Indie Oxford Interview: Jericho Coffee Traders
Today on the Indie Oxford blog, we catch up with Lizzie Armitage, co-founder of Jericho Coffee Traders, on their journey from the Royal College of Music to creating a hugely popular Oxford coffee business, find out what lies ahead for the business post Covid, and what makes them dance around the roastery! >>
How did you and James meet?
James and I met at the Royal College of Music in 2004. He was a postgrad and I was doing an undergrad in Saxophone and Voice. James is a wonderful countertenor!
James is also quite a renowned rowing coach in New Zealand, and was doing some rowing coaching in King’s College Wimbledon. He got a job coaching rowing for Christ Church Oxford and so after we got married in 2011 we moved to Oxford! With singing and rowing passions, Oxford was a great fit for us!
What inspired Jericho Coffee Traders?
When we lived in London we would look at funky vehicles and call them “an opportunity.” James saw a Vespa Ape on the side of the road in Winchester – knocked on the door of the property it was outside, and by the end of the day we owned it! It stayed in our drive for a couple of years, and then when we moved to Oxford James decided to convert it into a coffee van with his friend Gareth. Gazz has a background in coffee in Dunedin and gave us lots of advice. We called it Pukeko Coffee. A Pukeko is a little New Zealand bird. We made coffee on the side of the road, on Magdalen Bridge and then at Radcliffe Camera Square. We had lots of awesome regulars, some of whom still buy our coffee today. We were fortunate enough to be affiliated with Oriel College, as James was still coaching their rowing team. (He moved from Christchurch College after a year). Oriel offered us a pop up in the old Baby Love nightclub on King Edward Street. We put up some scaffolding and stuck bench tops on it to create the cafe. This “pop up” became really popular with the students, and this inspired James to buy a 1 kg roaster. After roasting our own for a while, a couple of local independent businesses got in touch and wanted to use our coffee. As we were roasting in a barn in Jericho at the time – Jericho Coffee Traders was born.
How are you striving to make JCT more sustainable?
This is a very poignant question as our aim for 2021 is to become a carbon neutral roastery. We currently use a cargo bike or electric car for all local deliveries, and have solar panels on the roastery roof. We have a new 15 kg roaster now, and James has just ordered a filter for it which will lower emissions further. We have started using reusable tubs for our wholesale customers, which is being supported really well. We have just started supplying SESI Refill with organic fairtrade and rainforest alliance coffees. We love these guys and are so excited to be working with them. Our packaging is produced by carbon neutral suppliers, and is grade 4 recyclable. Our cups and lids are compostable and we encourage as many people as possible to use keep-cups. We also want to compost coffee waste with a view to growing plants – as part of the offsetting process. Our home compost bin is full of coffee waste!
How has Covid-19 affected you this year?
Where do we start! Obviously we shut our cafes for over three months as did most of our wholesale customers. We are still nowhere near where we were this time last year, and whilst our espresso bars are open, they are quieter than usual. However, the time off (whilst wrestling with our three year old son) meant that we could throw ourselves into the world of e-commerce! Our online business is now five times bigger than it was pre Covid. We find this incredibly exciting!
Tell me about your subscription service and how can we sign up?
Right from the inception of JCT, James wanted a home delivery subscription service. It began with us dropping fliers through doors in Jericho and has grown to a list of over 300 subscribers across the UK and many more ad hoc online customers all over the world. It’s a really straightforward process to sign up through our website. Whenever we make an online sale the app on our phones alerts us with an old fashioned till opening sound and we do a little dance!
What are your plans for the future?
James has just produced a document entitled ‘The JCT Covid Recovery and Business Evolution Plan’. There are some really exciting ideas coming out of our lockdown ‘thinking space’ and we’re now bursting with excitement to put them into action. At the core of all of them is the company’s strong focus on our ‘Social Licence to Operate’. Something James is particularly passionate about. In a nutshell, this means that the business operates not only within the requirements of the law but also within the framework of the ethics and beliefs of all of its stakeholders. (Don’t get James started on it!)
We’ve also borrowed three simple goals from a pork crackling company (of all places)!
- Do good things
- Have some fun
- Don’t be a dxxk
Lastly, what are your favourite indies in Oxfordshire?
Lockdown has produced two amazing new cake companies we’re working with, run by beautiful like minded people. Nood and Patron are really exciting new startups.
We also adore Oxford Soap Company, iScream (they make everything fresh that day and it’s all from their allotment) and of course the beautiful Tap Social brewery.
So, it true what they say, when you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance! It never been more important to buy local, and we hope that by shining a light on the awesome independent businesses in Oxfordshire, and the amazing people behind them, you’ll see the real value in shopping indie. These are the businesses that striving to make our towns and cities greener, and our communities more supportive and inclusive for all.
Find more awesome indies in our Independent Oxford directory.