Dave Cullern’s dream to one day open his own café came to life in the most magnificent way back in October 2016 when he opened the doors to Sham City Roasters in Hastings Old Town.
His eclectic and completely unique location is the perfect stage upon which the art of coffee roastery can be showcased in all its aromatic glory.
I caught-up with Dave to talk future plans, creativity, doughnuts and of course, coffee! I love this place and I am really excited to see what 2019 holds for Sham City!
What was your inspiration for opening Sham City Roasters cafe and how long has it been a dream for?
Sham City Roasters started out initially as a small coffee roastery in 2015 which I ran out of my spare room when I lived in London, I used to sell online and through various markets but my dream was always to open a café eventually. I have always loved coffee and I got the idea to start roasting when I was travelling through America because I visited a number of small roastery/coffee shops while I was there. I made the decision very early on that I was only going to serve filter coffee because it’s what I like and the best way to show off the flavours in the coffee’s I roast. I always loved the idea of offering different origins of coffee as opposed to different types of coffee drinks. I think some people think we’re mad but more and more people are catching on to the qualities of filter coffee and appreciate what we’re trying to do. I’m not really inspired by the coffee world very much, I find most of it very boring and homogenised so from a business perspective most of my inspiration comes from alternative culture and specifically the DIY punk scene which I’ve been a part of since I was a teenager. That scene taught me loads of things, but most importantly it gave me the confidence to believe that making something interesting is more important than making excessive amounts of cash and that community is more important than personal success.
Your location in Clockwork Crow is stunning, how did that come about!?
It really is an incredible space and we’re extremely lucky to be there! Lisa, who runs The Clockwork Crow, was a friend of a friend who I contacted when I moved down to Hastings, she had a space at the back of the shop which had previously been a café but, at the time, was being used as a store room. We got on really well and felt that our business’s complemented each others and the rest is history I guess!
How did you get into the art of roasting beans and how many blends do you currently have?
I’m completely self taught in coffee roasting, I picked it up on a whim as a hobby and just kept working at it and becoming more and more obsessed with it!! Initially I used a small 250kg drum roaster and as things grew I moved up to the medium sized 1kg roaster I use today. I have 3 main blends which are our staples and then I regularly do limited edition short runs which are usually single origin. We’ve also done some collaborations with other small businesses, most notably we made a coffee for a collaboration with the amazing feminist cycle wear company Ride With Wolves and we’ve made signature coffees for Wow And Flutter, which is a record shop and café in Hastings (and one of my favourite places in the world!) and for the Old Town House which is a punk venue in Warrington. We have a lot of plans to do more collaborations this year.
You offer a huge variety of vegetarian and vegan treats, have you always had a passion for food?
I’ve been vegetarian since I was a teenager and been vegan for over 5 years, I’ve always loved cooking but it was only really when I started the café that I started to look at food in a different way. I was very lucky to find an AWESOME vegan bakery in Vegan Antics who make all of the cakes we stock. For the first 18 months of the café I only served grilled cheese sandwiches, mostly because I was running the place on my own and my emphasis was obviously on serving coffee. From April this year, my partner Siobhan has come on board and as a result we’ve been able to extend the menu a great deal. Siobhan has far more skills than me when it comes to food and she is responsible for most of the yummy junk food that we now serve. She’s also the genius behind Deadbeat Doughnuts and you haven’t lived until you’ve tried one of those things, trust me!
Was it a conscious decision to make Sham City Roasters vegan and veggie?
Yes, definitely. As I said, I’ve not eaten meat for most of my life so I wouldn’t have known where to start if I’d gone in any other way. It also fits with my philosophy of making decisions based on what I want as opposed to what will make the most amount of money.
What’s it like having your own space in the heart of Hastings Old Town?
When we opened, veganism was much smaller than it is now and most of the vegan’s that found us in the first year we were open were super thankful that we’d opened something like this in Hastings Old Town which, at the time, wasn’t particularly vegan or veggie friendly. I’m super happy to say that that couldn’t be further from the truth now, it seems like everywhere has loads of vegan options and its definitely continuously growing. I love the old town and Sham definitely benefits from being there but I don’t think it totally defines us, I feel as much a part of the vegan community and the Hastings punk community as I do the Old Town community.
Who decided on your totally unique décor?
I can take almost no credit for that. The seating area in the café is also a part of the main shop and as a result it’s all Lisa’s hard work, even the tables and chairs we use are for sale!!! My only addition to the décor is a massive clown face which we have mounted at the back of the food prep area. I just fell in love with that thing and have always had a weird fascination with circus/carny culture. I think he creeps a lot of people out too which I find kinda fun!
Are there any new products you’ve seen that you’d like to stock?
We’ve just released a new collection which celebrates filter coffee methods called “Our Gang Never Sleeps” which has some really awesome artwork by Bloodflower Design on it. We have a T-Shirt and some badges at the moment but I think I’m going to get some other cool things made in that style. I love making fun and interesting merchandise for the business so I’m sure they’ll be loads of weird and wonderful things coming in the future.
What exciting plans do you have for your cafe for 2019?
We’re currently talking about ideas to extend the menu with some new things and I’m planning some of the short run coffee’s I’m going to be roasting this year. The place has grown more than I could ever have imagined over the last 12 months so hopefully we’ll see a continuation of that. So much of what makes the café what it is comes from the people who walk through the door and I really feel like we’ve helped to develop a lovely community around the place, I hope that that just gets bigger and we get to meet more awesome people new and old in 2019. I also hope that we can play a part in the continued growth of filter coffee and veganism within the local community.
I have to ask this! What’s your favourite smoothie blend?
I absolutely suck at eating enough fruit every day so I am actually gonna try to get on the smoothie wagon this year (as opposed to living off just carbs every day), not sure what my favourite would be (gravy doesn’t count right?!), probably something with a lot of berries and absolutely no banana!