WHEN Lisa Lawson returned to Glasgow from her travels she thought she’d never drink another cup of coffee again.
After enjoying blended, fresh coffee while working in Australia she developed an interest in roasting and coffee origins.
However, dark, stale brews put her off when she came back home and she didn’t touch it. However, after a catalogue of unsuccessful employment opportunity, Ms Lawson made a life-changing decision. She bought a coffee roaster and weeks later her business Dear Green was born.
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Now she is preparing for Dear Green’s 10th anniversary and the business has survived a global pandemic.
“I can’t quite believe that we are 10 years on and when I look back I wonder what on earth I was thinking,” said Ms Lawson. “I had been roasting coffee in Australia and it was just something I fell in love with. I stopped drinking coffee when I got home as it was all stale, dark, terrible roasts and I thought I’m never going to have that great experience or taste again. It got to the point where I had various jobs when I returned, but have always worked in businesses aligned to hospitality and was interested in flavours and how they work.
“I worked in the wine industry and managed a store in the west end, but I had a couple of terrible employment experiences. I had no grand plan for a business, but I decided to buy a coffee roaster. I knew that I was a hard worker and that people would invest in me and trusted me and here we are – I’ve never looked back.”
Glasgow Coffee Festival founder Lisa Lawson
Lisa Lawson, of Dear Green, celebrating 10 years in business
Ms Lawson’s passion saw her train herself in blending taking into account coffee origins and ethics. She also is now a certified trainer for the Speciality Coffee Association and a Q grader who can mark coffees qualities taking into account the flavours whether the coffee is sweet, has body or acidity.
“You can train your palate to be objective and expose yourself to different flavours. The more you taste the more you build up a memory of flavours. I’ve trained the people who work for me as well. I think we are all like-minded and have a similar work ethic along with a passion for coffee production. That’s why they are here at Dear Green and it’s important they are part of the sensory part of the journey. It is not just about putting coffee in bags, packing it high and selling it fast.”
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Dear Green, which takes its name from the city it was created in, was operating from the east end base in East Campbell Street, close to the famous Barrowlands, with a staff of 10 but like many businesses found themselves plunged into crisis with last March’s lockdown.
“We lost 95 per cent of our business overnight as we were mainly involved in wholesale, but that disappeared. We were able to use the job retention scheme and furlough staff and in the early days of lockdown it was just me and one other as we built up the online side of the business. We had an e-commerce presence but we really had to pivot in order to survive.
“Hospitality was coming to terms with the shock of closure and some coffee shops began to open in some form, but we had to move quickly to sell to consumers. There was me roasting coffee and a colleague packing and posting as soon as we could.
“As we were dealing with more and more home consumers we were getting feedback from them about their coffee or questions on how best to brew. While it might not have been planned, we had to change the business to survive. We are now back to five staff members.”
Lisa Lawson, founder of the Glasgow Coffee Festival and Deer Green Coffee, hopes the event can return in some form in the future
Hopes Glasgow Coffee Festival can make a return
Ms Lawson, who is also the founder of the Glasgow Coffee Festival, says she has never been a conventional business owner, but says the firm will be driven forward in the next 10 years with her passion and drive.
“I didn’t start with a plan, but with having experience in management before I know how to drive sales and increase sales. Last year we achieved B corp status, which measures a company’s social and environmental impact, and while we might not have met 2020 sales targets, we opened up our consumer market.”
For the last few years hundreds of people have gathered for the Glasgow Coffee Festival, organised by Ms Lawson but it’s not known when they will be able to run something on such a scale.
“The ethos behind the festival was to support local businesses and to promote what we now have in the city which is a wonderful Glasgow coffee community with a number of firms roasting their own blends,” added Ms Lawson. “We were able to create a real buzz around the festival, but maybe we will be able to do something in 2022. I think we have a camaraderie but also competition which is healthy and I think if you wanted to visit Glasgow for coffee, I don’t think you would be disappointed.”
Running Dear Green also reignited her love of a good coffee, she added: “There is nothing better on a Saturday or Sunday to take time to properly prepare a coffee. It is a real treat.”