John Watt & Son have roasted Coffee in Carlisle since their original shop opened in Glovers Row in 1865.
Their coffees are so specific to their brand, that their blending recipes are top-notch secret and safeguarded closely. Those same recipes have evolved and been handed down over generation after generation for the past 150 years.
There have been a lot of changes over the years, but one thing remains — John Watt & Sons knows what it means to roast amazing coffee and serve their customers well.
Interview with John Watt & Sons
We recently got the chance to sit down and chat a bit with Peter Johnston, director for John Watt & Sons. These questions that we ask give us a glimpse into their lives to see how coffee has shaped them and the business that they love so much.
How did you get started in the coffee business?
I have served coffee across a number of businesses and when we were looking start our own business and the one we found had a coffee roasting side to it and we decided that provided the best opportunity for us develop and grow our business.
What sparked your interest in coffee roasting?
The need to roast coffee for our shop, website and wholesale customers.
What is the very first cup of coffee you ever remember drinking?
Not sure I can ever own up to that as it was probably Nescafe.
What does your roasting set up look like and how has it changed over the years?
We have moved from Roasting on a gas-powered 1952 open flame roaster to a modern Toper 15kg roaster.
What is your favourite brewing method and do you drink a lot of coffee at home?
V60 because it’s not too faffy and is great for adding to the compost bean but produces a great cup of coffee.
Which coffee origin is your favourite and why?
The one I’m drinking currently each coffee has its own distinct taste and I try to enjoy each one.
What roaster do you use, where do you roast, how often?
Toper 15kg, in our Blackfriars shop we roast 4 days a week ideally roasting to order for our customers.
Does your roaster have a name? If so, is there a story?
Lola, after Lola in the Kinks song because of the challenges we had getting the initial roast profiles set up and the roaster working properly
What is your favourite aspect of roasting coffee?
The challenge of developing the green bean to produce a cup of coffee that people want to buy.
What distinguishes your approach to sourcing and roasting coffee from other roasters?
We purchased a business that was 150 years old so we had a rich heritage of roasting and sourcing ethical coffee we have done our best to enhance and maintain our original roasts and blends.
What gear or gadget is at the top of your coffee wish list?
A smaller roaster so we can roast smaller batches of different coffees.
Do you have a favourite coffee mug? If so, tell us about it.
The one I am using now to drink my coffee.
Do you have a cafe?
We operate 6 cafes alongside our roasting business all of which are very focused on fresh food and we attempt to source everything from within 50 miles making the best of local products and highlighting those suppliers to our customers.
What does the future look like for you? Where do you see your company in the future?
We see ourselves of custodians of John Watt and Son, it is Carlisle’s oldest coffee roaster and retail shop founded in 1865, our aim is to try and secure a future for the business so that is still going strong long after we have gone.
What advice would you give new roasters who are just starting out their careers in coffee?
Enjoy talking to your customers because they know what they like and we have found they may not like all that you roast because of personal taste but they will tell what you think and that feedback is invaluable.
What is your favourite thing to do when you are not roasting coffee?
Eating out, drinking, and watching sports.
When traveling, do you visit other coffee shops and hassle them about their methods or do you relax and take it all in?
Yes but we relax and take it all in.
To see which coffees we are featuring this month, be sure and visit this post on our February Gourmet Coffees.