Anyone who spent any time lurking around the Fox pits at Fort William would have seen Adam Saunders, the man behind Trail Coffee Co. brewing up his wares.
Coffee and bikes are increasingly two pastimes that go hand-in-hand. Adam Saunders is the one man band behind The Trail Coffee Company that aims to bring high end coffee to riders both at home and on the trail.
Who is Adam Saunders?
31 years old Yorkshire born, bred and obviously proud!
Now living in the North East in the town of Rowlands Gill, I never wanted to leave Yorkshire but Emma my better half was enough to tempt me away… just. Life’s about adventures so moving 100 miles was just another chapter. I am mad for anything outdoors, camping, biking, hiking, and I appreciate how lucky we are to have the beautiful landscapes we have on offer in the UK. On top of that I have worked outside all my life as a landscape gardener and I am a qualified tree surgeon.
What’s your background in cycling and the cycling industry?
No cycle industry experience.
My background is not riding from a young age unfortunately for me, I discovered my passion for two wheels a lot later in life, I always enjoyed bike rides as a kid but never got into it really serious, no BMX, no dirt jumps, no local woods for me, just an £80 bike was the best thing I ever had bashing down country lanes.
My background was actually on 4 wheels, after a successful run of 7 years having won numerous karting championships I wanted to move away from it as I had done it flat out 110% commitment and it wore me and my wallet out.
Biking was more accessible, so in 2012 it started with local XC rides, then before I knew it I was riding downhill and racing enduros. I did 3 years racing in the PMBA enduro races. Now I look for the next big adventure, big mountain rides tick the box as well as natural off piste trails, trail centres don’t hit the spot any more but they have their place for a quick blast.
I now concentrate my riding time to enduro style and big mountain rides, and bike packing, with the occasional road bashing session to grab some extra miles and uplift days at bike parts too. It’s not just the adrenaline that I get from riding, its the places I get to go and the places my bike takes me that a massive part. I wouldn’t have seen half the amazing stuff I have if I hadn’t got into biking.
How did Trail Coffee Company come about?
That is a very good question. A little bit like the karting and mountain biking I don’t do things in halves, my mother’s words. When I find a new interest I don’t play at it, If it gets the juices flowing I get right into it and I do it properly and get fully engulfed in what I am doing, I am deep with passion and I guess I have an addictive personality.
High-end coffee drinking can be quite pretentious in some cases but I wanted to open speciality coffee drinking outside and break these barriers down, and provide speciality coffee drinking to anyone who wants to give it ago, and combine it with brewing methods that are easily accessible and very easy to use, and simple to re create a really perfect cup of coffee, at home, in the van, motorhome, on a camping trip and of course to fuel bike rides.
Just to add speciality coffee is graded on a points scale of 0-100 and anything that scored 80 or above it graded as speciality coffee. Your average supermarket bag of coffee is not specialty.
Also the benefits of coffee are of huge importance to riding, as caffeine by itself can promote fat metabolism and retain muscle glycogen really well. It’s not that well known that black coffee before ride in the morning may increase the amount of fat you burn too so it’s a win win, drinking some fine coffee and combining it with benefits to your riding. Our first blend sticks Pass is a medium roast so has a high caffeine content so really gets you going, I always have a mug before a ride and it pays dividends.
So my interest in coffee is very similar. Obviously like everyone instant coffee is the starting point, not great but it could only get better. Later in life I moved onto French press and ground coffee and quite enjoyed the flavour and much better experience it gave me, the variations in origins, flavours, different roasts, and as I have got more into mountain biking I have gotten more into my coffee, there seems to be a strong connection between mountain biking and cycling, as well as the outdoors in general.
One thing lead to another and slowly I bought more and more brewing gadgets over time, stove top was an exciting phase, we then got a home espresso machine, Emma my other half is a qualified barista so she’s taught me a hell of a lot especially on the machine, how to pull a good shot of espresso and makes a killer latte.
Next came drip and pour-over brewing, but don’t get me wrong I choose to brew different everyday, it depends what mood I’m in and what gadget I want to play with I actually enjoy the simplicity the French press gives, and you can get a cracking brew with no huge ordeal.
So many different coffees to try, and the whole excitement of the flavours and the added fascination of brewing in so many different ways getting a whole variation of results just drew me in. My fascination grew rapidly, and before I knew it I was starting my own coffee company with my own blend. I don’t know how I got to that point but it was the natural progression and the next stage in my coffee craze.
I just one day had this obvious opportunity right in front of me, I armed myself with knowledge, did a tonne of research and really started considering the possibility and feasibility of starting an outdoor themed coffee brand, having my own business has always been on the radar for me so an obvious opportunity in many ways so I went with my gut feeling.
