Home Comforts: Manifesto Coffee Q+A

The team behind Perthshire coffee roasters Manifesto talk ethical coffee, the impact of the pandemic... and roasting at the kitchen table

Feature by Peter Simpson | 16 Nov 2020
  • Manifesto Coffee

A whole host of micro roasters are putting their spin on coffee beans from the other side of the globe, and Manifesto is one of the newest. Based near Perth, Alex MacIntyre and Lukasz Lewaszkiewicz founded their roastery during the early days of lockdown; they fill us in on how it’s all going...

How did Manifesto come about? What are the motivations behind what you do?

We’ve been working in the coffee industry for about 20 years between us and we’ve both always been interested in the roasting side of things so it seemed like the next logical step for us. Alex bought a small home roaster to try it as a hobby, but what gave us the final push – and in a sense an opportunity – was losing our incomes due to COVID.

The name came from a frustration with the industry attitude towards staffing. Even with the extensive experience we had, often we were offered minimum wage or close to by potential employers, which told us that our experience and knowledge was worthless to them and that offering minimum wage for a skilled job indicates that if they legally could pay less, they would. A manifesto was written and the company was birthed.

How have the various lockdowns and restrictions of the past few months impacted your plans, in either a positive or negative sense?

The first lockdown sped things up in starting Manifesto. Lukasz and his wife had just moved to Edinburgh and a month later everything was shutting down, hence the loss of incomes. We decided to move in together and started roasting in the kitchen just to try and have a bit of money coming in.

Overall we’ve been quite lucky, as cafes being forced to close meant more people starting to brew at home and ordering coffee online. There’s also the fact that without the initial lockdown we probably wouldn’t have had the time to put everything into the business as we have.

The ongoing restrictions led us to relocate to Perth to have a bit more space and be closer to nature, and that move has meant we’ve been able to move into a dedicated roastery on the outskirts of Perth – a bit of a step up from the kitchen!

The ongoing restrictions have caused a few issues with logistics and deliveries, but overall the lockdown has pushed us to do something that might have taken us years to realise under normal circumstances, so we can’t complain.

I know ethical sourcing and transparency are really important to you guys; can you expand a bit on that?

We wanted to create a business that positively impacts as much of the world we affect as possible. That’s why full transparency has been the goal of Manifesto since day one and with each new coffee, we get a step closer towards that goal.

As far as sourcing goes, we would like to be able to tell you what the farmer earns for each of the coffees we sell. We know that for people used to paying supermarket prices for coffee, speciality prices can seem arbitrary and, while we can’t compete with these, we can tell you why our coffee costs what it does. That includes data on what we pay, what our costs are, and for some of our coffee (for now) what the farmer earns too.

What kind of response have you seen so far, and what are your plans for the future?

The response has been fantastic so far. We’ve grown far faster than we anticipated and we really can’t thank our customers enough for all their support. Every day it seems more people are trying to “buy better”, caring more about what goes into what they buy and where it comes from.

As far as our future plans go, we’re currently collaborating with a local brewery, Two Towns Down, on a coffee stout, which is our first beer collaboration and is very exciting! We also have completely compostable nespresso-compatible capsules in development which will probably be out by the time you read this. And if things keep going as well as they do, next year we hope to open doors of our own café in Perth.