Glasgow is well-known for its post-industrial architecture, art galleries and music clubs. Another reason for visiting this distinctive city is its speciality coffee. The Good Coffee Cartel brings the roasting craft into the Southside of Glasgow. We talked to Todd Whiteford and Courtney Brennan who told us the story behind the opening of The Good Coffee Cartel. After several years of serving coffee, roasting and consulting they settled down in Kinning Park area and carried out their vision for what an ideal coffee company should look like.
As Todd says: “We see The Good Coffee Cartel as a place where we can create our own path and a genuine community of like-minded people, working together to just simply do things better.”
Learn about The Good Coffee Cartel in the following interview!
How did you start the roasting business?
We had been working together at another coffee roastery in Glasgow for some time and felt limited by it. We had a series of conversations that tended to start like “wouldn’t it be great if there was a roastery like this…” or “what if there was a roastery that did this…”. Over beers after work one day we asked ourselves what was stopping us just doing it. The answer, which I imagine is quite a common answer, was ‘money’. So we cobbled together a business plan and some financials and went and got a loan. With that out of the way, we ended up taking a lease on the first site that we looked at, which was an old auto-parts store in Kinning Park. It took us three months to do all the building work.
What do you enjoy about being based in Glasgow?
Glasgow, especially the Southside of Glasgow is exciting just now. There are lots of really interesting and unique independent businesses opening up in these areas where previously you’d think they would never work, so it’s nice to be part of that new wave of innovation and newness.
With a growing number of roasters out there, what do you consider to be your mission?
Being a coffee roaster, to us, means fulfilling our responsibilities to everybody else in the supply chain of coffee. We see the roasting process as the axis on which everything else depends, so it’s our obligation to do the very best we can to do justice to the hard work at origins and at the same time give the best product to baristas to work with.
Do you roast omni, or filter and espresso roasts? And why so?
We omni roast currently. We keep a small, seasonal range of coffees with the intention that one will be a super tasty espresso and the others will be delicious filters. So right now our Colombian is what we recommend for people as espresso (although it also tastes good as a filter) and our Ethiopian and Guatemalan are delicious filters (although some of our customers brew them as espresso with great success).
Who are your mentors? What inspires you?
There’s a guy called Thom Barnett who runs Mamnick which is an outdoor-inspired clothing brand. He sells clothing of the highest quality but absolutely does not compromise on who he is, and he does what he likes, says what he likes. It’s good for us to see people who stick to their principles while keeping a unique—and in his case hilarious—voice and personality.
Round Hill Roastery just outside Bath in England are doing some great stuff right now. Some of the tastiest coffee in the last 3 years has been from them. And they do it in their own way, with some very engaging marketing.
Do you have a favourite coffee origin?
We’re both fans of Colombian coffee. There are layers of complexity with big differences from region to region. So, on one hand, you can have something that has quite a traditional, comfortable flavour profile and on the other, you can have a coffee that is totally unusual and amazing. It is also a very beautiful country. Rwandan coffees can be exquisite as well, it would be great to get a wee origin trip out there at some point.
Where do you see The Good Coffee Cartel in five years?
We’d like to be influencing the industry in a meaningful way and be continuing to innovate bravely. We have a ‘keys to the city’ mentality: we’re not looking to squeeze everyone for every penny we can, we feel like you can achieve a better life by helping people on the way up and taking risks to inspire the next generation of coffee professionals. The result of which is when it comes time to walk away, the people we helped will remember us as the good guys in the industry.
Photos: Matt Beech, courtesy of The Good Coffee Cartel