Coffee and interview with Shaun Young
The story of Shaun Young is a fascinating one: from discovering coffee while working in a Sydney Indian restaurant, to learning from Taylor St Baristas and Kaffeine, launching his own coffee cart, developing a thriving event coffee business and team, and recently launching The Estate Dairy specialising in producing milk for coffee. All in a few short years.
When Shaun left school he tagged along with some friends who were heading to New Zealand to play rugby and ended up working in the restaurant and hospitality business in Sydney for a year and a half. Strictly a milk and sugar coffee drinker before, Shaun was turned onto great coffee by a roaster who lived nearby and by the team at one of Sydney’s top Indian restaurants where he worked. Back in Chester, his home city, in 2010, Shaun ended up going on a one day barista course in Bradford which set Shaun on a path for the next few years.
Shaun’s coffee ‘baptism of fire’ came at the high volume, high quality, Taylor St Baristas. While at Taylor St, Shaun became the UK AeroPress champion which led to him visiting Portland for the world final and meeting AeroPress inventor Alan Adler. Next came Kaffeine with great lessons in hospitality from Peter Dore-Smith. The whole Kaffeine team supported Shaun through UK Barista Championships entry – even Anne from Koppi and DJ Tim Westwood were roped in for practice sessions.
Shorty after this, Shaun left Kaffeine to launch his own coffee cart, Noble Espresso. Early events including festivals built connections which led to the spot at Kings Cross, through KERB, which is where Noble has thrived through their combination of great coffee, swift service and relaxed chat. Along the way Shaun has attracted a great team of baristas to Noble and it has developed into a successful event coffee business making coffee for the likes of the BBC, Nike, Google and Facebook.
We caught up with Shaun for coffees and to talk about the secrets behind his success with Noble Espresso and now The Estate Dairy.
LBC: In the early days of Noble I remember you hardly turned anything down. You ended up doing a wide range of events where you might not expect to find speciality coffee.
Shaun: The events started getting better and better after a while so we started doing larger events and more high profile events. We needed help from our friends in the industry. There were so many people that supported us … people like Ross from Browns of Brockley and Gavin from Fields Beneath. People have been super supportive. The calibre of baristas who have worked for us at events has really helped too.
LBC: How are you able to pick out those baristas who are not only skilled with coffee but skilled with people?
Shaun: When I first started I thought this would be a big problem because you can buy all the latest coffee gear but if you haven’t got the right people, well, let’s just say that we have been very fortunate with baristas we’ve hired. Obviously the environment helps and we strive to create a relaxed environment. We’ve worked with so many young people who, despite their youth, have years of experience in coffee. Then watching Louis’s journey has been amazing – him going from not knowing about coffee to being more than good enough to do his own thing. He’s currently teaching people about coffee in Barcelona. I believe that If people are into what they are doing they’re going to come across in the right way. If you pay people well and provide the right environment, you’ll get the best out of people.
LBC: How did The Estate Dairy come about?
Shaun: Rebecca, my business partner, and I we were home last Christmas and her dad is an ex-dairy farmer. He said to me as a joke that he should supply milk for Noble. I laughed it off but for some reason it stuck in my mind. We came back down to London and I didn’t have that many events on so we had time to plan and focus on what we wanted to achieve. With staff like Gabriel, Tom and Nico, the cart was running itself so we looked into the milk thing more. Being introduced to Morten Münchow by Dan Thompson of Soho House was one of the best things that has happened. Morten is a leading dairy scientist from Denmark and had been experimenting with milk specifically for coffee. The concept stemmed from that introduction and is probably the most incredible journey I have ever taken. It was months of visiting farms, talking to people visiting shops and now that it’s in motion it’s very fulfilling.
LBC: How many clients do you have now?
Shaun: We have forty clients now: three in Leeds and thirty-seven here in London. Our milk is processed in Leeds and were considering moving into Manchester next - into places like Takk who use The Barn and a few others in Manchester and Sheffield possibly. Our biggest drops are Notes - particularly in their Canary Wharf sites where they are just so busy. And credit to Fabio (Ferreira – Notes founder and roaster) because he supported The Estate Dairy from about six months ago. It was a huge risk on my shoulders but having the backing of Fabio really helped. Gentleman Baristas have been really supportive as well.
LBC: What’s next?
Shaun: I want The Estate Dairy to grow naturally and ensure we can provide the right level of service. The research we are doing with Morten and research student Line is very exciting. It’s a learning curve on the farm for us and it’s a learning curve for them as well to try and implement this research. I came away from meeting them with a feeling that everything would be incredible - what they are doing has never been done in the UK and will enhance our project so much. Morten brought a range of milks including some from Copenhagen and he had data on what the cows had eaten. We could taste the effects. We’re always trying to push it forward and we want to try to release the milk in versions. The next version will be a vast improvement on this one.
LBC: What are the variables?
Shaun: Fat content, diet, ratio of Jersey to Holstein milk: we can adjust those accordingly and see what suits. Aroma, flavour and sweetness can be enhanced through feed. We are working with people who are on the next level of sensory science.
Look out for The Estate Dairy milk at coffee shops throughout London and be sure to visit Noble Espresso’s Kings Cross coffee cart as often as you can!
Photos by Jonny Simpson.