Shiloh Coffee Roasters opens doors to coffee shop at Mabgate Mills in Leeds

Ethical considerations are one of the main driving forces behind the rise in specialty coffee, according to a business that has just opened its first coffee shop.

Leeds-based Shiloh Coffee Roasters has opened a shop at Mabgate Mills in the city. The business, founded by Mark and his wife Jean Armstrong, has a Christian ethos running through it with ‘Shiloh’ hebrew for a place of peace.

Mr Armstrong, whose wife is originally from Kenya, said he has seen first-hand the impact a lack of fair practice has on coffee farmers.

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“We’ve seen how little impact seed price has when it goes back to the farmers,” Mr Armstrong said. “We pay a higher price than commodities so we know that the price is reflective for their work.”

Mark Armstrong inspecting a coffee roaster at Shiloh's new coffee shop in Leeds.

Shiloh works with ethical exporters who have direct links with farmers, cutting out all the extra people in the supply chain who end up taking a cut at the expense of farmers.

One such organisation that it works with is Raw Material’s Red Associations. This gives Colombian coffee farmers a better deal than the commodities market and also encourages sustainable practices.

Mr Armstrong says that the world is currently in the middle of a third wave of specialty coffee. He added: “People just know that specialty coffee is better quality. Most of the time good ethics come from that. People are a lot more conscious about how we live. They both come together.”

The couple founded the coffee roasting business in 2016 but recently they acquired space at Mabgate Mills. In addition to space for a roaster, Shiloh also realised that there was enough room to open its own coffee shop.

Mark Armstrong with sacks of coffee at Shiloh Coffee Roasters in Leeds.

Mr Armstrong previously trained as a chef and is looking forward to coupling good coffee with good food.

Shiloh supplies other shops, churches and charities with its coffee and Mr Armstrong believes the new coffee shop gives them an opportunity to bring in organisations that they supply to come in and try new coffee.

“We wanted a base because we have a lot of people that buy from us,” Mr Armstrong said.

The roaster also provides a novelty for people as they get to see coffee being roasted at the site, he added. Fairtrade is a minimum standard for Shiloh.

Shiloh has put ethics at the heart of its coffee sourcing.

“There’s a better standard than Fairtrade out there,” Mr Armstrong said. “As businesses you need to keep looking and evolving.”

Ultimately, he would like to start importing coffee and directly work with farmers. Mr Armstrong said: “We just need to be able to talk and work with the farmers and show them there are people in the West that do care about them and want to help them to have a better life ultimately.”

The ethos of fairness goes beyond just paying farmers a fair price for coffee beans.

Mr Armstrong says that all the staff that will work at the coffee shop will be paid higher than the living wage.

Shiloh's coffee on display at its new shop at Mabgate Mills in the city.

“Ethics isn’t just about paying the farmers more,” he said.

“It’s about making sure our staff get a slightly better wage and that it’s above the living wage as well.”

Mr Armstrong is also toying with the idea of introducing his own cold brew range.

He is using peaberry coffee beans, which he says allows for a sweeter taste.

“I’ll probably miss out on it for this summer but for next summer that is something that I do want to look at,” Mr Armstrong added.