TJ tells how he got started, and how his love of coffee merges with being a QMUL student as well as his programme of study. Get your own Stubbs Coffee at QMUL Makers Market, today at QM Students' Union.
29 October 2015
How did you get started and why?
I began roasting coffee out of sheer curiosity and to avoid the high prices of artisan coffee shops.
I first purchased some small bags of green coffee beans from a UK importer that had coffees from around the world. I had heard of people roasting their own coffee in cast-iron pans - so that's what I did. The result was fantastically... terrible!
But I brewed the coffee anyway. The results were surprisingly fresh - it had qualities that were really unique, compared to supermarket coffee. After that, I did some research and found out that you can use a popcorn-popper to roast coffee, so I bought a cheap popper and made a few modifications (i.e. drilled some holes in the casing to increase airflow as well as installed a thermometer/switch to control the fan speed, and a power converter to control the heating coil).
Once I started roasting with the popcorn popper, (what I call the "Roast Beast 5000") I noticed dramatic improvements in the coffee; the results were phenomenal. I invited friends over to try the coffee, and they loved it. They started inviting their friends, and so on. People who normally don't drink or even like coffee found themselves enjoying coffee.
It was as if I had no other choice but to start a business out of this. Stubbs Coffee was born out of necessity!
There are two major driving factors behind our business model. One is that good coffee is for everyone. Our goal is to get more people drinking better coffee. One of the biggest surprises I've experienced from living in the UK is how many people are drinking instant coffee. We want to do our part to help people drink better coffee. Two, is the need to promote ethical coffee sourcing.
How has being at QMUL helped you establish Stubbs Coffee?
I don't know if I would've thought of starting a business had I not gone to QMUL. The whole process has been so circumstantial - a perfectly aligned series of events as if it was divine intervention for me to be in the coffee industry.
QMUL has served as a great platform for launching a business; there are tons of great resources available that are designed to help get a business off the ground. Plus I've met so many business/entrepreneurial minded students that are so encouraging and generous with advice, whom I've been able to bounce ideas off of.
How have you incorporated your love of coffee into your programme of study?
I would've never imagined that anything to do with running a coffee business could be relatable to a degree in international relations, but surprisingly I have found a niche that I'm passionate about. In my search for green beans, I've realized how important coffee farmers are in the global value chain, and yet they are consistently undervalued in conventional coffee trading.
It is incredibly important that the beans I purchase are bought at a premium, to help provide more income to the coffee farmer. That is why I prefer direct trade/specialty coffee, because it's the best way that I know of right now that can provide more value to the farmer - even more than Fairtrade.
As a result, my research is based on the political economy of coffee producing countries, providing a comparison of the different value chains of coffee trading, and searching for a solution to create more value for the coffee farmer in this process.
Staff and students of QMUL can purchase freshly roasted bags of Stubbs Coffee at a discounted price of £4.50 per 250g by applying discount code "QMcoffee" (usual price, £6)