Coffee firm plans to give city a roasting

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Peter Johnston, of John Watt.
Peter Johnston, of John Watt.
Monday, June 19, 2017 at 8:58AM

The coffee company which ensures shoppers enjoy a fine aroma as they pound the streets of Carlisle has big expansion plans.

The owners of the John Watt cafe on Bank Street – famed for filling the air of the city with the smell of roasting coffee beans – has taken delivery of new equipment, signed a distribution and training deal with a major Italian manufacturer and has plans to open a new coffee bar and a school for baristas.

This news comes after the firm opened an outlet at Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life, within the grounds of Carlisle Castle, earlier this month.

Peter Johnston, who owns the business alongside his wife Carol, joked: “We are one of the oldest businesses in Carlisle and we are now in one of the oldest locations in Carlisle.”

The couple took over the business 19 months ago, succeeding Bob and Chris Roberts when they retired.

Founded by John and William Watt in 1865, it has been at 11 Bank Street since 1897 and now employs about 18 people.

The couple are now working on a new project which will see them open a second site in the city centre.

This will be in Blackfriars Street, where they are refurbishing a former takeaway.

Once completed this will feature a new roasting machine – allowing the firm to roast more coffee – a modern coffee bar carrying the branding JW Blackfriars and, upstairs, there will be an area showcasing La Cimbali coffee making equipment and where the firm will run classes on how to make the perfect brew.

The company has signed a deal with La Cimbali – which bills itself as the oldest manufacturer of espresso machines – which will see it supply the equipment and provide training. To enable the expansion, the firm is employing a new roaster, originally from the USA.

There will still be some roasting done at Bank Street.

Mr Johnston is keen to expand the tea and coffee sales arm of the business. The firm supplies many cafés and businesses around Cumbria, such as Keswick’s Pencil Museum and Tullie House in Carlisle, but he has found that many outlets aren’t aware that this is a service it offers.

“The John Watt name has fantastic brand awareness,” he said.

This point was echoed by Mrs Johnston, who said: “I don’t think people realise that we are suppliers too.”

In their first year of ownership the breakdown between the money made between the café and tea and coffee sales was 70/30 in favour of the former but they expect this to now be more like 50/50, with the amount made from both going up.

They add that leaf tea too is a big part of the business.

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