With The Lost Barn Coffee Roastery, Jo McKerchar and her husband Blair are making artisan beans and brews accessible and ethical
When Jo McKerchar moved from the green fields of Cheshire to the bright lights of Melbourne, Australia, she had no idea that coffee would become such a huge part of her life.
She moved Down Under to work in the architecture industry, before meeting Blair – a star chef originally from New Zealand who had already set up his first of three restaurants with business partner Martyn.
The restaurateurs soon realised the importance of coffee in the daily lives of Melbournians. “Blair quickly learnt that coffee was a key part of the lifestyle and social scene in the city, so took the time to learn more,” explains Jo. “An appreciation for fine coffee was not only necessary for the running of his cafés and restaurants, but became a part of our lifestyle at home, too.”
After nine years, during which time Jo and Blair were married and had two daughters, Jo managed to convince her husband to leave Melbourne for the village of Tilston in south Cheshire where she was brought up. “I wanted our daughters to enjoy an upbringing in rural England, as I did, and be able to spend time on the family farm,” she explains. “Luckily for me, Blair agreed!”
After a year or so back in Blighty, Blair and Jo were keen to set up their own enterprise and coffee was the obvious way to go. “We were excited by the growing interest in speciality coffee,” explains Jo. Thus, The Lost Barn coffee roasters was born. Named after the barns marked on old maps of the family farm (it’s thought they were blown away in a storm back in 1839), the new enterprise roasts speciality coffee, sourcing beans from around the world.
It’s a business that utilises the skills of Jo, Blair and Martyn (who’s also moved to the UK, living in Kent). “Blair’s background as a chef sees him in charge of roasting, working out the roasting profiles for the beans we source, and blending complementary flavours – it’s part art, part science!” says Jo. “I’ve used my design background to create our branding and look after the marketing, and Martyn’s key to running the online aspect of our business.
“Our job is to bring out the optimum flavours of each ‘lot’. We have a range of 10 single-origin coffees, and three blends. We produce bags of coffee for people to enjoy at home (both whole beans and ground), available through our online shop and through retailers. We also sell our beans to cafés and restaurants.”
One thing Jo’s keen to do is to keep things simple. “We want our products to be accessible for customers. The world of speciality coffee can be intimidating, with such a variety of brewing methods and coffee origins. Our range appeals to customers who want to enjoy fine, traceable, artisan produce at home.”
Jo says they put ethics at the forefront of what they do. “We’ve started purchasing coffee beans direct from a farm in Brazil. Direct trade enables farmers to get the fairest price for their beans and we love to be able to tell the story of where our beans come from.
We make conscious decisions about the environmental impact too; our roastery is housed in a converted shipping container.”
The Lost Barn Coffee has also been included in new zero-waste shop Just Footprints Chester. “Our beans will be available to buy from bulk containers, and can be ground to order in the shop.
“We feel incredibly lucky to have started a business that allows us to live and work in these beautiful surroundings. At the same time, we’ve launched a product that we’re really proud of and have been overwhelmed by the response and positive feedback.”
• The Lost Barn Coffee, Tilston, Cheshire. Tel: 01829 470055. www.lostbarncoffee.co.uk
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