Belfast Telegraph

How home-grown coffee company Johnsons' is still going strong over 100 years later

Johnsons' Coffee is opening its doors to the public for a unique behind the scenes tour this weekend. Judith Cole hears more about the historic firm which is based in Lisburn

Rich history: Dermot, Michael, Dermot Snr and Andy Johnson
Rich history: Dermot, Michael, Dermot Snr and Andy Johnson

By Judith Cole

One of Northern Ireland's oldest and best loved producers, Johnsons' Coffee, is opening the doors of its roastery this Saturday for a special tour and coffee tasting experience.

The event is part of this year's Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council's Food and Drink Programme.

A home-grown family business launched over 100 years ago, Johnsons' began its journey on the streets of Belfast in 1910 when the Johnson brothers noticed a gap in the market and started to import coffee. Acknowledging early on that 'quality was king', the Johnson family began roasting their own coffee in 1913 and quickly realised their true passion for the craft of coffee preparation. After many years of successful coffee roasting, Johnsons' then went on to reveal Bellagio, a professional quality blend of high-grown Arabica coffees, chosen to create a smooth, sweet, yet fruity, espresso ideal for both Americano and milk-based coffees.

Over the last number of years, 'coffee culture' has become extremely important within the social lives of Northern Irish consumers and, with the rise of independent and quirky coffee shops seeking quality and uniqueness for their roasts, Johnsons' Coffee has continued to develop its brand, product and training resources to ensure it stands out from the rest and remains a top choice among coffee shops across the province.

"At Johnsons' we roast only the finest, ethically sourced, 100% Arabica coffees," says Tim Smith, Johnsons' Coffee brand development manager. "Our independent coffee shops are the heartbeat of our business and we will continually strive to deliver the very best service beyond just the coffee.

"Our ongoing barista training, coffee auditing and 24-hour maintenance service all form part of the long-term strategy to ensure that Johnsons' remains the go-to coffee roaster in Northern Ireland for another 100 years."

So what makes a perfect cup of coffee? According to the Johnsons' Coffee team, coffee should be kept airtight until ready for use as freshness is key when making a great brew.

The Johnson brothers who founded the company
The Johnson brothers who founded the company

Johnsons' pride themselves on their 'just in time' production strategy, where all coffee is roasted to order, so no coffee waits around at the roastery. This approach means your coffee will always be as fresh as it can be. Grind levels also play a huge part in the final taste. A grind that is too coarse means the coffee will be weak and lack flavour, while a grind that is too fine risks the coffee becoming 'muddy' and unpleasant. 

In recent months, Johnsons' Coffee has made a significant investment in growing the business, to ensure it remains an industry frontrunner, including a packaging re-design, a brand new website, roaster upgrades bringing more energy efficiency to the factory and a subscription service that lets the company reach more of its customers and deliver freshly hand roasted coffee, directly to their doors.

Due to become a regular occurrence from early 2020, Johnsons' Coffee also plan to begin introducing regular Roastery Tours, with the first taking place this Saturday, guided by brand development manager and Barista Trainer of the Year (from the Institute of Hospitality in 2018), Tim Smith.

The factory
The factory

The tour will take visitors on a coffee journey from bean to cup, where there will be a chance to taste various coffees from different regions, discover several exciting flavour profiles and explore a range of different brewing methods, taking the same award-winning blend of continental branded espresso beans and brewing them multiple ways.

The interactive coffee tour will also see each ticketholder get the chance to make their own frothy cappuccino and try their hand at creating the perfect flat white, complete with latte art. Once participants have decided upon their preferred blend, the Johnsons' team will then take the time to explain all there is to know about coffee and food pairings, leaving visitors with a better understanding of the choices behind many coffee shop food offerings.

Each visitor can be assured that their coffee experience won't finish once they leave the factory as each guest will go home with their very own goody bag, complete with a selection of Johnsons' award-winning blends, so that they may continue their Johnsons' Coffee journey at home. And if this isn't enough, one lucky winner will also receive a complimentary slow brew Chemex coffee maker for producing the best latte art on the day.

Robert Heaney by the roaster
Robert Heaney by the roaster

Taking place from 11am-1pm at Johnson's Coffee in Lisburn, this Saturday's Roastery Tour is the perfect experience for coffee lovers and guarantees that your morning coffee will never be the same again.

  • For more information and tickets to the Johnsons' Coffee Roastery Tour, visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/johnsons-coffee-roastery-tour-tickets-76206504707

Johnsons’ Bellagio coffee
Johnsons’ Bellagio coffee

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