We’re excited to announce a new wholesale collaboration with Sandows, a brand we’ve admired for a while now. The collaboration will see us distributing Sandows, meaning that our customers across the UK now have access to their delicious, beautifully bottled cold brew.
Image credit: Charlie McKay
We first met Luke and Hugh, founders of Sandows, a couple of years back whilst doing a coffee masterclass at The Guardian. Theirs was an impressive talk and one which left you feeling good about the world - because good things were happening to people who deserved it. Their enthusiasm, energy and hard work was infectious and it was all paying off. At this point they were still at the relatively early stages of their pioneering journey, pathing the way for cold brew in the UK. They were creating excitement and demand for a product which most people knew nothing about.
Fast forward two years and cold brew has become as familiar to coffee drinkers as flat whites. Sandows have undoubtedly cemented the title of UK cold brew kings; their listings read like a who’s who of speciality coffee in London, as well as nationwide through Selfridges and most recently M&S. The impressive thing about Hugh and Luke is that throughout this journey not only have they continued to brew delicious cold brew but they’ve retained the integrity and strength of their brand. But with a name like Sandows, you’d expect nothing less.
We caught up with Hugh to find out a little bit more about them.
Sandows is a pretty strong name. How did it come about?
It started with the bottle, we came across it and knew it was the one we wanted to use - it was clear rather than brown unlike others in the market and physically quite different. It was just the perfect shape with more of a whisky-style and great for merchandising with its flat front.
As the bottle had a bit of a Victorian feel we wanted to go with a Victorian strongman concept for the brand but with a modern feel to it. We made a trip to the British Library and saw a load of (very old and rare) books on the Victorian era and the famous strongman figures. We stumbled across one called Eugen Sandow – he was from Germany but came across to London to seek fame and fortune. What was so great about him was how different his approach was to other bodybuilders of the time. Whilst everyone wanted to be bigger and bigger he was styling himself on the perfect proportions of Grecian statues; he measured their bodies and curated his exercises to achieve these exact proportions. We drew a parallel with his ethos of using unusual/ alternative methods to strive for perfection, we make coffee with cold water after all. Discovering Sandow and his story and that parallel with our approach was really serendipitous which somehow made it feel right.
What was the catalyst behind you starting Sandows?
We both worked at TAP Coffee, where we found out about cold brew as it featured on the summer menu at the shop. As with a lot of people who work in coffee, you go through a journey of what you’re drinking behind the bar every day. You end up drinking more and more filter, as this is what the people roasting the coffee are most excited about and where you can discover new flavours most noticeably. So we got into black coffee and then as summer came this evolved into coffees over ice. At the time I was roasting too and didn’t feel it made any sense to aim for such exacting standards in roasting only to pour hot coffee over ice and dilute it.
Luke and I were both into coffee but had always wanted to have our own businesses, with several attempts between us prior to this. Usually over beers at a pub stop on our cycle from Soho to where we both lived in Stoke Newington, we coaxed the idea out of each other and developed the business before launching with samples to all our coffee mates.
When was the moment you realised you were really on to something?
Two weeks after kicking things off, we got an email from a lady called Leah (Hugh later speaks with huge respect about their experience working with her). She’d found us on Instagram and asked to meet with us. When we looked at her email sign off we couldn’t believe it as she was a buyer for Selfridges. We went to Selfridges on Oxford Street where Leah tried our cold brew and listed it on the spot. We tried to play things really cool but as the lift doors closed we did a goofy dance, it was super cliche but all part of the fun.
What do you think the greatest thing is about Sandows?
Sandows is for everyone. For some people it’s their first introduction to speciality coffee. It’s not unusual for people to start with milk drinks and then gradually gravitate towards filter coffee, as we did. Cold brew turns this on its head. Often it’s the acidity and/or bitterness of black coffee that can be polarising, but many people find cold brew is the first black coffee they’ve enjoyed, introducing them to black coffee in a totally new way. That’s why we kept things simple in the design too, we didn’t want anything too overwhelming or confusing. Once people are into it, we tell the story in more detail on our social channels.
What’s the most important thing for you moving forward?
Integrity and authenticity. Key to this is our relationships with independents. It’s beyond incredible that we have been able to bring the type of coffee we all love to the likes of Selfridges and M&S but we never underestimate the value of the independent coffee shops we work with. That’s where we came from so it’s our background, our patch – we know what it’s like to be a barista, a roaster or a coffee shop manager. It’s also where consumers can really get stoked on Sandows as the baristas can explain about us, our cold brew and what we’re trying to achieve. We want to make it possible for cafes to have a cold brew they can rely on, one as good as if they’d done it themselves, but we’re also trying to make it possible to get a speciality grade coffee in places like M&S.
Image credit: David Bowden
It’s exciting that Origin customers can now look forward to being part of the Sandows story. We look forward to seeing what’s next as they progress.
For more information on serving Sandows, please contact [email protected]