Bristol Twenty Tea & Coffee Co: the story of three siblings and their determination in carrying on a family tradition
Today, our coffee story is tasting a little different. Like many people who decide to add sugar or chocolate to their caffeine drink, we want to give our “barista stories” format a twist and talk about Rory Ireland, a roaster who is just as sweet as sugar itself and as warm as hot chocolate.
Rory Ireland is Bristol Twenty’s Director and has been working for this company for almost 20 years. But, how did this all start for him?
“Before I got into coffee, I ran restaurants for a few big chains in the UK and I did that for 6/7 years, then got to the point where I was burning out. It was long hours, and even if I liked working there, I was over it.”
As incredible as it may sound, Rory’s relationship with coffee did not start with a spark, or because of an eye-opening cup of coffee. He had always loved his morning coffee, but never gave it further thought. He decided to join the family business out of curiosity and, of course, because he wanted a quieter life, considering the long and exhausting hours he had been previously working.
“I loved coffee anyway, but I wanted a quieter life and it gave me it. I wanted to help dad out with his business, planned on staying only 6 months.. and that was 18 years ago!”
When we asked Rory how things currently work at Bristol Twenty, he explained that initially, everyone did a bit of everything, but since they have better-allocated titles and responsibilities, as well as hired new members of staff. Chris is still in charge of engineering, Rory is in charge of sales and marketing, and Kate is in charge of finance. They all have a “double” or a “shadow”, which is someone from the staff that supports them in their job. Rory has two doubles, who take on his marketing responsibilities when he wants to dedicate himself to roasting and producing coffee. He roasts three days a week and otherwise focuses on sales, CRM, marketing and building bridges with people through social media.
Roasting has become a ritual and meditative moment for Rory Ireland: he deliberately chooses Mondays and Tuesdays as roasting days so the beginning of the week can seem less stressful. Roasting allows him to catch up on his passions such as gardening and sometimes even reading Barista Magazine!
Bristol Twenty is a roastery in, you guessed it, Bristol, a city in South-West England. Strong on 40 years experience in the coffee and catering trades, they supply a large range of commercial coffees, as well as unique blends of small batch, roasted espressos and unusual single estate coffees. Coffee is not their only expertise, as their company name suggests: they also have an extensive range of teas, chocolates, syrups, and sundries.
Founded by Rory’s father, Bristol Twenty started off as an engineering company, mainly fixing espresso machines. At one point, Rory’s dad began broadening his horizons and started selling other people’s coffee or, as Rory likes to say, “pushed more towards the coffee side of things”. However, when Rory’s dad sadly got seriously ill, someone needed to step in and continue running the family business.
Rory and his brother, Chris, joined and found a way to split the tasks: Rory got more involved in selling coffee while his brother focused on engineering. Then, nine years ago, their sister Kate joined and was made in charge of handling finances and administration duties. From then on, Bristol Twenty quickly became a three-minded reality.
“It was an accident, but I pushed it in the direction that I wanted it to go towards”
What’s more, Bristol Twenty is trying to raise awareness on the importance of sustainability. They strive to ensure that everything, from their coffee packaging to tea bags, is plant-based and contains no “nasty plastics”. Although the coffee industry is known for working towards sustainability and the production of ethically made products, the impact of the pandemic is one we fail to consider, as we have started using plastic and non-reusable cups much more frequently. Sadly, it is easy to put such an important issue to the side when faced with hard times, but Bristol Twenty is not letting go. Despite describing the pandemic as one of the most challenging times endured in the history of their company, they always push to work with ethical brokers and make efforts to source their products directly from farmers. Rory reckons that “something massive needs to change” and we couldn’t agree more.
Another big priority for Rory is helping people. He does this by raising funds for charity, his last big project being the “21.10” memorial blend in honor of his dad. This mission managed to support Bristol City Centre’s Hospital. Rory loves making connections with people and loves everything about helping people out.
Bristol Twenty has since become one of our new charity partners for our new Indiegogo Charity project and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have them on board! We hope you enjoyed Rory’s company through his heartwarming words as much as we did.