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Lee and Fletcher Have Been Roasting Coffee in Basford for Thirty Years

18 November 20 words: Eve Smallman
photos: Curtis Powell

There’s nothing like taking a sip of a proper cup of coffee. The tantalising scent as it hits your throat, warm and bitter, utterly smooth and delicious. Jim Lee knows all about that – he supplies coffee to some of the city’s best bars and restaurants like Bar Iberico, Copper, and the Hockley Arts Club, making sure you get the perfect caffeine fix. To celebrate him reaching thirty years of doing just that, we took a gander down to the Lee and Fletcher warehouse to have a chat with him about how they handle the good stuff…

I’d never ventured to Basford before, so had to consult Google Maps to help me find the Lee and Fletcher warehouse. I turned a corner, and suddenly I didn’t need directions anymore – I could smell the roasted coffee beans. Yum. Jim sat me and the photographer down and offered us a cup of coffee. Double yum. He tells me how he set up the business after being inspired by a trip to India, where he was invited to someone’s home where they happened to be roasting coffee, and began to spy what was then an untapped market for good quality coffee in the UK. He was right on the money – last year, 95 million cups of coffee were consumed here a day, an increase of 25 million over the past 10 years. 

“Coffee is like wine – there are so many different things about each type. You can always learn something new about it too, whether it's about the growing or the processing, the roasting or the brewing, and what people like, what they don't like,” Jim tells me. “Attitudes have really changed about it too – when I started I was considered eccentric for having two varieties, but now I have 75 and people understand the difference between them. We can also do an infinite range of flavours by blending together different proportions and roasting lighter or darker.”

With thirty years in the business, Jim has experienced his share of joyful moments. One highlight was having their bespoke beast of a coffee roaster handmade in Northern Italy. “We’re a family business, so it was really lovely to have another family business make the machine for us. We had a week’s holiday in Lecco to see the factory where it was made, and the owner of the business came here to install it for us,” Jim says. “It’s a very personal world, the coffee world – it relies on relationships between people.”

This runs across the whole business, including their relationships with the farmers who grow the beans. Jim continues: “We’ve got a number of One to One coffees, where we get all their beans that come into the UK. One of them called Omar Rodriguez came and did a talk in London a couple of years ago.” When we venture upstairs to see where the magic happens, I spy Omar’s beans proudly stacked up. “The people who grow coffee, ship coffee, roast coffee, we’ll all often get together and discuss different things and meet often. It's kind of a global club!”

When it comes to providing his repertoire of Nottingham venues with coffee and machines, he makes sure that they get the best coffee and the best service too. “We always make sure we buy very good quality beans, we make sure that it's roasted well, looked after well, and we roast to order so there's no product sitting on the shelf doing nothing,” Jim says. “If someone's got a problem with their machine, or they phoned us up and say the coffee's not right, we go around, fix it, and then we make sure that we look after the quality of the product that they're selling, as the end cup of coffee has got to be good too.”

As I’m cradling my second coffee, I think about how many cups I’ve consumed over gossips with mates, brainstorms with work colleagues, and discussions with dates. Coffee really helps create cherished bonds with people, and it’s remarkable finding out how many cherished bonds go into making that happen. When you’re in town doing the same thing – and potentially even reading this – chances are you’ll be drinking a cup of one of Lee and Fletcher’s many gorgeous blends, made with passion and soul from bean to cup.

Lee and Fletcher website

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