Thank you to all of our suppliers, customers and partners for working with and supporting us throughout 2021. Business is never straight-forward but in COVID times, the looming air of unpredictability has made for an Oblivion-esq rollercoaster ride for many. An example of this for us is managing our stock, particularly with our seasonal coffee sourcing – forecasting 12 months ahead is difficult in the best of times but this has certainly been more challenging over the last couple of years. I’m extremely thankful that we have a great team that can tackle just about any problem, as well as providing solutions (often in the form of a very quick workaround!) to ensure we continue to do what we do best: consistently source, roast & supply sustainable coffee.
Here are a few of our highlights, improvements, small victories and perhaps some smaller victories off the back of a few challenges.
Let’s Start with the Coffee
We sourced coffee from 17 countries and roasted over 32 tonnes of coffee during the course of the year (cor, Elizabeth certainly flexed her muscles during this time) - almost double what we roasted in 2020. This did not come without a few logistical challenges largely due to at least two major global events. Containers were delayed by sometimes up to 8 weeks. There was a lot of nail biting.
Over 50% of our coffee is now directly traded with 4 of our 7 core range coffees coming from direct sourcing relationships. One particularly special new direct sourcing relationship was with Ensyader Cuartas who supplies our Colombia Finca Las Cruces. Ensayder’s family farm is situated in the Paisa region of Colombia but Esnayder currently resides in London and helped us out in the roastery over the summer. Direct sourcing can often be ambiguous term but in my opinion a true direct sourcing relationship is for the long-term, and involves regular communication, trust and knowledge sharing. We are very excited about releasing our first ever Sustainability Report at the end of January, which includes more information about this and our three year direct sourcing strategy.
And what was the team’s favourite coffee of 2021? The October Discovery from Uganda was in the running, as was the Christmas Discovery Coffee (I always have a soft spot for Kenyan coffee), but it was this season’s new crop El Salvador that became the office favourite.
New Compostable Coffee Packaging & Recyclable Delivery Boxes
This was a big one for us, as for some time we’ve been trying to find an alternative that was genuinely environmentally sound, using sustainable materials that could be legitimately handled within the current UK recycling infrastructure.
Our new coffee bags are made of 100% certified compostable materials and the coffee information card that sits in the front of your bag and all of our coffee delivery boxes are 100% recyclable and made in the UK. I hope you’ll agree they also look very good!
Head to our blog to learn more about our new packaging (including how you should dispose of it), and keep an eye out for more information about our recycling reward scheme coming early 2022.
Better Coffee Subscriptions and a New Website
Thanks to lots of customer feedback, we wanted our coffee subscriptions to offer more flexibility and be more intuitive in the form of a platform that enabled people to pause, skip or change preferences. Many of you actually wanted to receive your favourite coffee every month and try a variety for weekend brewing. With our new website, you can now select an Essential Coffee Subscription (i.e. receive your favourite coffee regularly), or a Discovery Coffee Subscription (i.e. receive a different coffee regularly).
Unfortunately, as with lots of techy things, the transition didn’t go quite as smoothly as we would have liked, and our team have worked hard to resolve any initial issues. I’d like to thank everyone for bearing with us, particularly to our existing subscribers.
The Roastery: Coffee Experiences & Our First Open House
This year we celebrated our 4th Birthday – 4 years since we set up camp at Ranmore Manor – with a party at our roastery. This was the first time we able to serve cups of coffee to the public, direct from the roastery. We had a great day, thanks to everyone who stopped by. If you’ve visited our roastery, you’ll have seen our space is incredibly small and it’s largely thanks to Row our Ops Manager that we’ll still able to remain in our characterful courtyard.
We’re planning on doing something similar this year. Without giving too much away, this is likely to be in the form of a big celebration with something rather large arriving soon!
A huge thanks to everyone who has joined a coffee experience this year. Sam, Row, Cephas and I all enjoyed running them. Plenty more dates will be added for 2022 although head to our experiences page if you’d like to join a Bean to Cup Coffee Experience as spaces are filling fast.
Re-Cycle Charity Partnership
We moved into our second year supporting Re-Cycle, a small charity who refurbish donated bikes from the UK and work with local partners to distribute them to rural communities in Africa. We donate 25p & £1 from every kilo of Discovery Coffee roasted to the charity, as well as other ad hoc donations, including our summer coffee festival and 12 Days of Discovery Christmas Gift Pack. We’re extremely proud to have donated over £3,000 to the charity this year, meaning over 100 more bikes have been refurbished and donated to communities in need.
Our Awesome Wholesale Partners
For those who aren’t aware, you can very much ruin a good coffee by brewing it incorrectly, so we’re extremely fortunate to have long-term partnerships with coffee shops who share our passion for quality - many of who have been trained by our team. This year we quadrupled our number of wholesale partners, all of which do a great job in showcasing our coffee across Surrey, London and further afield. Get in touch if you’d like to get to know where you can grab your local cup of Chimney Fire. First tip for 2022: you can try the perfect cup of Chimney Fire Coffee at Four Leaf Coffee in Richmond (many agree, including Anne Hathaway apparently!;).
Our Local Community
Our local community is really important to us, and like many others, we look to support and give back as we grow. In late 2021 we became proud sponsors of Dorking Rugby Club. In addition to supplying coffee and equipment to the clubhouse, we will be title sponsor of both the boys and girls teams from under 12 through under 16. Our Relationship Manager & outdoors enthusiast, Sam has led our community building activities and was at peak excitement when the Stolen Goat Race Team and elite GB athlete Tish Jones showed up to our roastery for a coffee.
The best part is that most of what we do is what we as a team are interested in (outside of coffee, that is). We’re based in the Surrey Hills which means we naturally have to be into running and cycling. Sam and I run before or after work every week. We’re looking at starting a regular after work running club – give us a shout if you’re local and would like to get involved. Our Christmas do highlighted what is on offer on our local doorstep, and Sam has written a brilliant blog about what we considered to be the best (& coldest) Christmas party: wild swimming in the River Wey.
And Finally, the 12 Days of Discovery
We released lots of new coffee related products throughout the course of the year – from organic cotton T’s to collaborative cycle jerseys and chocolate - but one we first started talking about back in January definitely deserves a special mention. Our 2021 Christmas special was a specially curated collection of coffees from our 2021 Discovery Coffee range and was a huge hit. Logistically it was challenging, fulfilment was terrifying but we got there (largely thanks to our Ops Assistant Neroli and her speed of packing) and thoroughly enjoyed putting it together. We’re very excited about the next few Discovery Coffees we have lined up for 2022.
We have lots planned for 2022, some of which has been subtlety dropped into this blog, and the rest… well that’s a surprise! Thanks for all the support this year – all the reviews, emails, social media shares & for telling your friends about us. As always if you have any feedback for us, we’d love to hear it. Hope you’ve had a great festive period and a very Happy New Year from all of us at Chimney Fire.