of getting there. We now have a group of friends who are trying to climb the 214 Wainwright peaks and we’re fast approaching our first century.
‘It got to the point where we were taking every opportunity to leave London to visit the Lakes that eventually we decided to leave our jobs and move up here. It was a huge gamble but it felt really good.’
After taking specialist roasting courses at the London School of Coffee and sourcing equipment, including a cast iron Giesen roaster from Holland, the pair, who live in Grasmere, started trading in January. Since then their coffees, which are roasted in small batched in their unit on the banks of Coniston, have been snapped up by a handful of well-respected cafes and delis in the Lake District including Homeground Coffee and Kitchen in Windermere, Lucia’s in Grasmere and Stockghyll Fine Foods in Ambleside. They are also currently working on a beer with Coniston Brewing Company.
The pair only roast speciality grade, single-origin arabica beans, which are beans that come from one single producer rather than blending beans from different origins. They roast beans to create stunning coffees from ethical growers in many destinations including Ethiopia, India, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Tanzania. Tom and Fernanda want to make it their mission to show consumers how good coffee can be.
Tom said: ‘We always wanted to use single-origin beans. It allows us to showcase the qualities inherent to that bean, be it a light, floral, tea-like Ethiopian or a rich, full-bodied Colombian. Larger scale coffee producers tend to use blends so you never find out which taste comes from each bean. We want to help make people more aware of these incredible differences.
‘Coffee beans have more flavour points that grapes do for wine making. When you get a group of coffee lovers together they discuss it just like you would a fine wine. We have excellent quality beans so it means we only have to roast them lightly which helps us to bring out all of those delicate flavours. Low quality beans are over-roasted giving a very bitter, chocolatey, nutty flavour. We want people to know what coffee should taste like and why and we also want to make speciality coffee more readily available in the north west and beyond.’
While the couple have future hopes to open a café, they first want to gain the approval of top roasters in the industry. They hope to be one of the first roasters someone would think of if they want to try something new.
Tom said: ‘We want to showcase our coffee and show people just how good it can be. It would be fantastic if one of the established, well-known roasters in London would think of us if they wanted to think about having a guest coffee or trying something a bit different.
‘The changes Fernanda and I have made over the past few years have been incredible but it has been a really good move for us. We still go to London but now we can come back home here. We get to have a fantastic lifestyle, exploring the mountains, mountain biking and loving the Lake District as well as doing something we love.’ w