A caffeine-fuelled catch-up with Scott James, Coaltown Coffee founder

Founder of the multiple award-winning Coaltown Coffee, Scott James has brought some of the finest roasted brews, fresh opportunity and an air of newfound cool to the former coal mining town of Ammanford. Here he tells us his story…

Why Coaltown?

My great-grandfather was a coal miner. Back in those days the community was thriving and industry booming in Ammanford, in Carmarthenshire in South Wales. But the town lost its purpose, spirit and hope when the mines closed in the 1970s. People laughed when I talked about opening a business because there was nothing here. But I could see the potential. I thought: come on, let’s create something! 

Why coffee?

When I left school, it was tough finding a job in a post-industrial town. I knew, however, that I loved coffee. I was brought up in a coffee shop and wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t have much capital. So I started buying coffee from other roasters and set up a subscription business. The name Coaltown is a nod to my great-grandfather and Ammanford’s mining heritage. I made it my own little mission to bring new industry and opportunity to the area.

How did you start?

We couldn’t afford a commercial roaster when we started, so my dad and I cobbled one together using parts from an old BBQ and a Ford KA [to cool the beans]. We operated out of a garage and shed when we started in 2014. We eventually saved up enough to buy a 12kg Probat roaster, then opened our first Coaltown espresso bar around two years ago.

Tell us about the roastery

The Coaltown roastery is now based near the original mines, which is pretty fitting! It’s a cool, open-plan space with an onsite cafe. We designed the space after a visit to Brooklyn as we were majorly inspired by their take on post-industrial areas. We wanted to make a big impact in the place you would least expect it, employing locals in the world of third-wave coffee. And it has been a huge success – people seem to love the place!

Spill the beans…

Our coffee is direct trade – we talk directly with independent producers around the world. This means we get the best lots, which are fully traceable, and ensures that producers are being paid a fair price for the quality beans they produce. It’s all high-grade and ethically sourced. Our coffee is our new black gold! 

Nice, now how can we become baristas?

We hold regular tasting events and barista courses at the roastery academy. It’s a lush space to be able to showcase what we do. Events are held right in the middle of the space, overlooking the production area, so you can see every aspect – from green coffee being roasted to coffees being made. The courses swing from making the perfect espresso to latte art. 

coaltowncoffee.co.uk; @coaltowncoffee