Originally published on suitcasemag.com
If you’ve been sweating over your flat white all Summer and haven’t cottoned on to the new and altogether more refreshing coffee craze -the mighty cold brew-you’ve got some catching up to do. At the risk of joining the throngs of self-satisfied caffeine snobs, we’ve been trying to drink better coffee recently. And it has to be said, once you start sipping on the good stuff, it’s hard to go back. Which is why it is excellent news that Sandows is spreading through London like wildfire. The company is the brainchild of best friends Luke Suddards and Hugh Duffie, who cut their coffee brewing teeth working together with the coffee masters over at TAP.
We paid a visit to Sandows’ new production facility in Hackney, a masterpiece of brick walls, green pendant lights, and a whole load of machinery that we were too scared to touch. The cold brew craze has been insistently labeled ‘hipster’, and this little Hackney haven does little to dodge this accusation. “We really want to steer clear of this obsession with ‘cool’” Hugh insists, “We’re making a product that we want to stick around, so that kind of thing isn’t at the forefront of our minds.” It has to be said, though, Sandows is incredibly cool. Luke and Hugh have designed a bottle that looks iconic before its time. The brew comes in pocket sized glass flasks labeled with their striking blue and white logo. The company is named after Eugen Sandow, the Victorian ‘father of body building’ whose rippling pecks were perfected using “little intricate movements perfectly designed to get the results.” Hugh explains that the name is “Just a nod to using unusual methods to strive for perfection.”
So what are the methods? Sandows’ cold brew is created using a meticulous steeping system, with technical bells and whistles at every turn. We ask the boys to break it down for us. “The simplest way to describe it is as ground coffee infused with cold water.” Hugh explains. “There are a lot of variables in the process that we have to control, though.” He whips out what looks like a mad scientists handbag and shows us the ‘refractometer’ inside; a piece of kit that measures how much light is flowing through the water and how much of the coffee has dissolved in it. A coffee telescope, if you will. This is just one of the methods that the boys use to make sure their cold brew is as pure and delicious as humanely possible. “I like the geeky side of brewing.” Hugh says, “Things can get extremely technical when it comes to coffee, but we certainly don’t push that on the drinkers. Obsession definitely goes on here, but we don’t have to tell everyone about it.” And it’s true. Coffee does seem to be getting a little smarmy. We’ve all been there, panic-ordering a cappuccino because we don’t know what anything else on the menu is. We ask Luke and Hugh if they’ve noticed this surge of smug baristary. “We’re definitely aware of this growing culture of serious coffee,” They say, “and how lots of people may find that a little intimidating. We keep that in mind. Our bottles just have the type of coffee and the use-by date on them, no crazy technical details. We want it to be accessible and for everyone to try it.” But it seems London doesn’t need much convincing. Sandows’ classic bottled cold brew is cropping up in big name shops, hotels, cafes and bars across London, while their nitrogen-infused variety is being pulled from taps at some of the city’s best coffee shops and bars. Our favourite way to drink it is still straight from the bottle, tossing it back like alcoholics with a hipflask. “We want to be everywhere as soon as possible!” Luke says. It definitely feels like they’re getting there.
And the good news doesn’t stop there. Sandows has recently been showing the public that their cold brew, tonic water, gin and a few plinks of ice is a marriage made in heaven. If you have yet to try this potent concoction, we can vouch for its delicious, buzz-inducing results. “London has just come in to the cold brew game, so we want to show people how versatile it is.” Hugh explains. “People still do think it’s quite obscure. I guess it’s a case of making sure they try it. We’re really working on showing people that it’s just about enjoying the cold brew however you like it. With gin is a good start!”
Visiting Luke and Hugh on a drizzly Friday, it’s clear how busy they are. They dash to us from a meeting, and are off again like shots as soon as we’re wrapped up. “We’re still at the beginning stages, and it’s very intense. We’re in here a hell of a lot.” Luke says. “It’s a scary but seriously exciting time in our lives.” Their energy comes as little surprise, though, when Hugh explains that between them they drink “a couple of litres of coffee a day”. “It’s probably too much, to be honest.” Hugh says, his eyelid flickering ever so slightly…