The coffee roasters recently moved their premises to Glenrothes and will be opening their first-ever cafe in Edinburgh this weekend following the launch of their new hot chocolate.
One of the UK’s fastest-growing speciality coffee roasters, Modern Standard, based in Glenrothes, has just launched its first hot chocolate, with cocoa beans coming directly from farmers in Colombia.
Having already won contracts to sell Modern Standard coffee in the likes of Sainsbury’s, and supply it to Ole and Steen, VISA, Channel 4 and Amazon’s UK headquarters, Five Guys and Locke Aparthotels, founder Lynsey Harley has fast been building up a reputation in the industry.
This weekend, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Lynsey is opening a Modern Standard cafe in Edinburgh’s Barclay Place, which will serve its award-winning Momentum Espresso, as well as rotating single origins from Bolivia, Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia or Guatemala where Lynsey travels to source her beans from.
On opening the cafe, Glenrothes-born Lynsey says it’s been a plan she’s had for a long time.
“It’s been a long-held dream of mine to return to Edinburgh, where I went to university and where I had my first job in a big brand coffee shop, and open my own café.
“When I left the city there was little or no coffee scene and then the industry just exploded. Ever since that first job my passion has been for coffee. I have been lucky enough to travel the world discovering and buying great coffee so I am very excited to be able to bring, what I think is, the very best coffee in the world to my old hometown. With our roastery based in Glenrothes, the beans don’t have too far to travel either.”
Opening the cafe will be a major step for Modern Standard, which recently moved its roastery from Essex to Fife.
Lynsey says: “I’m originally from Glenrothes but once I finished uni in Edinburgh I moved down to London. The business was originally based in Essex and early 2019 we were looking at moving anyway as we were needing more space.
“My mum had this ‘crazy idea’ about us moving the business back to Glenrothes as renting warehouses down in the south of England is crazy expensive. The more I was looking for a bigger space, the more her crazy idea didn’t seem so crazy.”
Moving on up
Lynsey continues, “So we moved the roastery in December last year to Glenrothes, and all my staff that were at the Essex branch also moved with it. Some of them were from Essex, some were from Europe but I took them up to Scotland for a weekend trip and said ‘isn’t it lovely?’ and they all loved it.
“They all moved up and seem to still like it now. We’re based back in my hometown and it feels really natural because we never really felt at home in Essex. Now, where we’re at, I feel like we are pretty much where we’re meant to be.”
New hot chocolate
Last month, the brand stepped away from coffee for a moment to launch its first-ever hot chocolate blend, after Lynsey came across a family supplier in Colombia called Casa Luker.
She says: “Casa Luker are a sort of farmer/producer/processor in Colombia. We had loads of customers asking about hot chocolate as a lot on the market have loads of sugar. It was about 30% chocolate and 70% sugar. So we did some research and to get the powder out of the chocolate you need to get a hydraulic press and not many chocolate companies have that.
“Sometimes if you go somewhere for a hot chocolate, you’ll see the fat bubbles on top. That’s because they’ve literally just melted some chocolate and added milk – they haven’t pressed out the fat. So after lots of research we realised we had to find a chocolate manufacturer who could turn the cocoa into a powder.
“Casa Luker had the equipment in Colombia, meaning they can make it all at source. We tried lots of different percentages and we found that 52% felt to be the magic number – it’s delicious.
“Some people don’t find it sweet enough though because they’re so used to having the 70% sugar hot chocolates, whereas this one is 48% – but we just say you can add more sugar if that’s the case. So if they want to make it sweeter, they at least have that choice.
“The Times also ran a feature on our hot chocolate a couple of weeks ago – there seems to have been a lot of people interested, though. It’s got quite an ‘adult taste’ I think. It’s creamy and it’s more full-flavoured.”
Like many roasters, Lynsey visits her suppliers in person, to help maintain relationships with them, and came across Casa Luker on one of her regular trips to visit her suppliers in South America.
She said: “When you could take long-haul flights to different countries and travel, I used to go and visit all of our origin partners for the coffee. We came across Casa Luker after a bit of research and I went to Colombia last summer to maintain the relationships with our coffee farmers, and spent a couple of days where the Casa Luker farm is. We tasted it all, saw how they processed it and figured it all out. You want to be able to make sure that what you buy is actually what you get.
“They supply chocolate to quite a few of the artisan chocolate manufacturers and do everything from cocoa powder to the raw cocoa bean, to the actual couverture for the chocolatiers – they do everything.”
So, how did Modern Standard begin?
Having worked in coffee roasteries for many years, Lynsey found a gap in the market and set about making her own coffee brand and business a reality.
She says: “The business came about as I had worked in large-scale coffee roasteries for years and was getting super frustrated at a multitude of things. When you work with people that you struggle to respect, it makes you want to go off and do your own thing, so there was that and a lot of our customers at the time who wanted a speciality and the big national coffee roasteries couldn’t deliver that, but the small ones couldn’t deliver the scale of service.
“There was a gap in the middle for a speciality coffee roaster who could deliver good commercial, solid support, technical service, and all of the other stuff that the big companies could. I wanted to aim for that little space in the middle. It took me about two and a half years to figure it all out, including the finances and how the customers would work.
“Then the name Modern Standard was a funny one. A friend of mine started his design agency about the same time I was starting the coffee business, and so he did the logo and I told him everything that I wanted the business to be so he said he would go away and help me think of some names as the one I had chosen he told me was rubbish. From the ones he came back with, Modern Standard was the best of the bunch.
“For a long time I really struggled with the name as I thought it sounded a bit pretentious, but actually in the end, I’ve really quite grown to like it.”
For more information, visit modernstandardcoffee.co.uk. Every pack of hot chocolate sold includes a 10p donation to social projects in Colombia, improving the lives and futures of cocoa farmers and their families as well as safeguarding the land.