Had you had any experience in coffee or coffee-making kit production before?
In terms of making kit production, the stuff I stock is made by GSI Outdoors an American outdoor camping and backpacking cookware. I had become quite interested in their kit myself and bought a load of their stuff, and I think its amazing stuff, so it seemed obvious to sell a product that I already had a passion for.
How did you choose which suppliers to use?
A lot of research to source the coffee. I have a roaster with over 40 years of experience, I cant match that knowledge yet on my own, so for now I work with him, we sit down and play around with different blends and roasts to come up with one good enough that I am satisfied with.
How many people make up Trail Coffee Company and what do they do?
It’s a one man band just me. The fun of a sole trader. The important part too, packaging all the coffee fresh to order, I never ever pre-grind beans until a purchase is made, this is to ensure maximum freshness gets all the way to our customer. This can add time from an order getting places to it arriving however its my approach, ultimately the best way is to buy a bag of whole bean coffee and grind it at home but not everyone has facility to grind.
What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?
A lot of my spare time, some riding time, as you know a new business doesn’t start on fresh air. I still have a day job so I have to work around this, and the ultimate cost to that is long days as I am busy every evening, and my bike stays parked up when normally I would be out riding, hopefully that balance will re set eventually when the day comes that I leave my job to keep up with the demand of The Trail Coffee Co.
Did you have any other opportunities that you had to give up to make this work?
Probably just holidays, extra riding trips, just to give myself the extra time to commit to it, as well as leave myself with more finance to invest in stock.
Has any work you’ve done before helped with get the company off the ground?
Yes I often look back and appreciate the experience I have had, both in my work and just general life experience gave me the confidence to take the plunge. I have always had good mix over the later years in landscaping of doing a good chunk of office based work so I have a pretty good understanding of customer service, social media management, I am no social media wizard though but my experience as admin on pages has had a big influence.
I am no expert however so I am learning so much as I go which is another thing that gets me excited, life’s to short not to learn and develop and discover new things and learn new skills. The more strings in your bow the better right?
How many variations in course did you have before getting to the final offering?
The coffee roasting takes time, selecting the beans, getting a flavour that fits with me and that I think people will like. Our first blend Sticks Pass, is a medium roast, very flavoursome and not roasted to death which actually keeps more caffeine in the bean, and also keep the flavours and allows them to come through.
My grinder let me down before Fort William, I was actually supposed to be there Friday also but I was not able to grind my beans to enable me to brew at Fort William. I’ve invested in a new grinder now, it has all the bells and whistles and now I have a back up one so hopefully disasters like that will be avoided.
Tasting endless coffee, and getting positive feedback on the flavour of my first blend once I started trading and people started buying. People have really become interested and the response to the brand has been incredibly positive which is really satisfying for me.
Getting Scotty Laughland on board, Scotty is a pioneer of coffee and bikes. He knows a good cup of coffee when he tastes it and he seems to be able to handle a bike at considerable speed so working with him was a completely obvious choice, he’s a cool guy, and I’m really looking forward to working with him.
Where next for Trail Coffee Company? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?
I want to increase the choice of coffee we have, as we only have one blend at the moment, a single origin is on the cards, I did not want to release a load of different coffee beans as this would not be exciting, and it would make it difficult at the point of starting up to process orders as everything is packaged to order nothing is pre-bagged whatsoever, fresh beans are prepared in what ever way our customer chooses.
Back to the new coffee, I have just spoken to Scotty Laughland about the next one, we are going to choose it together, he knows a good brew when he tastes one.
Some cool content will be landing at some point over the summer to show case what people can do and where you can go with coffee. Some videos demonstrating the kits and our coffee and how easy it is to get fine tasting coffee and replicate it anywhere outdoors or simply away from the home.
I plan on attending some events in the future to sell our beans, the brew kits, as well as some damn fine cups of coffee, this is in the planning pipeline at this stage.
In terms of extra helpers I hope to employ some extra hands in the future once it gets too much for me on my own, however It will always be me steering the boat.
Anybody to thank at this point in the journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?
Emma my partner, she knows the score, if I set about achieving something then I go after it and put 110% of my effort and attention into it, there for my natural selective hearing really kicks in because my brain is processing all things coffee, coffee ideas, new variations and ideas for the website. Emma is qualified barista and used to work as a barista so she’s pulled a shot or two and ground a few beans over the years so coffee is widely accepted in our house hold.
My friends, well they never knew there was so much to the perfect cup, I am pretty sure some think I am barking bad with the effort I put into brewing, I like it to be right, good coffee can be easily spoilt when its brewed badly.
For everything Trail Coffee Company-related, get yourself over to their website here.