Boasting their own micro-roastery tucked away in a picturesque courtyard, and neighbouring an artists’ workshop, Nude Espresso also runs two independent coffee shops. One on Hanbury Street, a stone’s throw from Brick Lane, and another in Soho Square, right in the heart of London’s bustling west end.
Both cafes serve their own unique signature blends that have been aged for at least 7 days, producing intense flavours. It’s a unique offering that won Nude Espresso the title of independent cafe of the year in 2010. This is certainly more than your average coffee house.
The antipodean-run roastery is living proof that your soulless high street frapuccino is as close to a traditional coffee as a spoonful of supermarket freeze-dry. These coffee connoisseurs take the art of brewing extremely seriously, and even expect customers to send their coffee back if it isn’t up to scratch.
Founder and owner Richard Reed told Humans Invent that the inspiration behind the Nude Espresso brand came from getting back to the basics of what really goes into a world class cup of coffee. The Nude Espresso ethos stems from Reed’s experience too, gleaned from years learning his trade, traveling the globe in search of the holy grail – the perfect espresso.
“When I finished school and went to University, I used to work in cafes, working closely in coffee production.” he explains. “I was lucky enough at that stage, which was 22 years ago, that a number of coffee roasting businesses were being set up in Wellington, where I am from in New Zealand.
“They were kind of like the wild west of coffee. Sourcing their own beans, making their own machines, and running their businesses in a new way. I learned a lot from those guys, and continued to work with coffee in the hospitality industry. I always loved it, and became fascinated with it, and every place I went no one really knew how to make the perfect coffee, or really understood the details and complexity of the process.
“I went to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and England, and eventually we got enough money together to start Nude Espresso. The name came from trying to strip back the layers of the process. To demystify it slightly, so people actually know what is in a quality cup of coffee.”
A new wave of micro-roasterys springing up in the UK coincided with the boom in popularity of the flat white coffee in 2009. A concept freshly imported from Australia and New Zealand, it used microfoam to produce a velvety texture, and incorporated latte art to make the surface of the drink visually appealing. It was a hit, and soon became the signature of independent coffee shops from Edinburgh to Belfast, as well as London.
But while many see the flat white as a fad, Reed highlights the wider interest in coffee it has sparked. Consumers have now tuned in to coffee as a quality product, and at Nude Espresso, the quality of bean, and dedication to understanding the complexity of flavours is key to a successful business.
The attention to detail is remarkable, with every bean hand picked, and each batch carefully inspected to assess its ripeness before roasting.
“I guess the main thing is we focus on quality. We try and source everything ourselves, produce everything ourselves, and control all the steps all the way through. And our major goal is to create the best quality product we can,” says Reed.
“A lot of the beans we get are from Brazil, from some quite small farms which we have been buying off for the last three years, and also farms in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia.
“We actually use three separate beans for our espresso, 60% Brazilian, 20% Costa Rican, and 20% Nicaraguan, which makes a lovely coffee. But it took time to get this right.”
While the quality of bean and combination of flavours is paramount, the Nude Espresso experience isn’t complete without a connoisseur managing the process from end to end. That means even the waiters and waitresses have a solid knowledge of the coffee they are serving, and are able to effortlessly walk customers through exactly where their cup of joe originated from.
“We want all our staff to understand what we do and the lengths we go to in sourcing and producing our coffee. We want them to feel comfortable in talking to the customers about it. They actually have a nice conversation with our staff, who can actually explain where that coffee is from, why we roasted it that way, and why we serve it in that manner.”
In Humans Invent’s exclusive behind the scenes video of Reed’s roastery, the dedication and attention to detail in the roasting process is revealed. Details about every batch of beans Reed has ever roasted are tirelessly noted down, from weather conditions during their storage to room temperature, and the exact roasting temperature. His quest for the perfect roast, and the sourcing of the diverse collections of beans it takes to produce it, is a daily labour of love.
But there was still one question we had to ask: is it really blasphemous to order milk with your coffee, as many coffee afficionados insist?
“You have to be realistic about it,” says Reed. “A lot of really nice coffees that are single origins are better to be drunk black, because they have quite delicate and subtle flavours. Whereas with espresso based coffee, everything is made from the same base, and the most popular drinks we sell are milk based. So we have to make sure the coffee we roast works well with milk, but also works well as an espresso. But we believe our signature blends achieve this.”
In the mass market world of quick-hit caffeine fixes, Nude Espresso’s attention to detail, honesty about its product and painstaking research is a genuine tonic. Hand-crafted artisan roasteries are difficult to get off the ground, but Reed’s hard work, attention to every detail, and well trodden experience, make him a master craftsman of his trade. Once you have seen how real coffee is made, you won’t be going back to a chain any time soon.