A community hub at Horsebox Coffee Co.

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

Emily at Horsebox Coffee Co. & Dark Horse Roastery reflects on how they created a real community hub at the Horsebox outside the Natural History Museum during the pandemic.  She shares how being part of a community is important for small businesses and the exciting plans she has for the business in 2024. >>

Horsebox Co

A Covid secure oasis for alfresco coffee

The Horsebox became a community hub during Covid, we were able to reopen fairly quickly and safely as we are already outdoors. I think both our customers and we as a team just felt very happy to be connected again and have a routine. This was so important for the business too as we hadn’t qualified for any hospitality business support, and so it was wonderful to be trading again.

Bringing a sense of normality back for customers

It was a very unsettling time for all, however adapting to the Covid measures wasn’t too tricky, it just required a little thinking out of the box. So maintaining normality, with the same commitment to our ethos of people, planet, flavour, fortunately wasn’t much of a problem. We were lucky in this respect.

Helping customers get through isolation

I still bump into people who talk about the Horsebox being a lifesaver during the pandemic. It seems it was the perfect meeting point before a walk in the park; an affordable treat served by a friendly face. Our team is brilliant, they genuinely enjoy serving and engaging with our customers, so it works both ways. Our customers helped get us through Covid too.

“The delicious coffee, the wonderful staff and the small things like pretty flowers on the tables – a trip to the horsebox was like therapy during Covid,” recalls one customer.

Horsebox Co

The importance of a community for a small business

I think being part of a community is important to everyone – it creates a support network. Serving the community’s needs, whilst getting to know your customers personally and becoming a part of their day makes work much more rewarding too – this is part of the ‘people’ element in our values. And it’s just as important at Dark Horse Roastery where we enjoy being part of a local business community and wider speciality coffee community.

Bringing people together with a shared love of coffee

Even prior to Covid we ran roastery experiences, tastings and barista workshops for small groups at the roastery near Wallingford. When a second space became available on the farm I was keen to take it on to build a dedicated education space and develop the depth and the frequency of what we offer. I believed we would eventually get back to normal and am passionate about bringing people with a shared love of coffee together for a sociable experience where they could enjoy each other’s company as well as all the sensory elements of coffee and the opportunity to learn new skills.

Horsebox Co

What are your plans for the future of Horsebox Coffee?

Well, I never intended to have more than one horsebox, however we now have three! No immediate plans for any more. My heart is very much at the roastery as I really love sourcing green coffee, learning more about its journey, building relationships with the producers, and roasting. I also love working with our wholesale partners, and running our educational programmes. We are an accredited centre for the City & Guilds Level 2 Barista award, which we can really bring to life here at the roastery. We also run shorter Speciality Coffee Association style courses – I am keen to encourage individuals of all ages and backgrounds to consider and explore the path of the professional barista. The wonderful world of speciality coffee holds so many options and opportunities to learn, grow and be part of a wider coffee community.

Horsebox Coffee Oxford

Horsebox Coffee Co. & Dark Horse Roastery have lots of exciting plans for 2024, with more charity collaborations, inclusive educational programmes and a latte art event in May as part of Dorchester Festival.  Follow their socials to be the first to hear!

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