A Trip to Prison...

A couple of weeks ago (before the lockdown and current situation) I went to prison for the day. Luckily, they let me out, in fact they insisted I leave, and not just because I might have been a bad influence! The reason I went to prison, other than for crimes against coffee consulting, was to visit the new Redemption Roasters roastery at The Mount Prison in Aylesbury.

I shouldn’t be glib about this, because I know more than most what being in prison means to family and friends of prisoners. A little-known fact about me is that my father went to prison for fraud when I was 11. Among other things, I remember missing him. I remember visiting him and feeling excited and sad in equal measure. It only lasted a year and I grew up very quickly in that time. Because of my personal experience, I am a massive fan of everything Redemption Roasters are doing. When my father left prison we had lost everything, had to move to council accommodation and he feared he’d never work again. Luckily for him a local pub wanted to start a new restaurant venture, and as he was a chef and ex-GM of The Café Royal, he was just the man for the job. The employer was happy to take him on despite his record and thanks to that very generous minded individual, our family were able to move on. Imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t had that chance? Think of all the offenders who don’t get that chance and who re-offend because when they leave prison, they can’t get a job.

That’s where Redemption come in. Not only are they an incredibly unique coffee roaster and coffee shop chain, but they fill a much-needed gap in society today.

As they say themselves: “We already know that prisoners are 50% more likely to reoffend if they leave prison without skills and a job. And we definitely know that in specialty coffee people need exceptional skills.  Enter Redemption Roasters, the world’s first behind bars coffee company. We were approached by the Ministry of Justice to help address the state of reoffending through coffee. Our roastery is inside the walls of HMP The Mount and our network of barista academies operate in justice sector institutions across the country. As part of our mission to help offenders successfully reintegrate into society, we train them in professional roastery and barista skills. On release, we help our “Graduates” to find work, either in our own coffee shops, or with our wholesale clients. We don’t just source coffee ethically; our entire roasting and coffee education process is socially impactful. The result is a finely crafted cup of coffee that raises the bar for everyone.”

I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of The Mount roastery and it was a humbling and fascinating experience. I met some of the offenders who had been granted permission to work at the roastery as well as some of the prison guards and other staff who work on the project with Max and his team. Everyone shared the same passion for coffee and for the good the programme is doing for the people who go through the training and leave with a sense of purpose and opportunity.

As for the coffee. The coffee is sublime and I got to take a bag away with me! Given the current lockdown that turned out to be more than just good fortune!

As we were in prison, we couldn’t take any photos, so you have to make do with a shot of the coffee and my French Press. If you’d like to try their coffee visit them at https://www.redemptionroasters.com where you buy online to make at home, until such time as you can visit their high street shops when they re-open!

Remember my 100 Trends for the Coffee & Food Industry 2020 Report is available to purchase here, specialty coffee is just 1 of those trends, so there is plenty to get your teeth into as you plan for exiting lockdown and 2021 re-boot! If you simply want to keep up to date with this blog and any other activity, then feel free to subscribe to the newsletter. I won’t be sending emails every day, or every week or even every month, but when I have something to update you with, I’ll stick it in a newsletter so you are the first to hear!

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