We are huge coffee fans so when our friends at SmallBatch Coffee in Brighton approached us about a collaboration with one of their farms in India, we jumped at the chance. Now we introduce their main man, Alan Tomlins as part of our Soul People series.
Who are you?
My name is Alan Tomlins and I'm the MD of SmallBatch Coffee.
How did you first get into the coffee game?
Completely by accident! I’d been working as a chef for years and wanted to work in the daytime rather than the night.
Can you tell us a bit about the farm in India that supplies the beans for our collab coffee? We’ve been buying from the Bibi Plantation since 2007 our first year of roasting so its one of our longest farm relationships. The farm is run by Faiz Moosakutty who took on the family plantation in the early 1990’s. It’s located in the Coorg hills in Karnataka, South-East India where most of the Arabica coffee in India comes from, as well as coffee Faiz grows peppercorns and figs.
How did the collab with Soul & Surf come about?
We’ve known Joe for a long time, he helped us make our film The Origin and was a Small Batch regular when he lived here and when the opportunity came to source an Indian coffee for Soul and Surf and to have it served in Kerala and Sri Lanka we were stoked!
What is the biggest issue in the coffee industry that you’d like to change/fix/stop?
A reliance on the international commodity markets and currency rates. This past year we saw a 15-20% increase in our green coffee costs because the pound is now so weak against the dollar after Brexit. All coffee is fundamentally traded in $USD so over night our costs increased significantly.
We are not against paying higher prices year on year for our coffee. We work closely with producers like Faiz to build sustainable relationships that will be profitable for all involved and we are able to pay rates far above the market price or Fairtrade minimums. It is therefore intensely frustrating when we have to take on cost increase like this and it is of no benefit to the producer at the start of the supply chain. Crypto currencies provide an interesting model for tackling this in the future.
Who or what inspires you to do what you do?
It sounds cheesey as hell but coffee producers like Faiz inspire me more than anyone. When you are lucky enough to visit coffee farms or co-operatives and see the insane amount of work that goes into producing coffee it inspires you to be better, to do a good job with that coffee and to understand you are the final link in a very long, challenging and hugely complicated supply chain.
What do you like doing when you’re not running tings at SmallBatch?
Playing cricket, riding my mountain bike and Telemark skiing when the season and funds permit.
What does soul mean to you?
How your words and actions affect the world around you.