Q&A | Maverick Streak</br>- Richard Blake

Q&AMaverick Streak
- Richard Blake

Across the globe exists communities of makers, doers and thinkers all connected through their maverick pursuits of creativity. This summer we travelled to the south coast of England where we explored the creative mavericks of Cornwall. 

In this special Maverick Streak, we connect with several inspired makers on the shores of these Great British Isles. Richard Blake is the founder of Yallah Coffee, an idea that first took shape in Morocco and finally settled on the shores of Falmouth, Cornwall. Co-produced with Phil Gevaux and a collective of creative and supportive friends, Yallah strives to produce honest + sustainable coffee that's accessible for everyone, anytime and anywhere.

Words by Richard Blake | Photography by James Bowden

Yallah seems steeped in meaningful journeys from the source of the coffee all the way to the final brewed cup, why is it important that you stay connected through the whole process?

Ah, there are so many reasons. Firstly, it's just very natural to stay connected with it because that's where the fun and excitement is. Visiting farms, seeing culture and meeting new people, not to mention finding new coffees. It's like a never-ending lucky dip where you can come across wonderful people or exquisite coffees at any moment. Those trips to origin are when you have to pinch yourself and remember how lucky you are to call it a job. There are other things like quality control and education that you just can't replace - nothing teaches you more than seeing things with your own eyes.

Cornwall has such a diverse creative community and you’re part of the Argal Farm collective, how does this influence what you do at Yallah?

I don't think Yallah would exist if it wasn't for Argal Home Farm. Our landlord (farm owner and friend James Smith) was the one who convinced me now was the time to leave my old job and start roasting on the farm. Now we pretty much have everyone on the farm working with us in some form throughout the year. Having a good crew of creative like-minded people around you is essential - whether that's for bouncing ideas off or encouraging you to go for a surf... it's just so important to keep morals high and make you take a step back. In some ways starting a business is the easy bit... keeping the juices flowing and striving for improvement is when it gets tough. That's where the community comes in.

Coffee can be enjoyed anywhere, where’s been your best and most memorable cup of coffee on your travels?

I think my most memorable cups are always on trips to origin - there's something about tasting coffee grown within a few miles of where you're tasting it and the excitement I feel when we're tasting 30 or 40 coffees, looking for something special. I'm also a massive fan of 'Cowboy Coffee' and regularly go on missions with no brewing equipment except for a mug. All you need is coarse ground coffee (like for a cafetiere) and hot water. Chuck it all in a mug and leave it for 4 minutes, scrape away any grounds and scum that floats and there you have it, a delicious brew.

Keeping things simple is an ethos at Millican we can relate to, and it seems to guide everything you do too, how easy has it been to keep things simple and grow your brand?

I feel like we've been pretty good at that, or at least I hope we have. I guess our thing has always been to roast the best coffees and be on par with anyone else considered the top end of speciality coffee, but without really engaging with the snobbish side of coffee that can be exclusive. In that respect, keeping things simple is about just being open and honest, giving out as much information as we think is easily digestible, then willing to have deeper conversations if our customers want to. It's a tricky line I think, between offering just enough insight and info to capture attention and let people know you're knowledgeable, without putting people off with too much scientific information. 

What does travel mean to you?

It doesn't need to be far, Cornwall is full of places to adventure and for me, that's travel just the same as going to South America. Literally just a few miles down the road once you get to the Helford... that's travel, and the world is your oyster. In terms of what it means to me as a person, it's everything that has shaped me, and in turn Yallah. From seasons in the Alps to van tripping around Europe, it's where I've met most of my friends and developed the love of everything that continues to inspire me. I think travel not only shapes you but it also gives you an instant connection with other people who've experienced similar things, which goes back to the community thing I mentioned earlier. Like-minded people who have similar hopes and aspirations.