I came across Rob quite by accident on a sunny morning while out on errands; needing a caffeine fix I got chatting to the extremely personable and well-spoken Rob whilst enjoying the best flat white (read Aussie Cappuccino) I'd ever had.
Coffee is huge business these days. Corporate giants make millions; chain operators are inescapable on every high street, train station and airport. Costa Coffee concessions are found in gyms, pubs, hostels and the list goes on. This wouldn't be a problem if the coffee was tasty and keenly priced. Unfortunately as a population we have become accustomed to towering Grandes of milky pond-water that gives little change in exchange for a fiver. The Coffee served by Brewed Boy on the other-hand is something totally different. He describes it as an 'affordable daily luxury', micro-foam milk heated with a deft touch, poured over an oily and aromatic shot of mahogany coffee. Smooth and sweet, with hints of wood and hay hit the nose before the silky slick is swallowed down. Not only does this morning fix hit the spot like no other high street jolt it costs the same but made will care and attention and a personal edge. In terms of value for money this product is second to none.
Rob Lockyear became a Barista having spent time in the new-wave coffee centre of the world, Australia. Barista's in Australia are held in extremely high regard, trainees are often not even allowed to touch the hallowed machines for up to three months after starting work in a cafe. Intensive training is important to the education of a proper Barista. This is in stark contrast to the one-day training programme your average coffee shop employee undergoes whilst being taught how to use the one-button-push bean-to-cup super-auto machines designed specifically to dehumanise the coffee making process.
Good training is not the only secret to Brewed Boy's process, he remarks that "I talk to the same people every day who come down buy their coffee from me, it's almost as if the coffee is secondary. People love it when you know them by name and can remember their order. I have a list of regulars who I see every day, I hardly ever make money from tourists."
The human aspect of Rob's vocation seems to be so important. Each weekday morning starts with the wheeling of the coffee cart from the lock-up 100 meters from the Rupert Street site. As no plumbing exists for the mobile unit, Rob has made fiends with local businesses who give him water to fill the boiler of the machine. He says that: "At first the guys were quite suspicious, thinking I was up to something but as soon as they get to know your face they really start to help you out. This goes for letting me use their toilets too."
After an initial set up and half an hour waiting for the machine's water boiler to heat up the cart is set for action. Between 9 and 10 am is the 'power hour' when Rob really shifts his product; recently he has even taken on another pair of hands to help out with this manic session.
Rob sometimes complains of the early starts in the depths of winter with the driving rain and harsh cold, "sometimes I think what am I doing? Especially when you've got drunks and drug dealers always trying to rip you off or get money out of you, sometimes the Police come down and make arrests right in front of the cart, I just wish it would all go away, but there are the great days and I wouldn't change it for the world."
With a keen eye on the future Rob can see a general heightened awareness of those who care much more about what they eat and drink. Increasing demand for higher quality and specialisation of products is a trend that will continue to move forward at pace. When asked where he envisages himself in a few years time Rob answers: "I'd like to move off the street into somewhere more permanent and become more established. A café bar where we serve simple but really high quality food and drink. A place where people can come and hang out. The offering will the limited but amazing, I want to push things forward”.