Pelicano has been a mainstay of Sydney Street for a number of years now, but have only recently moved their roasting operation to the site. We spoke to the owner Zephir Thomas about how he and his wife, Sol, ended up back in Brighton and why they decided to open a coffee house and roastery.
One of the reasons The Independent Brighton & Hove Coffee Guide exists is that we believe in the values of the Brighton coffee community, those values of local businesses supporting each other, creating an inclusive and friendly atmosphere for staff and customer alike. We were lucky enough in the last year to spend some time being shown around Pelicano’s operation by manager Sam, and we can safely say that these values hold true.
Founded in 2014, by husband and wife Zephir Thomas and Sol, Pelicano is a modern family-run business. Zephir runs the day to day operations, and Sol is in charge of all the art and design for the business. Zephir is a “Brighton boy through and through” in his own words, and returned to the town to open up Pelicano after meeting Sol.
“I met my wife Sol (from S. Korea) on a pear farm a couple of hours from Melbourne, we both had a pretty rough time on the farms, we learnt two things – we hated working for big companies and we both missed working with coffee. We always wanted to build a culture around Peli where we actually enjoy coming to work day in day out, I see so many people working in hospitality and not having a good time – that’s just not what it’s about! Our staff really are our family. At our wedding there was more Peli fam than blood family!”
Everything at Pelicano is done on site. In early 2018, they moved their roasting operation into the basement of their cafe, upgrading the roaster in the process. They roast their house Smokey Bird Blend, as well as a number of directly sourced single origins, in the early hours of the morning on Monday. Each bag is individually hand stamped with one of Sol’s unique designs, then either sent upstairs for retail within the cafe, or hand delivered by head roaster Adnan the very next day.
Pelicano use a refurbished Royal Mail post bike to deliver all their coffee to various establishments around Brighton, continuing that personal, hand crafted touch from the beginning of the roast, to holding fresh coffee in your hand the next day. Pelicano supplies many local businesses and, as well as the coffee, each place they supply gets their own hand crafted, and hand stamped, design on the bag.
Most of the coffee roasted on site, though, is used on site, and you don’t get much more local that your own basement. Pelicano has evolved from serving various guest roasts, to their own roast from a small site in Southover, to the cafe location itself. This ensures that the coffee is at an optimal freshness when served.
In our review, we wrote that Pelicano’s attention to detail was incredible, it was interesting to find out the origin of the decor, “In many ways it was planned to a T and in other ways it was organised chaos,” explains Zephir.
“When we got the keys to the shop we told ourselves six weeks and we’d be open. It took six months! Without a large budget we did all the hard graft ourselves – from stripping walls of 22-year-old grease for 20 hours straight to laying floor boards found off a skip till 4am, it was crazy but with help from a lot of friends we finally opened!”
With a new roaster in operation, it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for Pelicano, but we can safely say that with a community focus they’re doing things the right way. We asked Zephir where he hopes Pelicano will be a few years down the line.
“To be honest, I get asked this a lot and the answers always the same: I’m still not sure how we got this far!”