“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee.”- Flash Rosenbury, Cartoonist and performer

Meet Max Dubiel and Ted Rosner; 2 guys on a mission to change the world through coffee.

Since April 2016, they opened 2 stores, roast 3 tonnes of coffee a week and are a popular feature of London’s Coffee Festival (12-15 April). They get a lot done – and they’re super smart as well!

Here in central London, there’s a coffee shop on every corner. And given half a chance, you’ll probably find me in one. Currently my favourite is Redemption Roasters, run by Max and Ted. It wins hands down not only on the quality of its coffee but the fact they’ve achieved a coffee world first: opening a roastery in a prison run by young offenders in HMYOI Aylesbury.

Photo credit: Redemption Roasters

Max and Ted spotted the gap in the UK artisan coffee market for highly skilled baristas and one of the retractable social ills of our time- youth imprisonment and stubbornly high youth reoffending rates.

Max and Ted already had a wholesale coffee business, Black Sheep Coffee, and were approached by HMYOI Aylesbury to start train inmates, but this idea quickly grew to the roastery business now known as Redemption Roasters. There’s real focus on sustainably sourced coffee right now, often focused on where beans are grown and the working conditions of those international growers. Redemption Roasters take than one step further.

“74% of young offenders re-offend within 1 year of their release, but they are 50% less likely to re-offend if they leave with skills and a job.”

Through Redemption Roasters’ training programme, whilst in prison, young people are offered extensive training in every aspect of coffee making and roasting. It’s all undertaken at Redemption Roasters’ fully-equipped roastery at HMYOI Aylesbury.  Trainees start by learning about coffee bean types and their origins, basic arithmetic skills, and how to use coffee grinders. After an exam, they are rewarded with their own barista kit, an apron and a tamper. They move onto a very modern Faema machine, are free to make their own drinks and continue to work on the roastery.

When young offenders leave prison, they are fully equipped with professional roasting and competition-level barista skills. Redemption Roasters provide a job in their shops or with one of their partner coffee shops. The whole training process is overseen by Head Roaster, Harry Graham, with over 10 years of experience in the coffee industry and former prison guard and coffee connoisseur, Marc Wioland.

Photo credit: Zoe Cuckow

Being a world first has come at a cost; Max and Ted are quick to dismiss any suspicions of cheap or exploitive labour. All the trainees are paid for their work, in line with Ministry of Justice guidelines and given the restrictive nature of the prison environment, the costs of running the roastery is 3 times higher than a comparable commercial enterprise.

Redemption Roasters’ network of shops is rapidly expanding; their flagship café is Lamb’s Conduit Street and recently the Long Lane, Farringdon café has opened. Plans are afoot for several more shops across the capital soon within the next year.

The training’s quality and high-demand skills are one of the reason for success says Laura Boyle, Head of Reducing Reoffending at HMYOI Aylesbury.

There’s growing demand for their wholesale business to supply to top coffee shops and offices. Now, you can enjoy their coffee at home – They’ve just launched a kickstarter crowd funding campaign to make coffee pods suitable for home coffee machines (Back their campaign here)

“Redemption Roasters is a shining example of how the Prison Service works with our industry partners to teach skills in order to reduce reoffending. Through Redemption, the Apprentices receive top-level training in a state-of-the-art facility, gain real work experience and are introduced to employment opportunities on release. ” – Laura Boyle, Head of Reducing Reoffending at HMYOI Aylesbury.

The young people are equally passionate about their coffee:

“This coffee shop makes me happy to wake up early and get ready for work, its motivated me to learn more, and because of the person who mentored me I know with my skills and knowledge I can definitely get a job in a coffee shop because I know I learnt from the best “- A Trainee Barista

There’s a palpable sense of pride amongst the HMYOI Aylesbury trainees. This sense of ownership and pride is critical to the project’s success and the young people’s self-esteem and self-worth.  Marc, one of the staff, echoes this sentiment, explaining “When you are in here, you are treated like an employee, not like a prisoner, because you are fulfilling a real – life job”.

See Redemption Roasters in action:

Buy coffee for wholesale or for businesses: https://www.redemptionroasters.com/wholesale

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