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‘It Must Be Fresh’ Says Guildford’s Redber Coffee Roasters

Published on: 21 Mar, 2019
Updated on: 21 Mar, 2019

by Hugh Coakley

Freshly roasted coffee is what Graham Jones and Petra Suchova, partners and owners of Redber Coffee Roasters, see as their strongest selling point; that and a promise to get all their orders sent out by 4pm every day, all 3,000 of them a month.

Petra Suchova and Graham Jones in the Redber Coffee Roaster shop.

Redber Coffee Roasters started six years ago in a small unit at the Merrow Depot Industrial Park with one coffee roasting machine. And it grew from there.

Now it has four machines working eight hours a day, six days a week, roasting up to four tonnes of coffee beans every month. The firm employs five full-time and seven part-time staff.

Behind the counter at Redber Coffee Roasters with unroasted coffee beans in sacks and four coffee roasters working behind.

Customers go to the Merrow shop to collect their order, maybe try a different coffee or blend, and talk to the very knowledgeable Redber staff.

And there is plenty to try. With 40 coffee beans from all over the world and more than 100 blend options to choose from, Graham said: “It’s like going into a sweet shop when your were a kid, there’s so much to choose from.”

He and his staff enjoy talking to their local customers but online now accounts for 80% to 90% of sales.

Packing some of the 3,000 orders, from 250g upwards, received each month.

“It’s always fresh” said Graham. “That’s important to us. We don’t do coffee pods and we don’t do supermarkets because it won’t be fresh.”

Outgrowing its first unit, the business is “bursting at the seams again” said Graham.

It has started to move into a new unit, still at the Merrow site. It is huge in comparison and is a significant investment. Much of it has been fitted out by Graham himself with help from his brother, Robin. “We were brought up on a farm in South Africa,” he said: “We can turn our hands to anything.”

Will coffee shops be opened? “We’re not ready for that yet.” said Petra. “We can manage something like Tunsgate Quarter which is for a limited period, and we had a go at The Village in Guildford. And we learn a lot about what our customers like at the cafes.

“But our focus is on coffee roasting here at Merrow at the moment.”

It looks to be a very relaxed place to work, very busy but informal. The staff were very happy to talk enthusiastically about coffee and Redber.

Graham has turned an unsightly, untended plot next to the coffee roasting shop on the Merrow site into a mini garden with flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables, all helped with composted coffee grounds from the shop.

Hugo Hubbard, who was working the coffee roasters and packing as well, said: “I’ve learnt a huge amount about coffee, a very interesting job. Redber is a fantastic place to work and it’s nice to be part of it growing.”

Sadie Taylor, who does admin, sales and marketing, said: “You wouldn’t believe how much there is to coffee. We’re all involved in the testing of new coffees when they arrive.”

I had spoken to Laura Brown, a customer from Guildford, last Saturday while she was drinking a Redber coffee at the Tunsgate Quarter cafe. She said: “I like the wide choice and the staff actually know where the beans come from, they actually know what they are doing.”

Redber Coffee Roasters will convert its unassuming premises on the Merrow Depot Industrial Park site into a coffee shop once it moves to its new premises next door.

Accessory sales, coffee machines, filters and all of the things you can buy to make that perfect cup of coffee, is a minority 30% of the business but is very important. “A broad product range pushes you higher up the Google search page.” said Graham. “Competing online is hard.”

Both Graham and Petra have degrees in finance and ran an IT consultancy before Redber. They are obviously a very competent pair and I asked them who was the business brains behind Redber. Both agreed that Graham was the businessman and Petra looked after the details.

Petra added though: “He is the boss. But I am his boss.”

Graham had to agree with that pithy summary.

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