Receiving sample boxes of brownies, crisps, beer and cake in the post is one of the best unexpected perks of opening a new cafe.
There is a serious side to it too though. By starting afresh, it gave us a chance to reset everything, and build from the ground up to make sure we were sourcing the best produce we could.
We had three main criteria when assessing suppliers:
Quality. If it's not absolutely delicious, beautiful and consistent then it's not going to make the cut. We know how much of an effort it is to get down here, it's got to be be worthwhile!
Local. Where possible, we will always choose local, independent businesses. We will never sign an exclusivity contract and our door will always remain open to start-ups looking for a shop window.
Sustainability. We are aiming to be zero-waste and carbon neutral with the cafe. This is only achievable by working with suppliers who are committed to the same goal. You'll see below, nearly all suppliers are either B-Corp certified, carbon neutral or zero-waste, as a minimum. The cafe is powered by green hydrogen energy generated by the solar panels on the roof of the gym. We think (?) this makes us the only cafe on earth powered by green hydrogen.
Here's a little bit about some of our key suppliers for 2023.
Chimney Fire Coffee are based down the road at Denbies Vineyard. Not only is their specialty coffee delicious, they work directly with farmers paying at least 35% above FairTrade base rates for their beans. They donate 25p per 250g bag and £1 per 1kg bag of their Discovery coffee sold to Re-Cycle who upcycle bikes from the UK and send them to Africa. They only use fully compostable and/or recyclable packaging, zero plastic and they are now a certified B-Corp too. Fans of Rockhill Brothers Coffee, don't worry, we will still be using their roasts for guest espresso slots through the year.
We are using milk from Aldhurst Farm dairy. Their beautiful herd of Holstein & Friesian cattle produce absolute top quality milk, with the perfect fat content for use with coffee. By sourcing directly from the supplier, we are able to pay them a fair price for the milk and cut out the middle-men. Whilst the farm is a couple of miles down the road just south of Dorking, the link to John & Paula Dale is a lot closer to home than you may realise, as you may have seen John here before. He bales our wheat straw on the farm and takes it back to Aldhurst to use in the winter as cattle bedding.
Cakes and sweet treats are being supplied by the legends at Lockdown Bakehouse. You may have met the owner, Chris, down here before, as he also runs MyPie. He lives round the corner in Ewell, and his bakehouse in Wandsworth has been creating spectacular bakes since 2020. They have just expanded their bakery, and in doing so we are now in their delivery radius which couldn't be better timed. Their flour is from Shipton Mill, who produce organic and regeneratively farmed wheat.
Steph from Baking Free is continuing to supply all of our GF, Vegan and Nut Free bakes, and she drops them off before coming to classes in the gym!
Crowd favourite, Eden's Little Bakery, have been supplying pastries here since the very beginning, and we are delighted to be keeping them on here going forward. Itay and his team set up their bricks and mortar bakery last year and have more exciting plans for the future which we can't wait to be able to support.
Crisps and snacks are coming from Made for Drink. Their founder, Dan, worked with Charlie in a previous life at Walkers Crisps. 10 years later, we are excited to stock their brilliant products. Made for Drink are 100% Carbon Neutral and use 100% compostable packaging. They are based in Berkshire, and you'll be able to find their English Truffle crisps and Chorizo Thins behind the bar here amongst other treats. Their products continue to clean up at awards ceremonies and fans include Michel Roux Jr. who describes them as "a real treat".
Last summer we started offering The Uncommon of England wines in a can alongside evening events. They went down a storm, and we are excited to continue to offer them this year. The cans of wine are produced from English grapes grown within 50 miles of London. Not only is it local, they too are B-Corp certified and all their cans are easily recycled.
We're surrounded by brilliant local breweries whose beer we will be stocking behind the bar. Keep an eye out for Kingston's Park Brewery as well as Dorking Brewery and others over the summer.
It doesn't get much more local than Pawfect Treats, hand baked by Ashtead resident, Mia. These continue to go down a storm, and we know your dogs will be delighted that they will still be stocked here!
In the fridge we're going to be using Minor Figures oat milk who are a London based B-Corp who produce the best barista oat milk on the market. Karma Drinks are supplying our canned cola and lemonade. They are another B-Corp, and are Organic certified by the Soil Association. Not only that, they have incredible charitable projects ongoing across the world which are fuelled by each can sold. Juices are coming from Folkingtons who are certified Carbon Neutral and based in Sussex.
If you're a local business who would like to get involved, drop us a message and we will do what we can to help. It may not be possible to get you onto the regulars list immediately, but we have all sorts of events, special requests from campers and other opportunities throughout the year.
Click the map below to explore where the suppliers are based.
There's a fair few things on our side which will remain a work in progress for the coming weeks as we test and learn with new options. This includes different types of takeaway cups and lids, you'll probably see a few designs before we settle on the best option going forwards. We'd love to start using proper cups soon too, but we need a dishwasher (and somewhere to put it!) first.
As ever, improving and increasing loo facilities remains at the top of the list, with a few options being actively investigated at the moment.