The success story of Brazier's Roastery Café, Wellington
PUBLISHED: 14:33 05 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:33 05 February 2019
Chrissy Harris follows her nose to uncover a secret success story hidden away in an old Wellington factory
Left off the B3187, past bits of abandoned building, pause to question whether this is correct, up some steps – and enter.
It’s a ritual performed by many a first-time visitor to Brazier’s Roastery Café in Wellington, which only adds to the appeal of this hidden haven of good coffee, great food and cool people.
Owners Tom and Claire Brazier set up here in Unit 10, Tonedale Mill in 2016, initially just to roast, grind and pack the coffee beans they source from around the world as part of their wholesale business.
But things have slowly brewed into something much bigger. The unit is now the Roastery Café, which has just expanded to include more of Wellington’s historic mill building. The site, which dates back to 1790, was once the largest of its kind in the region.
In addition, Brazier has just brought in top local chef Steven Kiernan to head up the kitchen and boost the foodie side of this increasingly popular spot.
Tom says he’s delighted with how the business is growing.
“Part of our success is that it’s so surprising to walk through the building and find this space full of local people,” he says, explaining that he moved to Wellington nearly three years ago with his Australian wife Claire, determined to bring a better quality brew into our lives.
The coffee-mad couple were looking for a cheap, off-the-beaten-track sort of premises to set up their roastery, aware that not everyone likes the smoke produced (I love that smell). Unit 10, Tonedale Mill seemed perfect.
“It’s a fantastic building,” says Tom, talking about the site, part of a complex of mostly empty 18th century buildings that were once home to world-famous cloth makers Fox Brothers.
“I quite like the fact we’re out of the way, too,” adds Tom. “There isn’t much signage – partly because I haven’t got around to putting any up - but also partly because I enjoy it being a bit of a local secret.
“I’ve had loads of people tell me they’ve been driving around for ages and can’t find it.”
The secret is starting to get out and Tom recently added an extra 20 covers to keep up with demand for Brazier’s menu, which includes locally baked bread and cakes.
Elsewhere, Brazier Coffee has just opened a café in The Brewhouse, Taunton, the town’s theatre and arts centre, plus the firm has a café in Coldharbour Mill over the border in Devon.
All this on top of a successful wholesale trade, gradually supplying more and more independent cafés and coffee shops across the South West.
“It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s going really well,” says Tom. “People have really embraced it.”
Brazier’s high-grade beans are sourced from all over the world, including Ethiopia, Burundi, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Columbia and Guatamala and are thought to be among the finest in the world.
Tom says he has built up good relationships with the growers and suppliers, regularly making trips aboard to meet the people at the heart of the coffee trade.
“We have a real transparent nature,” he says, adding that he’s fresh back from a trip to Rwanda. “We need to know exactly what’s going on at every step of the supply chain.
“I really enjoy how multifaceted this business is. One day you’re out meeting the growers, the next, you’re in the workshop, fixing a coffee machine or organising menus and polishing glasses for one of our secret supper events.
“You have to wear about twenty different hats, which is great for me. I’m not exactly great at any one thing but I’m moderate at everything. It suits me!”
Tom is too modest – he is clearly very good at running a brilliant independent coffee business.
On an ordinary weekday mid-morning, the Roastery Café is packed full of post-school-run parents, new customers who’ve just found the place and staff from Fox Brothers, now based over the road.
Cloth designer Rosemarie Boon is here for her usual flat white.
“It’s great being just next door,” she says. “The café has a good atmosphere and the people are lovely.”
That’s a pretty perfect blend.
Altitude: Brazier’s flagship blend, has a smooth, nutty and caramel flavour that can only be achieved by seeking out some of the hardest to reach green beans. As a flat white, it’s said to taste like a crème caramel.
Latitude: a take on a classic Antipodean blend. A Colombian coffee is typically used as the base, giving caramel, dark chocolate and nutty flavours.
Longitude: is a post roast blend, which means a mix of profiles, from deep, robust and full bodied French roasts to light, nuanced and sweet city roasts.
Single origin: this includes beans from Hawaii, Bolivia and Mexico. Each new batch that arrives at the roastery is put through a rigorous testing and tasting process.