From a quirky vintage van parked up in a horse-riding school in Turriff, a countryside coffee revolution is brewing.
But instead of petrol fumes from Austen Morley’s eye-catching blue Citroën Hy van, it’s the distinctive aroma of speciality coffee that is causing a stir.
Inspired by his love of a good coffee and a life-changing trip to Australia, Austen launched Morley’s Coffee six weeks ago and already has customers travelling from across the north-east to get a high-quality caffeine fix.
“I was into coffee at university but I became more of a coffee snob by the time I left Australia,” joked Austen.
“The coffee movement in Australia is a lot further ahead as they focus on the quality of the coffee beans and it’s all about being a more sustainable industry.
“And the places you would find speciality coffee would be anywhere, it wouldn’t just be a conventional coffee shop, it could be a kiosk in the wall or someone selling speciality coffee in the back of a van and car, so that inspired me.”
It’s no surprise that Austen is the driving force behind a new coffee culture in Aberdeenshire as a strong entrepreneurial spirit is in his genes.
The son of a haulage company owner and former farmer, Austen followed in his father’s footsteps at a young age, starting his first job at the age of just 12.
“Living out in the countryside, we have a smallholding with chickens so I used to sell eggs.
“My dad used to help me do deliveries to hotels and people’s houses around Turriff so it was drilled into me from a young age.”
It was while studying for a degree in business management at Robert Gordon University, when Austen first developed a taste for coffee.
But the turning point was a trip to Australia where he discovered a whole new coffee culture that he was determined to bring home to Turriff.
“On every street corner in Melbourne there would be another really high-quality coffee shop, so you’re spoiled for choice.”
After returning home in early 2019, Austen initially moved to London to work in sales.
“The London lifestyle just wasn’t for me, it was too hustle and bustle and 100,000 miles an hour every day, ” said Austen.
“I got the experience I wanted there and took inspiration from parts of that experience and took it back up here.”
Moving back to Turriff, the determined 25-year-old took a leap of faith as he embarked on his dream of starting up his own speciality coffee business.
“I’ve only been trading for six weeks as obviously Covid held me up quite a bit.
“The business was in the works as the first lockdown came about so it’s been quite a long process.”
Patience and perseverance paid off as Austen has turned the old vintage van into every coffee connoisseur’s dream.
“I sourced the van, which was a wreck of a shell, from a farm in Holland,” said Austen.
“Luckily, I found a couple of chaps who specialise in plastic car restoration based in Essex, so they restored the van.
“It took a bit of time because Covid made getting parts very difficult as everything was shut down.”
Since opening, word has spread about the vintage van with customers travelling to its base in Turfhill House from Peterhead, Aberdeen, Fraserburgh and Inverurie.
“I guess for the area it’s quite unique.
“I’d love to be using it for events, that’s the long-term strategy for the van, to do weddings and functions.”
For many, a coffee means some instant granules mixed with boiling water, but for Austen, coffee making is an meticulous art form.
“It’s a very intricate process as there are quite a few steps that have to be done to prepare and brew the coffee,” said Austen.
“So customers might have to wait a few more minutes for it but it’ll be well worth it and will taste so much better than what you’ve had before.”
With sustainability in mind, Austen sources his coffee beans from two small-batch roasters, uses compostable cups and also uses milk from Invercamey Dairy.
“The small-batch roasters I use both adopt a very modern, sustainable approach to roasting coffee,” said Austen.
“So they buy the coffee beans in green directly from the farmers and then they roast them in small batches and distribute them to their wholesale customers.”
So what does Austen believe is the perfect coffee?
“Coffee is a very personal thing, there’s lots of different regions that coffee comes from, so you’ve got your South American coffee, East African coffee and a lot of coffee that comes from Indonesia as well.
“So if I’m having a flat white, an espresso-based drink, I quite like a South American coffee in that because it’s really caramelly, chocolatey and nutty and it goes together really nicely with the milk, which we get from a local farmer which is really nice as they do glass pint bottles.”
When Austen is not making coffee, he can be found working out in the gym.
“Going to the gym is my way of switching off and de-stressing,” said Austen.
“Some people wouldn’t think of it as de-stressing but for me it definitely is, it helps me switch off.”
Looking to the future, Austen has big plans.
“I would like to open up a coffee shop and I’d love to have a go at roasting my own coffee beans at some point.
“At that point I’d use the van as an exclusive private hire vehicle and have that on the side.”
Morley’s Coffee is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
For more information go to morleyscoffee.com
Tell us a secret trick of the trade?
If you prefer tea, keep it on the down low.
In your opinion, what makes a good coffee?
I’d say first you need to start with good-quality filtered water.
If you were a coffee, what would you be and why?
Oh I’d be an espresso as that is where it all begins.
Best coffee you’ve ever tried?
Hard choice between coffee shops in Melbourne or Prague, couldn’t say just one place.
If you could own a coffee shop anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Somewhere along the east coast of Australia for the beaches and sunshine!
Apart from coffee, what other drinks do you enjoy?
I enjoy a glass of red wine.
Best coffee and food pairing?
This is really difficult cause I’m a big foodie! Either a cooked breakfast or banana bread.
If you were stuck on a desert island, what three drinks would be there with you?
Knowing my luck a bag of decaf coffee would wash up on the beach. But I’d have a bottle of red, probably a protein shake and good old filter coffee.
You have to make a coffee to represent your local area. What would that be?
An extra hot skinny latte with sugar. I’m hoping Morley’s Coffee can fix this.
You have to serve your favourite superhero or celebrity a coffee. Who is it and what do you serve?
I can see Chris Hemsworth and I enjoying a flat white somewhere on a beach in Byron Bay. Could be the start of a bromance.
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