Tesco in surprise ‘artisan’ cafe link

In what appears to be a quite remarkable tie-up, Tesco is to work with the noted artisan coffee house business Taylor Street Baristas in a project which may acquire former Clintons Card stores and turn them into upmarket coffee houses on provincial high streets, using coffee sourced direct from growers.

Very little is known of the project so far – it is believed that the partners have created a company called Harris + Hoole for the joint venture, and that company was indeed registered in June, with director details giving an address at ‘Tesco House’. A basic company website simply says: ‘Coffee sourced direct from growers – check. Baristas in intensive training – check. Shop open – nearly there’.

An online comment from the company’s HR manager says: “Currently building the people function for a dynamic and inspirational company, whose aim is to build a new generation of coffee shops that offer the most fantastic tasting, best quality and ethically sourced coffee to everyone. Our desire is to bring the product quality, experience and entrepreneurial approach of an independent – and deliver it on the High Street. We believe that a great coffee experience is a right, not a privilege or a happy accident.”

It has been suggested that the first store will be in Amersham, Buckinghamshire later this month, followed by a second in Uxbridge. It is also suggested that the new organisation is in talks with Clintons’ administrators, possibly to buy 15 more sites.

Taylor Street Baristas has eight coffee houses in London. It is owned by Nick, Laura and Andrew Tolley, and was among the first of the new breed of Australian-owned coffee businesses, launching in 2005.

Tesco told Coffee House today: “Tesco invests to help build brands where we believe we can add value; much in the same way we did with Dobbies, blinkbox, and We7. In the case of Taylor Street, we are investing in the entrepreneurial founders of a new venture and taking a non-controlling stake. The Tolley family will decide the business strategy. The coffee industry is growing as a whole and Taylor Street is a successful artisan coffee shop business with a loyal and thriving customer base and we support their vision to bring premium coffee to a wider audience.”

Nick Tolley of Taylor Street Baristas told us: “It’s true. We’re working on a new artisan high street offer, and Tesco are helping to finance the business start-up.”

The use of the old Clinton’s stores would form an additional curious link with the coffee trade. When the card chain failed earlier this year, its chief executive was a former CEO at Starbucks.

This has been another Coffee House newsflash.. You can find the coffee trade’s main news magazine at http://www.coffee-house.org.uk

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