Rich Blake was on the road in Morocco when the word Yallah got caught in his head.
Buzzing on the local coffee, arms noodled from laps at a dusty right, he kept hearing local kids shout Yallah, which means ‘Let’s Go!’ in Arabic.
Far from the latte-sipping hoards and without a handlebar moustache in sight, Rich bought and restored a very old roasting machine, setting up shop in rural South Cornwall. Now he roasts and works from Argal Home Farm, high up in a remote valley but a quick shot to the lizard and the south coast reefs. ‘For most of the year,’ Rich says, ‘we try and keep the big rolling door up and the sun shines in and the fields outside seem closer.’ The building, a barn that houses several innovative businesses and the biomass boiler that powers the whole farm, must have one of the best views from a coffee roastery throughout the UK.
‘For me, a typical day starts with walking my dog,’ Rich says. ‘The roastery is based on a old farm so it’s kind of perfect, I can come into the roastery, turn the coffee machine on, then go for a walk. By the time I get back the machine is hot and ready to brew.’
Rich and Yallah co-founder Phil have the roasting ritual down. ‘We’re roasting every day at the moment so each day is a routine of batch roasting, drinking, and talking about coffee. Again and again,’ Rich says. ‘There is usually 2 of us in the roastery so often one person will be roasting and the other will be training our customers or talking people through our processes and what it is we’re doing, that goes for both wholesale and retail customers.’ Yallah offer a personal service that is miles away from a ‘normal’ coffee company but they operate on the time-honoured three foot rule – if the surf’s up and they can afford to, they get amongst it.
The honest approach is reflected in the sort of customers the brand attracts. They are loyal and connected, they care about where their coffee comes from and who they are buying it from. Rich says that this can get so local that ‘we often have people drop by the roastery to pick up coffee and likewise we encourage all our customers to come here and see for themselves what we’re doing. It helps spark that passion for the product.’
The business is rooted in sustainability values too. The biomass boiler is partly powered by chaff from the roastery, the workshop itself is powered by solar panels. From ethical packaging to a transparent supply chain, including using carbon neutral couriers, the founders make consistent decisions that might be impossible if they were located elsewhere. It’s a very different approach to the image-heavy, substance-light landscape of what passes for normal in coffee culture.
Yallah throws their doors open. Earlier this year they held a springtime feast to which the community were invited. People of every generation enjoyed a series of creative workshops and an incredible feast. It was a great vibe and reflective of the ethos at Argal Home Farm, powered of course by good, honest coffee.
Words: Dan Crockett
Photos: Lulu Ash