We are blessed in Brighton with great coffee. From the quality of roasters in the local area to the vast quantity of high-end artisan coffeehouses opening every year right through to the passionate baristas in the city.
However, for Tash Murphy, manager and creative designer at Pharmacie Coffee Roasters, her focus is not on one specific area. Rather, her focus ranges from the sourcing and roasting of coffee to the creative design and recycling of packaging to running the coffee shop, creating incredible coffees and perfecting the community atmosphere so noticeable during their Saturday-only opening hours.
With over a decade of experience in the local coffee scene, there are few people more equipped to run and manage their own roastery and coffee shop, so we couldn’t resist visiting the cobbled streets of Hove to spend a morning trying some fantastic coffees and talking to Tash about her ethos, the local scene and how we can all make a positive impact.
Hi Tash, can you tell us about your background?
Every time I get asked how long I have worked in the specialty coffee industry I say 13 years, and then feel old, and then I realise it’s actually 14 years and I can’t quite believe it! I was lucky enough to work at the original Redroaster in Kemptown, taking a barista role from my mate Lottie who went back to Melbourne. It was proper old school. Amazing master roaster, Paul Stephens. Queues out the door. Filthy shop. Drunk customers. Well paid Antipodean baristas. I kinda miss it!
I guess my true specialty experience came from working at Ground Coffee House in Kemptown and then managing the branch in Hove. We had brew workshops, filter training at Square Mile and regular cuppings in-house. I feel like I have truly experienced the first/second and third waves of the specialty coffee industry!
What is your ethos when it comes to making and serving coffee?
There are definitely hard and fast rules. Number one is ‘Don’t be a snob’, that is behaviour that should happen at the buying green, and post-roast quality control stage, and not to your customers. No eye-rolling when someone orders sugar or one shot, or asks for milk with their Kenyan hand-brew. Humans are complex creatures and there are multiple reasons that they don’t want to drink their coffee delicate and black. Make them the best damn one shot oat milk latte they have ever had!
Number two is ‘Remember to experiment’ I don’t mean coffee brewing gimmicks with super expensive gadgets. I mean test your recipes, and question why you are doing what you do. Your brewing will improve exponentially with adjusted weights/times/agitation etc.
When did you start Pharmacie Coffee Roasters and what led to its inception?
It rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Ground Coffee House in Hove almost three years ago! Having worked with Rick Curtis, (the owner of Ground and director of Pharmacie) for years, we knew that we had the collective energy and shared ethics to start something new.
We spent a couple of months converting a dirty car mechanics into a roaster/coffeehouse nearly three years ago, and we are always inspiring each other to make Pharmacie an innovative and well-respected coffee roasters.
In your opinion, what separates Pharmacie from other roasters?
To be honest it’s ethics and also creativity. Our roasts seem to be really well-received and we have been chosen as a guest roaster all over the world in high-end establishments but, as you know, there are amazing micro-roasters all over the UK so great coffees are not enough to make you stand out.
My background is in the DIY punk scene so things like hand-stamping bags and finding creative solutions for things that a lot of people would outsource is kinda my jam. Recycling? We barter in exchange for coffee. Used coffee grounds? We make soap. I work my ass off to make Pharmacie the most eco-friendly roaster in Sussex if not further afield, all our packaging is post-consumer waste or fully recyclable or compostable.
Our coffee retail bags are reused five times and our wholesale customers get money back. The same with our cold brew bottles. Our retail bags are made in Europe and are carbon neutral. We deliver within the city by Recharge Cycle Couriers. I could bang on about waste in the coffee scene forever so I will stop here.
You’ve done work in cooperation with other local roasters, how do you believe this helps the local coffee industry?
Personally speaking it’s about not being a jerk. Cooperation and community is imperative to living a good life right? On a business level, it’s about sharing what we have (an expensive Giesen W15) and offering an affordable place for independent coffee professionals, like Chris and Tom from Brewed Roasters, to learn a new skill, expand their business and allow us to make use of Pharmacie when we don’t need it. We are excited to share our space with other passionate coffee nerds this year, so if that’s you reading this, and you want to learn to roast for your business, hit me up!
What do you enjoy most about the Brighton coffee scene and where do you see it heading?
Given that Brighton is allegedly a diverse city (erm…I guess if you are rich and white) it goes to follow that the coffee scene should be the same. I think that peak coffee is definitely something to worry about but the quality of coffeehouses opening in the last few years is incredible AND they are all doing it differently. I really dig that. It’s taken a few years but thankfully we can now get a decent filter in about six places in the city!
If you could change one thing about the way we consume coffee locally what would it be?
Drink more filter coffee so that coffeehouses serve more filter coffee. Let’s do this Brighton! Also….Watch this space, the Brighton indie coffee hive mind is meeting this week for important stratagem tackling takeaway coffee cup disposal… You read it here first.
What’s your morning coffee?
My morning coffee is usually quality controlling our roasts from the day before. With any luck there will be a test batch of filter profile to brew so I will cup it and then make either a pour-over or cleverdripper. Here is my/Pharmacie’s pour-over recipe:
20g delicious filter profile coffee beans. Ground for filter or medium/coarse sand-like particles. Rinse paper and pre-heat vessel. Level grounds in cone. Tare scales. You’re looking for a 300/320g brew in four minutes. I pour 98 degree filter water in increments of 60g, agitating after each pour. Leave the bloom for a full minute before continuing your pours. This will hopefully ensure the release of carbon dioxide from your coffee particles and a sweeter cup less prone to sourness. Spiralling water? Whatever works to be honest. If your grounds are wet and agitated evenly then you’ve got nothing to worry about.
What was the best coffee you’ve ever had and why?
I find this question is a bit like being asked your favourite band? If you only have one favourite band you need to find some imagination! Same with coffee right? I reckon it’s experiential, if I have forgotten my wallet and some kind barista has gifted me a brew, that’s gonna be the best coffee.
If we have struggled with a roast profile at work and finally we cup it and it’s delicious, that’s the best coffee. To be honest, you’ll know when I’ve had a sip of a fantastic coffee because I’ll be grinning with my eyebrows raised and for once I’ll be quiet as my mind is transported by flavours!
Where can people find you?
Pharmacie Coffee Roasters is down a cobbled street of dreams in central Hove. We only open Saturdays from 9am-4pm because we are annoyingly hip (this is not true, we are just busy roasting beans and sending out wholesale orders!) We have a vegan street food pop up on the first Saturday of every month by Vegan Earthlings and vegan treats every week to have with your coffee. We love making hand-brews so come let us make you a brew!
To find out more about Pharmacie Coffee Roasters, subscriptions, and wholesale visit www.pharmacie.coffee