My Story - In a Coconut Shell:
Rinaldo Colombi ... wearing a big girl's blouse.
If truth be told, I’ve generally pogo’d from job to job like a one-legged tap dancer, hoping that the next gig would bring me some sort of incredible career satisfaction. I’ve been a cabinet maker, a sixth-form teacher, worked in publishing and the outdoor industry. I hoped such jobs would somehow steer me clear of the rat race… but I just ran around that hamster wheel faster and faster, feeling like something fundamental was missing (apologies for mixing rodent metaphors).
I was born in West Cumbria with a stunning view of the Ennerdale fells from my bedroom window. When I say "my bedroom", I mean I shared it with my 4 brothers. My 5 sisters were next door in the "girls' " bedroom, my Italian parents in the next. I got asked a lot whether mum and dad actually owned a TV.
My brother Pietro (left) and yours truly looking like I'd watched too much Bill and Ben.
I grew up on a friendly, non-descript council estate and had a happy childhood, although there was no danger of becoming spoiled, being such a large family. Home life was generally chaotic and in fairness to all my siblings most of the mayhem was generated by me. I remember escaping to the woods, building dens, dreaming of living on wild berries and woodnuts. When I was about 12, I bought my first tent from a catalogue my mam used to manage, and I walked about 20 miles to Wasdale and camped overnight. I must have thought I was Tom Sawyer or something. My love of the fells was truly born that day. Each year, through my teens, I'd head off into the Lakes for longer periods, my parents hardly noticing I was away.
But what I loved more than anything was making stuff with my hands. In the back garden I’d fashion all manner of odd things with my dad: wooden golf putters, overweight skateboards with dodgy wheels, bird boxes that only a crow could love. And at primary school I'd be cutting dovetails at 9 years old and speaking decent French. Daft as it sounds, these were the things that gave me my love of nature and an appreciation for the artisan approach.
Me, front row, far right... The name's Rinaldo, not Ronaldo!
One day, some years back I tasted my first cup of speciality coffee. I was gobsmacked. I didn’t know coffee could possibly be this good – full of flavour with no hint of the harsh bitterness I just assumed was the "coffee taste". Where was that stomach-ache I’d come to expect? I bought another – it tasted even better. I was hooked.
A while later, without quite knowing how, I bought a little van, and began serving my own mobile speciality coffee to the good people of the Lake District. I served coffee at all manner of events: from weddings to cycle sportifs, country shows and farmers’ markets to car-boot sales and antique car rallies. I loved every minute of it. Even on the days when I didn’t make a lot of money, opportunities opened up and I remained positive. Working as a barista, setting my standards high and having people tell me how amazing the coffee tasted, I found incredibly rewarding. I loved the craic, too.
Not your average passenger, but Billy's a great navigator.
Around the same time I got into fine loose-leaf teas too and I wanted to take things further. Again, I realised there was another incredible side to fine teas, not least the huge variety of them. The better the leaf quality, the more I was impressed by the taste. Roasting my own coffee from green beans and selling the very best teas was a natural progression. For the first time in my life things were actually slotting into some sort of order and making sense. And I was really happy in my work.
At the moment, I’m based in Endmoor, just outside Kendal on the edge of the Lake District. I roast on a new Giesen double-drum roaster, which was part funded by a Crowdfunding scheme – my thanks to the 130 backers who supported me and became part of my venture.
Using the sampler to check for aroma as the beans are roasting
I now have a “roastery” (you won’t find that word in the dictionary but it’s on the sign of my building) . How cool is that!
It may not be in the O.E.D., but I have my own "roastery".
I’m committed to the highest-standards of production. I roast only 100% Arabica beans, sourcing all the green beans from individual farmers or small holdings. You can be assured of the provenance of the product - farmers and workers have excellent conditions and are paid a good wage. You can find cheaper commodity coffee anywhere on the high street these days, but it will be sourced en masse and, is usually very bitter, over-roasted, the robusta variety and (there's no other way to say this) just ... awful.
Yes, I'm chuffed that more independent roasters and speciality cafes are popping up like hipster tulips. And long may they spring up! In my mind, bringing better coffee standards to the UK can only be a good thing.
A tulip I grew with my own fair hands
I also support local manufacture and love working on creative projects. Just check out the handmade products range on this site. If you want to know more please get touch.
I hope you enjoy drinking my coffee and teas in all sorts of ways, as much as I love producing them.
Livin' the dream, at last...