The name ‘Coaltown’ – where does that come from?
The whole concept of Coaltown was founded on finding a photograph of my great-grandfather. He was a miner, like most of my family. He’s from the era when Ammanford was a thriving community, local industry was booming, and the town was a really happy place to live. The last colliery closed in 2003 and there’s very little industry here, so people tend to move away. And it shouldn’t be like that. It’s a beautiful place to live. I love my home, and I’d love to see people being proud of Ammanford again.
I was brought up in it. My parents opened the first café-deli in Ammanford. It was really high-end, and it lifted the town. You get shops of similar quality opening and it’s like a boom again. When they sold the shop in 2008, Ammanford kind of went back to the old ways. It’s amazing how much of a difference you make if you bring in something that’s really special. So we said, ‘Let’s do that with the roastery.’ The boom in speciality coffee had started, so when we set up Coaltown it was to regenerate Ammanford through a new form of black gold and at the same time bring a roastery to Wales that was very focused on provenance and sustainability.
How did you get into the coffee business?
It costs a lot of money to buy a roaster, and I had nothing. So my dad and I built our own roaster out of a barbecue.
Yes, but it can only roast 4kg of coffee every 15 minutes. We raised the money to buy a commercial 12kg roaster, and we’ve just bought a 75kg machine, which makes life a lot easier. I’m very focused on heritage models. The only issue is they’re so sought-after they disappear as soon as they’re on the market. When a 1950s roaster came up for sale in Italy, we blindly put the money down because we really needed it. Three weeks passed, no sign of the thing. When it eventually turned up, it was a collection of rusted lumps of metal. They had photos of where it had been found, scattered around a farmyard outside Rome. The drum had a cockerel walking across the top. We spent two years restoring it, but it’s been worth it. It’s one of the rarest on the market.