An Interview with Richard Trueman, Head Roaster / Development
How did you get started in coffee?
I started working in coffee way back in 2007/8. In my hometown Independent Cafes were non-existent and I had just decided to stop being a chef. I was 25 and in need of direction. I started working for Caffe Nero on Waterloo St in Birmingham and I worked for a wonderful manager named Vikki who taught me a strong grounding in very good management. It wasn’t long before I started to learn latte art and slowly realized there was a big world out there of coffee that I didn’t know much about. It excited me and made me want to learn more. I progressed as far as I could go in a chain café company and handed in my notice – I'll never forget my first trip to London to see their cafes, I was starry eyed and full of hope – visiting Gwillym Davies on a lever espresso machine, Dose, Espresso Rooms, Flat White, Prufrock (when it had just opened), Dept. of Coffee and Social Affairs, Allpress and Ozone Coffee.
Since that point I wanted to bring accessible great coffee to the city I was born in.
Who has been the biggest inspiration or mentor for you in your coffee life?
When I started out in coffee in the independent scene in Birmingham I largely couldn’t find anyone locally that I found inspirational, I found a lot of wannabes and try hards.
My main inspirations at the time were from London - people like Gwillym who was always very nice, Tim Styles talks on sourcing and roasting while he was at workshop were great.
Dan Fellows will remain in my phone as the nicest man in coffee and I always root for him in competitions. Recently going down to Caravan and spending time with the guys there actually rejuvenated me, Birmingham still is in the stages of nurturing a ‘scene’ but to work in an ‘industry’ was something I really took very seriously so being able to work alongside the likes of incredibly talented people like Tane, Sam and Simon has potentially turned those guys and how they carry themselves and the amount of coffee that they turn around in a week. I have never met a team of such humble talent that integrates with the scene and the industry with credibility as they do. I’ve also had a lot of advice that has compounded my thoughts towards how to grow the coffee industry locally.
The most fun time I ever had in coffee was working on a bar with a great team of buddies … Jamie, Aaran (who I still work with now) and Greg. Never take those times for granted!
How has the evolution of Yorks Bakery Cafe shaped your individual coffee career?
I had worked in previous company’s that wanted to roast coffee and I always held off from it because I didn’t feel the support and backing was there, it was usually just focusing on the monetary gain.
Yorks is a company that is always looking to evolve and grow, back in 2012 it was a huge thing for a new café in Birmingham to be using a London roaster like Caravan. Now 4 years later as we step foot into the roasting arena it’s a rejuvenation.
For me personally it has signified a much more serious approach and reconnection with how incredibly lucky I am to do the job I do. The people I have met on the roaster side of things have been exponentially more open and welcoming than 80% of the Baristas I have met in my career.
Starting out at Yorks as a Barista with a lot of bar experience and then moving over to the Roastery has really been the best way of doing it. You can spend so long as a Barista second guessing whether you’re ‘doing it right’ and if there is one thing I’ve learnt Is that there is no definitive wrong or right, just different ways.
That’s the same with Roasting.
What would you like to see happen in the coffee industry over the next ten years?
I think that in order to sustain a coffee industry we need to take the more boring side of things with as much severity as the fun stuff.
Things like good service and hospitality, training real bar skills for baristas, pushing the speed of coffee preparation and setting the standard expectancy as speciality coffee would be a start.
I also would like to see a wider representation of females in the coffee world. I have predominantly worked with females across my career in coffee and I can attest to them being some of the most naturally skilled baristas I have worked with. However they don’t usually get the same level of respect and ‘bravado’ that their male counterparts do.
If we want a serious industry in 2026 then we have to start looking towards developing a wider range of speciality café workers in order to better represent the people that we hope to sell to.
Favourite coffee you’ve roasted?
I think my current favourite is a roast of a Kenyan Kamuyu AA, however we have a world exclusive micro lot coming up soon that is our next espresso from Colombia – Miller Walles and we are all very excited about it.
Favourite coffee someone else has roasted?
Ethiopian Dumerso as an espresso by Caravan – Pulped Natural.