An interview with Cartwheel Coffee Roasters
If you live anywhere near Nottingham and enjoy delicious coffee and exceptional food, you'll most likely be well acquainted with Cartwheel Coffee. We're huge fans of their coffee, and we were grateful for the opportunity to get to know the talented team behind it a bit better. Here's what they had to say.
Q. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us! Would you mind introducing yourselves?
A. We are Cartwheel Coffee, a small roaster based in Nottingham. The company was started by Alex, who now runs the business along side his two cafes. The team also includes Ted, who manages the roastery.
Q. What's the story behind how you started?
Alex: Cartwheel was founded in late 2015. It actually started in my kitchen! However, when the roaster arrived to sit next to the EK43, Becci - my wife - was a bit miffed. You see, it poked out a bit from the sideboard… so when the first 600kg pallet of green coffee arrived, I quickly relocated to my mother’s garage (under penalty of death), where I began the process of roasting the coffee for what would later become our second shop. The intention was always to open a roastery/café, which we did in June 2016, with the same small 2.4KG roaster at the back of the shop. Ventilation wasn’t great though, so I ended up roasting overnight once the café had closed for service. A few months later, we found an old lace factory nearby which had been converted for business use, and we set up shop there. Fast forward 3 years, and we moved into a bigger unit in the same building and bought our next roaster – a 12 KG Probat.
Q. What sets you apart from the crowd?
Ted: The team is almost 100% Q certified (I have one exam to resit… just don’t let me near naturals). But I think there are lots of people who do what we do and do it very well. We’re fortunate in that Nottingham and East Midlands isn’t a hugely populated area for roasters, so if you put out tasty coffee consistently, it’s outreach goes a bit further than bigger cities.
Alex: I’d like to say that we don’t compromise on quality. We’re incredibly focused on the sensory attributes of coffees so, naturally, sourcing amazing coffees plays a huge role in what we do. There are weeks where we cup through heaps of samples to find that one gem (amongst a mountain of other great coffees). Also, Ted’s modest… he’s a great roaster. Together, we analyse our roast profiles every week and cup (taste) everything we roast. We’ll discuss and tweak those roast profiles to make sure we really are getting everything we can from the coffee. To contrast that with ‘the crowd’… having worked in other roasteries and been in a number, many don’t have the same controls over the roaster, the datalogging software or the knowledge to make the coffee perform at its best.
Q. What makes a coffee a Cartwheel coffee?
Ted: I like to think a Cartwheel coffee shows balance. Acidity is highly prized in specialty coffee, but its an element that the every day coffee drinker struggles with. I once attended a talk by Rafael Mlodzianowski, founder of Raf Makes, where he discussed his opinion of ‘omniroast’. Rather than something suitable for all brew methods, he views it as a balanced coffee with acidity and sweetness in equality. This creates complexity, as more elements are apparent in the cup. It stuck with me, its something I try apply to all the coffees we roast.
Alex: Blood, sweat and cartwheels.
Q. Do you guys have a favourite origin country?
Ted: Close call, but, Colombia. The range of variety exported from the country is huge, always giving an extensive selection. And with a main and fly crop harvest, its accessible all year round.
Alex: I love Ethiopia – two of my first ‘aha’ moments with coffee were with coffees from Yirgacheffe and Guji. The first was a washed coffee with jasmine and bergamot notes as clear as day, and the second with a naturally-processed coffee from Guji which was like eating a big ripe juicy blueberry. It’s coffee heritage is unparalleled – the Rift Valley is so lush and fertile, and virtually all the coffees are grown organically. In fact, the coffees are mainly all undocumented wild varieties – it’s a coffee geek's heaven.
Q. How do you marry both roasting coffee while maintaining a thriving cafe with good food? Does the coffee have any say on what food you make, or vice versa?
Alex: Well, we follow similar principles. The idea behind the café was to serve excellent coffee and high-quality food in a beautiful environment, which was sort of unheard of outside of London at the time we opened. Often a place would usually do one well and the other would be pitifully added on as some sort of way to increase the average spend. We wanted everything we did to be top-notch. At the time, I fell in love with smashed avo and poached eggs, so I was like, ‘right, we’re having that’, with a wodge of Sourdough.
After that pre-requisite, we hired the best chefs we could and together, we cooked, tasted, and did other cheffy things. Now we have a seasonal menu, with lots of freshly-prepped fruit and veg featuring on it (often roasted). We have a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, as well as a killer sausage sandwich (the name doesn’t do it justice). Nothing comes from a packet, everything is made in-house, even the baked goods, local where possible. It's all wholesome and generally just a celebration of flavour.
Q. Finally, can you sum up Cartwheel in three words?
Ted: Consistent. Simple. Focused.
Alex: Coffee, Smashed Avocado
It's clear that both Alex and Ted are right at the top of their game, and the deliciousness of their coffees are a testament to their hard work, expertise, and innovation. Why not head to our shop and try some for yourself? We reckon they'll quickly become one of your favourites.
Visit Cartwheel Coffee