Stop­ping for cof­fee in Lon­don? Stop here

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Built - Photography by Gary Margerum

e were in Rebels Al­liance (see p48), chew­ing the fat, drink­ing re­ally good cof­fee. “It’s from Dark Arts,” says Dean, who owns RA. “They’re just down the road. They’ve got a cool cafe as well as the roast­ery – and they’re all bik­ers too…”

So we popped around to check it out. It was buzzing: bikes out­side, packed with peo­ple in­side, five staff work­ing flat-out serv­ing a range of trad English break­fasts and ve­gan de­lights washed down with co­pi­ous amounts of the Dark Arts.

The busi­ness, in Homer­ton near Hack­ney, started in 2014 with a chance meet­ing of like minds. Brad was rid­ing around Lon­don on a pur­ple Honda CB750 F2 and was encouraged by a mate to go the Trip Out – a laid­back, old-school cus­tom bike and hot rod gath­er­ing near Bed­ford – where he met Colin.

“We started talk­ing up the idea of open­ing a cof­fee busi­ness. I was work­ing in a cof­fee shop in Shored­itch and I could see the cof­fee thing was tak­ing off but all the cof­fee brands in the UK seemed the same. It was the stuff go­ing on in the States that in­ter­ested me, peo­ple like See See Cof­fee Mo­tor Cof­fee Co in Port­land, Ore­gon and Flat Track Cof­fee in Austin, Texas.

“When I looked at them I thought, ‘I could have a crack at that’. I’ve been rid­ing bikes for­ever and there’s things about their two busi­nesses that fit me.”

Brad didn’t copy ei­ther but in­stead came up with a unique at­mos­phere where Amer­i­cana meets mo­tor­cy­cles in a cof­fee roast­ing shop. They in­vested in a brand new roaster from the States which they put in one rail­way arch with a cou­ple of ta­bles and a sofa. Since then they’ve added the cafe, which is only open on week­ends be­cause the table space is needed for pack­ag­ing the roasted cof­fee dur­ing the week.

“We buy from in­ter­me­di­aries who deal di­rect with farms all over the world,” says Brad. “In the long term, I hope we can deal with the farms di­rect. We get sent sam­ples, which we roast and then taste. There are high lev­els of skill in­volved to pick out the flavours and then ac­cen­tu­ate them in your roast­ing.”

Dark Arts have the po­ten­tial ca­pac­ity of roast­ing a ton per week and they sup­ply 40 shops in Lon­don but how can Dark Arts achieve Brad’s heady am­bi­tion of pro­duc­ing the best cof­fee in the world? “It’s about gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” he reck­ons. “It’s also about sac­ri­fic­ing the mar­gin to make sure we get the best cof­fee to the best shops. Even some of our cus­tomers tell us the price is too low but we know how hard it is for them to keep go­ing with the high ren­tal on premises and the con­stant staff turnover. We want to help our cus­tomers and if that re­flects on us in a pos­i­tive way then that’s good for our busi­ness.”

The cafe at Dark Arts is called ‘I Will Kill Again’. It’s an­other suc­cess story. “It’s priced well and peo­ple come from all over,” says Brad. “When we opened here we wanted to cre­ate a space that was a bit of fun, some­where to re­lax and some­where to go for good food, and great cof­fee. We’ve ended up be­ing flat-out.

“We get lots of peo­ple in here on bikes – we’re on the Satur­day ride route. Peo­ple do The Bike Shed (p8), then Bolt and stop by here. Plus we get peo­ple on bikes just be­cause it’s a place to stop off. They know there are lots of girls here and the rea­son there’s lots of girls here is be­cause of the guys on bikes!”

The bike el­e­ment is an im­por­tant part of Brad’s life. He’d been rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles since he was a kid and his dad was al­ways on bikes too. Brad reck­ons the roads around his home­town of Napier, New Zealand, are the best he’s ever seen.

“When I lived there I had a 1979 Z750 Kawasaki twin which was a great bike – un­til I stacked it in a gorge. My dad had owned the bike in his late 20s, sold it then man­aged to buy it back later. He and I re­built it – I wish I’d paid more at­ten­tion and learned more. I can fid­dle with a carb and that’s it.”

Brad then worked in banks in NZ when he was in his 20s and he quickly re­alised that wasn’t the life for him.

“I dealt in mort­gage debt – it was a horrible, de­pres­sive job. I came to Eng­land five years ago and after a fledg­ling ca­reer as an il­lus­tra­tor I didn’t know what to do so I took a job in a cof­fee shop.” That’s when he started get­ting in­ter­ested in cus­toms which led to be­ing at the Trip Out event and meet­ing Colin. Talk about fate…

‘Brad came up with a unique at­mos­phere where Amer­i­cana meets bikes in a cof­fee roast­ing shop’

Not Nescafe When a cafe roasts their own cof­fee beans, you know you’re in for a treat. Bosses Brad (left, long hair, beanie) and Colin ( De­stroy hat) sup­ply 40 shops around Lon­don. And yes, their cafe is called ‘I will kill again’

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