Coffee lovers and culture vultures have been in their element this summer, with the arrival of a new product that quite literally blends coffee and culture together.  

Taking inspiration from the islands, two teenage entrepreneurs, with the help of Include-Us, have created the Hebridean Coffee Company, selling distinctly flavoured peat-smoked coffee to locals and tourists alike.

What started as a six-week long enterprise pilot project with six young people has transformed into a fledgling business run by 18-year-old Abbie and 16-year-old Chloe.  As part of the project, they set up stalls at summer shows across the island, allowing people to taste-test their two blends.  

“Include-Us is delighted to be working with Abbie and Chloe providing support as they start the Hebridean Coffee Company,” says Include-Us Team Leader Lynne Macmillan.  “Include-us was involved prior to the pilot phase of selling the peat-smoked coffee at the summer shows throughout Lewis and Harris.” 

“The feedback from customers was phenomenal and the product was very well received.  This allowed Abbie and Chloe to make plans to take the business forward, knowing that there is demand for the coffee.”

“It sold really well, much better than we ever expected,” says Chloe.  Abbie agrees, adding that despite initial wariness from some customers over the presence of peat flavour, “by the last show there were lots of people wanting it.”

During the production process, Colombian coffee beans are put in a smoker with peat pellets, which are essentially ground peat.  For the weaker blend, the whole coffee bean is smoked for five hours, while for a stronger flavour, the beans are ground and the grains are smoked for just two hours.  “Older people have said it reminds them of when they were young, drinking coffee at the peats,” says Abbie of the coffee’s unique flavour.

They’ve progressed from selling the coffee in flasks to displaying it in glass jars with Harris Tweed lids, paying attention to branding and presentation. 

As Lynne explains, “the girls have been creative in their approach to marketing, using social media to advertise the product with Chloe’s beautiful photographs.”  The two teenagers are also hoping to attend coffee roasting workshops on the mainland in the near future.

Coffee from the Hebridean Coffee Company can currently be found at Buth an Rubha, Tong Community Shop, and Delights.  Both strong and weak blends of the peat smoked coffee are available, and are selling well in all three stores.  Another 40 shops throughout the Western Isles are on a waiting list while production is increased, with deliveries being planned for the coming month.

Include-Us will continue to mentor the girls, as well as provide business start-up support, ensuring there is a financial package in place to allow the business to start on a firm footing. 

“It’s a tremendously exciting prospect for these young people in our community to have the opportunity to establish a business on-island, which will allow them to achieve their potential individually and to create a business in the economically important sector of food and drink,” says Lynne.  

“The Hebridean Coffee Company will be a welcome addition to the network of existing export businesses in the Western Isles.”

Article by Katie Macleod can be found in October's issue (issue number 104) of EVENTS magazine.