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Forest Edge Roasting in Lyndhurst inspired by Down Under coffee culture

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AFTER learning her skills as a barista at cafes across Sydney, Robyn Barron-Martin set out on her path to bring Australia’s city coffee culture to the New Forest.

Forest Edge Roasting in Lyndhurst High Street was born out of a desire to supply good quality coffee that is ethically and sustainably sourced. It was also the realisation of a long-held dream and the culmination of a lot of hard work during a pandemic that forced rapid innovation.

Witnessing first-hand Australia’s caffeine ritual and the hospitality industry’s eco-friendly ways during the two years she spent travelling the country left a deep and lasting impression on Robyn, and on her return to the UK in 2016 she secured a weekend job at Costa.

Robyn's business was awarded plastic-free status by campaigning body Surfers Against Sewage
Robyn's business was awarded plastic-free status by campaigning body Surfers Against Sewage

“I had studied a masters in childhood mental health while I was travelling but struggled to get a job in the field,” said Robyn, who lives in New Milton. “So I started doing care work for people with brain injuries, and worked at Costa at the weekend.”

Before long she went full-time at the chain and over the next two years worked her way up to a management position, but she was itching to do things her own way and break free from the constraints of a big corporation.

After leaving the company in 2019 Robyn took a leap of faith and bought a coffee van, taking it to various festivals in the local area and weekly markets in Christchurch and Lymington.

“After coming back from Australia where they don’t use plastic like we do, it was very noticeable how much waste the cafe industry generates,” she said. “I knew there were other ways and I wanted a sustainable ethos for my business.

“Rather than using a generator to run my coffee machine I got energy from solar panels,” said Robyn, whose business was awarded plastic-free status by campaigning body Surfers Against Sewage.

The next venture for Robyn was into the artisan process of coffee roasting, when she took the plunge and invested £17,000 in a shiny new machine.

The cafe houses Robyn’s cherished roaster
The cafe houses Robyn’s cherished roaster

A few months later in March 2020, Robyn was forced to change her business model entirely when the pandemic hit and the country went into its first lockdown, cancelling a summer of money-making events in one fell swoop.

“In the space of just two weeks, I lost 80% of my income for the year,” Robyn recalled. “But it forced me to start focussing on the roasting – which I was doing from a glorified shed in my parents’ garden in Highcliffe – and building a wholesale and retail customer base.

“When all the cafes shut and people stopped picking up their morning coffee on the commute to work, they started buying coffee machines and for those they needed good coffee beans.

“The business was more successful than I ever could have hoped, and towards the end of 2020 I had orders piling up and a need to expand.”

Fast running out of space, Robyn considered renting a warehouse unit, but the pandemic had taught her that the more strings she had to her bow the more likely her business was to survive.

“I thought the best place to have my roaster was as a centrepiece in a coffee shop where people could see it and learn about it,” said Robyn. “A lot of my online customers lived in Christchurch and Ringwood, so that’s where I started looking but I couldn’t find anything.

“I came across the space in Lyndhurst by accident, and I knew immediately this was where I wanted to open my shop.”

Forest Edge Roasting coffee
Forest Edge Roasting coffee

As well as having a greener footprint, it was also hugely important to Robyn that she use ethically sourced beans. She uses an intermediary that has direct links with farms so she can make informed choices about which growers she works with.

“We know that the farm we get beans from in Rwanda is female-only – a place where men are usually the main breadwinners,” said Robyn. “The coffee grower in Brazil who supplies us has come up with ways of reducing his irrigation to conserve his environment where water is in short supply.

“Intermediaries also run projects that benefit communities – they teach sustainable farming practices to ensure land is secured for future generations, install fresh water supplies and build schools.”

Coffee beans are scored by the SCA (Speciality Coffee Association) before they are roasted on a scale of 1-100, with 90–100 graded “outstanding”, 85-89 being “excellent” and 80–84 classed as “very good”.

All the beans used by Forest Edge Roasting have scored 80 or more.

In terms of future projects, Robyn has ambitions to transform the basement of her coffee shop to offer food options other than cakes and pastries – specifically brunch in a nod to Australia’s other obsession!

To buy Robyn’s freshly ground coffee or to find out more about her Lyndhurst cafe, visit forestedgeroasting.co.uk

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