The evolution of Origin; one of the UK’s longest-standing speciality coffee roasters.
The origin of Origin began over 15 years ago when, in 2004, speciality coffee was a fledgling concept in the UK. The story starts with Tom Sobey, who remains as Origin’s owner-operator. Tom had always been involved in the industry, working for his father’s coffee business growing up. During a trip to Australia in the early noughties, he experienced progressive coffee culture first-hand and so the idea for Origin was born. Now, with a large team of coffee professionals, a world-class coffee program, six coffee shops and an ever-evolving product range, Origin sits proudly at the forefront of the speciality coffee industry.
Origin’s approach to coffee sourcing is through direct trade; a philosophy and ethical practice true to speciality coffee. Through their direct trade practice, they are able to support their farm and mill partners directly, giving drinkers full traceability of the coffee in their cup. Wherever possible, they visit the farmers or mill representatives each year – in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil – ask questions of and listen to the farmers, to the workers, and to their families. Origin’s partners are committed to environmentally and socially sustainable practices and their coffee program is one of the cornerstones of their B Corp Certification which they received in 2020; the result of a pledge to continue using social and environmental practices as a force for good.
In Tom’s words: “The stories behind each cup stretch across continents and through generations of expertise. It’s our responsibility to share those stories with the drinker. As a Certified B Corporation, we adhere to a gold standard of sustainability. It is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The B Impact Assessment evaluates how a company’s operations and business model impact their workers, community, environment, and customers. It interrogates everything from supply chains and input materials to charitable giving and employee benefits.” Origin’s B Corp certification is an important validation of who they are and what they do. It also validates their customers’ choice in selecting them to be their coffee partner. “It gives the assurance that when we say we behave sustainably, we do. And they can champion this on to their customers,” adds Tom.
Education runs deep at Origin. It ensures a great brew for the customer and that the end cup of coffee does justice to everything that’s come before it. Great training also means empowered baristas, great service and longer-term staff. The education team are all Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) accredited professionals and offer the full SCA Coffee Diploma with modules in Barista Skills, Brewing and Sensory Skills. Courses are taught from training labs in London and Cornwall, as well as on-site to wholesale customers nationwide.
In order to brew great coffee, wholesale customers need their machinery to run smoothly. In response to this, Origin has a nationwide network of La Marzocco-trained technicians, alongside workshops in London and Cornwall. The team are on-hand for services and callouts to ensure against down-time, meaning their customers can brew all day, every day. As well as supplying coffee to cafés, restaurants and brew houses across the UK, Origin have six coffee shops of their own in Cornwall and London, including two locations at The British Library. These spaces all embrace beautiful interior design and revolutionary technical equipment, to showcase expertly-roasted and ethically-sourced speciality coffee, alongside delicious food.
The latest shop, Scoresby Street opened in 2019 as a London hub for their operations. It’s tucked away beneath the distinct railway arches and is a stone’s throw from Southwark Station. The interior is designed by former X Product Designer of the Year and long-standing partner, Anna Hart. It has a raw, industrial influence which is combined with layered materials – from distressed timber to exquisite Terrazo tiles. This is paired with warm finishes including earth-toned ceramics, which create an inviting space that feels relaxed and intimate.
The impressive interior houses various furnishings, including handmade wooden stools by Falmouth-based designer, Felix McCormack. Using a single board of Olive Ash sourced from Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall, Felix wanted to achieve “an elegant, and minimal silhouette” with the two-toned pattern in the grain. This attention to detail throughout the entire design process is reflected in so many aspects of Origin’s shops, showcasing work by so many talented designers and makers across all locations.
Although Origin is a UK-wide business, its heart still very much lies in Helston, Cornwall, which has been home to their roastery operations since 2011. Many of the Origin team live in the local area and have a fondness for the town’s unique character. As the company has grown, and with the aim to give back to the team and the wider community, a brand new roastery is under construction in the nearby fishing town of Porthleven – home to Origin’s first coffee shop. The town attracts global attention for its food and drink scene and annual food festival. It also boasts a beautiful beach and popular footpaths, whilst the infamous winter storms provide spectacular views over the harbour.
The new roastery will have a contemporary workspace, coffee shop, training facility, and an external area that will host a series of events and pop-ups for all to enjoy at the weekend. In addition to organised events, there will also be a range of training on offer – from professional courses teaching barista skills and sensory analysis to enthusiast courses for improved latte art and home brewing. This wonderful space is the result of over 15 years of experience, which started with a central ethos to source exceptional coffee through a sustainable, triple bottom line approach.
Powered by a perfect blend of passion, precision, curiosity and caffeine, the new roastery is where knowledge and instinct will unite. A relentless pursuit of quality dominates each aspect of Origin’s approach and they understand the importance of maintaining and highlighting this when roasting. It will feature state-of-the-art production and quality control facilities.
It will also allow the continuation of Origin’s work with Loring Smart Roast to constantly monitor the controlled atmosphere and consistent roasting capabilities, whilst saving up to 80% fuel and reducing greenhouse gases in every roast, compared to conventional roasters.
Front of house will feature a coffee shop and ten dispensers from Zero Waste Dispensers in Belgium, which visitors can use to sample and purchase the freshest roast of the entire roster of mainstay, feature, decaf, and rare special edition coffees.
The interior has been designed by Megan Sadler, who previously worked on the refurbishment of the Charlotte Road shop’s seating area, creating a raw and industrial feel, with low-fi materials, steel racking and CNC units for the technical rooms and kitchen. Within the customer-facing areas you will be able to catch glimpses of the process and machinery through a vast window wall, with the bar and bespoke furniture reflecting this craftsmanship and detail.
The lighting is from Skinflint, Europe’s leading vintage industrial lighting site, who also happen to be neighbours to Origin’s Penryn shop, The Warehouse. Skinflint scours locations across the world to source and restore unique and historic vintage lights. Manufactured in the era from 1920 to 1970, and originally utilised in a wide variety of industrial environments, these lighting fixtures provide a welcome synergy in the customer-facing shop, to the more industrial roastery operations in the neighbouring warehouse.
The new roastery will be so much more than just a building though; it will bring together many elements, from designers, makers, roasters and baristas and will act as a communal hub, not only for Origin’s dedicated team but also for Cornwall’s wider coffee community.
We’re looking forward to waking up and smelling the coffee very soon!