It’s hard to believe that eight years ago Robbie, Jon and I started out as a group of coffee-drinking food lovers determined to bring you the best in fresh, local and sustainable produce.
We were fresh out of Uni and juggling a few different jobs when we were first inspired by Gunter Pauli’s Blue Economy sustainable business concepts. Who’d have thought that eight years later we’d be running an innovative, environmentally sustainable enterprise like Espresso Mushroom Co?
We quickly learnt that growing mushrooms was much harder than it sounds. Starting a business with very little cash certainly isn’t easy and working with your brother is great- most of the time!
It has been challenging but very rewarding to create a brand based on sustainable practice, recycled coffee and local, DIY produce. We have worked tirelessly to achieve a quality growing environment that pearl and pink oyster mushrooms love. We’re also proud of our eco-friendly accessories line, particularly our cork wallets and quirky tea-towels.
It’s been fantastic to see the pictures of your crops that you’ve shared with us over the years- it’s been amazing to see so many of you growing mushrooms at home using the coffee farming process.
We also highly value the business community that has supported us: we remember a conversation with Ruth from HISBE when we were both starting out. We concluded if we can’t do it in Brighton, we wouldn’t be able to make it happen anywhere. We’ve had the pleasure of working with Brighton Food Festival (who were incredibly supportive in our early days) local business groups, Sussex Innovation Centre, University of Brighton, Josie from Seedfreedom and lots of other local people and businesses who have helped us along the way. We should, of course, thank Small Batch for the tonnes and tonnes of coffee grinds we’ve collected over the years, and we’re sure Jon’s weekly reminders not to put sugar sachets or filter paper in the coffee grinds bin will serve them well going forward!
We’re sharing this now because in 2019 we have decided to step away from the business and leave it in the very capable hands of YMCA Newcastle, who are committed to continuing our environmentally friendly farming methods and developing our social impact.
We’re confident and excited that this change will allow the business to continue its growth, lead to new innovation and unlock even more of the social enterprise potential that Espresso Mushroom Company has.
We would like to thank everyone for their support over the last eight years.While there have been challenges, there have been so many great moments and powerful stories along the way.
In the early days, Robbie and Jon supplemented their earnings from the farm by working in the kitchen of one of Brighton’s best pubs preparing hundreds of Sunday Lunches every weekend. During this time, there was a short heatwave when all of our mushrooms went mouldy, attracted all the fruit-flies in Sussex and broke our hearts! We also had a very close shave when our barn caught fire on Black Friday 2014. If it wasn’t for the team and the Sussex fire service, we would have lost everything! As it was, we were able to fight on without electricity and somehow produced thousands of kits on time.
Other highlights of course include the time we’ve spent with the fantastic Raymond Blanc during filming of Kew on a Plate the courses we’ve ran at Le Manoir, our Food Fight with Jamie and Jimmy, and of course our five minutes of fame where Robbie showed off his garlic chopping skills to Paul Hollywood, and Jon got marriage proposals on twitter!
YMCA Newcastle is a charitable organisation that supports young people furthest away from the labour market to gain employment and qualifications. The charity runs a project called Urban Mushrooms which provides young people with employment and training opportunities through growing mushrooms and preparing grow-at-home kits on used coffee grounds.
We were interested in working with Urban Mushrooms because of our shared passion for mushrooms and sustainability. However, their commitment to helping young people overcome disadvantage was a key factor in our decision to hand them the reigns- last year, the charity supported 2,465 disadvantaged young people to develop skills and access employment. We have been working with them over the past few months to help them to set up and we’re delighted that they can maintain the high quality of our grow at home kits and other products.
They are based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (so they might have a different way of saying things!) but don’t worry, you are in safe, Geordie hands. One thing will never change; you will still be able to get fantastically reliable grow-your-own mushroom kits from Espresso Mushroom Company!
The team is made up of both young people and experienced personnel who have years of experience in growing mushrooms. They are passionate about what they do and deliver a high level of customer service in order to progress the business.
We couldn’t have found a better partner than YMCA Newcastle to continue our work. While it’s bye from us for now, we will be keeping in touch to see how the YMCA team are bringing new energy and value to the company.
Alex, Robbie and Jon
Founders- Espresso Mushroom Company