Launched in partnership with emerging UK operator Long Black, St. Ali, named after the patron saint of coffee Ali ibn Umar al-Shadhili, opened its first coffee bar, roaster and restaurant on the former site of the Dust club on Clerkenwell Road, London last month.
The concept centres on the use of directly-sourced, high grade green beans that are roasted onsite, giving consumers a quality coffee at a commercial price.
James Dickson, owner of Long Black, said he decided to bring the Australian coffee brand over to the UK after spotting a gap in the market for fresh, high quality yet affordable espresso.
“There’s a huge market in London for people over-paying for coffee in terms of the quality they’re getting,” he said. “People drink coffee every day, but what sets us apart is that we ensure we provide the freshest coffee experience to our customers, by using seasonally ripe beans that are roasted on-site and used within 10 days"
The 60-cover St. Ali in Clerkenwell features a coffee/bar on the ground floor with an upstairs restaurant currently awaiting a late license. The restaurant will serve Australian bistro dishes throughout the day.
Baristas at St. Ali will be trained through a special Barista Certification Programme developed by the company’s director of coffee Tim Williams, formerly of Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Run by head barista Baptiste Kreyder, the programme will train and test baristas on technical and sensory brewing skills.
While Dickson will soon be looking for further sites to develop St. Ali in the West End, plans to roll out a smaller, more scalable coffee shop concept named Sensory Lab, are already progressing.
The first Sensory Lab will open in June 2011 in Wigmore Street in the form of a high-end 900sqft concession site serving takeaway coffee using beans from the St. Ali roaster.
Long Black, which is backed by investment vehicle Tarncourt Investments and a separate private investor, plans to open 25 Sensory Labs within the next five years.