Having climbed their way into the list of ‘Hackney’s Sexiest New Start-ups’ Sandows sits in the industrial yet colourful neighbourhood of Hackney Wick. Before their current upscale location, Hugh and Luke’s first brew concoction came from their shared flat using a purchased 100 litre brew pot. From their flat, they moved to the basement of café Vagabond in Islington. Sandows then used the money raised in February via Crowdcube to set up their current home – almost 10 times bigger than their previous space and kitted out with bespoke cold brewing equipment and packaging machinery, which has significantly increased their capability and efficiency. With their extensive demand, it was imperative during their move to keep the cold brew quality consistent when transitioning from small to larger batches.
Looking Back: Heritage
‘We first noticed a need for a high quality branded cold brew available for wholesale across London in the summer of 2013. We spent almost 12 months researching, recipe testing, ploughing through iterations of packaging and finally sorting our design before coming up with our launch strategy’, describes Hugh. Hugh and Luke had been working in coffee for a combined six years before launching Sandows; they thrived on the challenge of working with fresh coffee daily and wished to carry forward the desire for making premium coffee mainstream. A big tick can go beside this box.
Coffee in many cafés can be questionable, leaving you with little choice but to opt for a soft drink instead. With Sandows reaching a vast amount of Londoners through their product sales in artisan cafés, design shops, barbers and retailers – Selfridges, Fortnum & Masons and Whole Foods included – the availability for their cold brew means we don’t have to settle for anything but the crème de la crème of coffee.
In our modern age of speedily running from one meeting to another, one weekend brunch to another, Sandows motto – ‘like the man himself, we believe in doing things slowly, and doing things right’ – adds a refreshing glint to our daily lives and demonstrates their intricate details of coffee brewing. The cold brew company was named after Eugen Sandow, the Victorian strongman with a masculine perfectionist ethos who studied the ‘Grecian ideal’, a concept of unusual training methods to achieve exact proportions. Sandows method is unconventional compared to most so they drew a parallel and named their brand in homage.
Looking In: Coffee Lab
When entering Sandows brewery, you are met with a delightful smell of coffee, unlike any other our coffee noses have been attuned to. The labour of their success is evident as they designed the 2 large 400 litre vessels themselves. Their sharp and slick interior takes on an obvious circle flow in order for six to seven people to work in the production space at one time. Sandows coffee is brewed very precisely; they look at mineral content of the water, the grind particle size, where they source their coffee – currently using a company called Assembly – and how it’s roasted, the level of filtration and package everything in house. ‘I guess we acknowledge that life is hectic so it’s our attention to detail in everything that we do behind the scenes that means when you see the blue crossed bar bells on one of our flasks, you know you can expect the best’.
The beans come to Sandows who grind it quite coarsely. The coffee then goes into muslin bags in two large vessels which have two levels for the bags to be placed. Reverse osmosis filtered water is left sitting in the vessels at room temperature for 16 to 20 hours. The bags come out and are pushed from vessels through a two stage filtration system to a holding tank. From the holding tank they go straight to the filter. As the liquid travels through, the bottles are placed underneath and filled to their limit with overfill passing to a separate tank. The bottles are capped separately according to size and travel to the labeller – a space age looking piece of equipment!
Sandows bottles are unavoidably photogenic and reminiscent of whiskey flasks. The 200 ml bottles are accessible to battle the holiday commute with or swig on a cold day, whereas the 750ml bottles can be enjoyed in restaurants, hotels and cafés across London.
Looking Ahead: Future
For the merry month of December, Sandows have teamed up with Ace Hotel Shoreditch to make a warming Mulled Coffee. Cold brew warmed with a side of cranberry syrup and mulling spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, five spice and star anise. For those who like an alcoholic twist to their Mulled Coffee, you can add a shot of rum, gin or whiskey at the Gallery Bar. It will nudge you into the festive feel.
Sandows have also partnered with some of the best British brands, Sipsmith and Fever Tree, to make coffee gin and tonics for events. That’s not the extent of their cocktail tricks, they served a ‘White Prussian’ (Eugen Sandow was originally from Prussia) at KERB last year, and are said to a few more tricks up their sleeves.
Sandows now have tours of their brewery, providing a true insight to their home-made story. This unmissable experience will teach you not only about how Sandows came to be, but also documents their core business values that have helped them rocket to such success.
Succeeding the recession, people have chosen to be more selective, appreciate better quality and support local businesses, which serves Sandows well as they are constantly searching for ways to fine tune their already delightful cold brew. We have become hooked on the new coffee cult sweeping London and would urge you to jump on board.
By Danielle Wood