Over a Brew with… Norris and Knight
This week we had a bit more of a quick-fire chat with Norris and Knight…
We had a great chat with Warren, co-founder of Brass Monkey located in Radlett. It was great getting to chat with someone who was simply a lover of coffee before starting the business – Warren felt something needed to change in Radlett and not being able to get a good cup of coffee was just that.
You can really appreciate the passion Warren has for quality coffee as well as the pride he shows in almost acting as social justice warrior to introduce good coffee to his local community. Enjoy the read!
We started in March 2022.
We hit the ground running really, my background is in technology and I’ve run an IT company for the last 20 years – I’ve got a mad passion for coffee and art. In the area that I opened up, smack bang in the middle of Costa and Nero, there was no speciality coffee. I often went to London and had loads of speciality coffee, so I decided to start a shop here. Since opening up, we’ve built such a great community. I wasn’t entirely sure that the people of Radlett were going to get it, but we’ve got so many regulars now, we’re increasing week on week and it’s great to see people really getting it.
Yeah, we have to educate quite a lot of people, but there have been younger families who have got it straight away, and other slightly more local people have tended to be slightly harder to introduce to speciality coffee. In the first couple of weeks, we were having discussions about the size of our coffees to Costa’s and people wondering why we were charging more.
We’re all about recipe, we’re all about ratio and we’re a speciality coffee company. Our beans are picked by hand, they’re not roasted within an inch of their life. For us, it’s about trying it first, and we then began to convert so many people that the Nero next door is closing. It’s been there for years as well!
We want to hire people that love the look on customers’ faces when they make them a proper coffee. Once you’ve tasted our coffee you won’t need to go anywhere else.
Hospitality is a completely different beast to working in technology, in tech, we’re unfortunately a have-to-have not want-to-have business. Companies need this support but don’t necessarily want it. The coffee industry is a culture, it’s nice people actually want to see you. It’s been very rewarding, the feedback we get from the coffee and food has been amazing.
Everything is done to a high standard and it’s amazing. It’s so rewarding because it’s more than just giving someone a cup of coffee. It’s definitely a lot more physically tiring than mentally, it’s a passion of mine and it’s been an enjoyable passion. I run it with my wife as well and it’s been a really nice project for the both of us.
The background to the business is that I’m just an enthusiast, I’ve been into speciality coffee for around 10 years. My first coffee machine purchase was a Rocket R58 from around 8 years ago at The London Coffee Festival. I met The Roasting Party around 10 years ago, I’ve been a domestic customer of theirs for that entire period of time. We’ve been Roasting Party through and through, their coffee is just excellent and they’re such great guys.
Where this shop came about, my Rocket coffee machine broke down about a year and a half ago, and unless I went further afield I just couldn’t get a speciality coffee in my home town.
I personally think as coffee consumers our palettes have become more advanced. If you think 15 years ago we didn’t know anything else, all we knew was Starbucks, Costa and Nero. Our coffees were massive and so milky, our first introduction to cafe culture. Our palettes have become a lot more discerning, I think in the UK we’ve all tried speciality and want more!
Yep, I do think it’s a lot more accessible, locally there was no penetration a few ago apart from the big stores. Also, I think Covid has had an effect on people now starting to become a lot more local.
It’s all London or local-based artists, I’ve been a collector myself for over 20 years and I couldn’t buy anything in the local area – so I thought why not. Again, it was a bit of a USP for us, what’s better than sitting down, having a coffee and looking at something nice on the walls? The art has gone down so well, I can’t get it in quick enough!
Exhibitions are also something we will be looking to do in the future, we’ll be looking into holding coffee classes as well. Again, to expand the offering and generally look at doing more with the shop than just selling coffee.
When I had the idea for the shop, I had all of these contrived coffee names that I had thought about over the years, but they were all a bit too obvious. I was a massive Beastie Boys fan and heard the track on the radio and I thought that’s it. When I was thinking about marketing I thought it would work perfectly. The branding is really strong and the monkey theme is carried throughout.
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