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Suffolk entrepeneurs lead the way in revolutionising cold coffee brewing

PUBLISHED: 10:33 19 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:33 19 December 2017

Frank & Earnest Coffee. Picture: Duncan Smith

Frank & Earnest Coffee. Picture: Duncan Smith

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Coffee lovers, there’s a new way to get your caffeine fix . . .cold brew. Charlotte Smith-Jarvis talks to two Suffolk aficionados

Old school pals Ben Lion and Richard Clark are making sure Suffolk is at the forefront of a cold coffee revolution with their business Frank & Earnest.

Both have a passion for coffee, shaped by their experiences on the other side of the world. Designer Ben worked for an Australian coffee chain where his eyes were opened to small batch roasted single origin beans. Chef Richard, who owned The Shrubbery – now Frank & Earnest – café in Bury St Edmunds, was amazed by the fast evolving coffee market on a trip to New Zealand.

“We thought, let’s buy a roaster, learn how to roast, find green coffee beans and try and share these experiences we’ve had with a wider audience,” says Ben.

Frank & Earnest Coffee. Picture: Duncan SmithFrank & Earnest Coffee. Picture: Duncan Smith

“We’re both very process and design focused, so we looked into how to manipulate the flavours of the beans from different countries to get different flavours and started selling them in the coffee shop.”

The next step was to approach other cafes with their wares. They soon found they had regular orders flying in the door.

Important to the brand is using ethically sourced beans, working with coffee brokers who have direct access to coffee farms. “All our coffees are single origin beans from a single region. At the beginning we fell in love with Honduras. It’s not hugely known for coffee, but the flavours we got from the beans were very chocolatey and caramelly naturally.

Bury St Edmunds coffee company Frank and Earnest is among more than 100 start-up firms to have received support under Menta's Enterprise Engagement Programme.Bury St Edmunds coffee company Frank and Earnest is among more than 100 start-up firms to have received support under Menta's Enterprise Engagement Programme.

“That was something we were very impressed with and we liked the fact it’s not very common, is all Fairtrade and organic certified.

“We like working with African coffee, like Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia. When we use these beans the coffee has a very nice strawberry note to it and people are amazed it’s not flavoured coffee – it’s nothing more than coffee and water.”

A definitive step for Ben and Richard was to tackle the growing market for nitro cold brew coffee.

Frank & Earnest Coffee. Picture: Duncan SmithFrank & Earnest Coffee. Picture: Duncan Smith

“We thought, how could we take our approach with hot coffee, and how we roast it and brew it, and apply that to cold brew? We were looking to create a cold brew as good as hot coffee, and spent a year playing with different brewing and roasting methods and different equipment to serve it.”

The pair worked out of a small craft beer brewery, adapting the brewing process to create what is now considered one of the best shelf stable cold brew coffees in the world. They followed that by developing a nitro cold brew coffee, injected with nitrogen gas for a creamy finish, not unlike Guinness.

“The first thing people don’t get straight away is it’s brewed cold and served cold. It never gets near heat. You replace the heat and pressure you’d get in an espresso machine with time. So it may take three-and-a-half minutes to make a regular coffee, but it takes 20 hours to make cold brew.

Frank & Earnest Coffee. Picture: Duncan SmithFrank & Earnest Coffee. Picture: Duncan Smith

“The difference is, because you’re extracting so slowly over a period of time, you get a naturally sweet and soft flavour which isn’t bitter, and is very low in sugar or fats, but very high in caffeine. A lot of people are surprised by how sweet it is and how much energy you get from it.

“We’ve got England rugby players tweeting about using it for pre-training. And we’ve got Olympic rowers and other sports people getting into the cold brew market as a clean, alternative energy drink.”

Apparently, people who don’t even like coffee are loving Frank & Earnest’s products. Ben and Richard are well on their way to being leaders in the field.

So what’s next?

“What we’re always thinking about is how we can further develop the cold brew market in whatever shape or form that looks like. We’re trying to lead it and have aspirations to develop this and lots of new cold brew products because it’s an exciting arena.”

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