TRAINING in catering after leaving school, Mark Armstrong had no idea he would end up using his skills to roast coffee. But, after cheffing across Cumbria and in Leeds, that’s exactly what happened.

Now he’s come home, living in Cockermouth and running two coffee roasting businesses in Whitehaven.

Mark says: “When I was studying catering at West Cumbria College I didn’t expect to go on to roast coffee but the principles behind cheffing and coffee roasting are the same. People don’t think of coffee as food but it is, and producing great coffee is all about getting the recipe right.”

Originally from Great Broughton, Mark attended Cockermouth School before college, then trained at Lyzzick Hall near Keswick.

He worked at Martins Bakery in Cockermouth, the Belle Vue at Papcastle and several pubs and restaurants in Keswick before deciding that that side of catering wasn’t for him.

In 2012, Mark moved to Leeds to take stock and refocus. While there he met his wife Jean and they set up their own catering business. It was Jean’s grandmother, a Kenyan coffee grower, who inspired their next business move.

Mark, 41, says: “After growing up on instant coffee and hating it, in Leeds I started trying speciality coffee because my friends were all drinking it and I realised it was totally different.

“Then Jean’s grandma sent some unroasted coffee beans so I started looking into how to roast coffee and it grew from there.”

News and Star: Mark at the roasterMark at the roaster (Image: Submitted)

In 2016 the couple launched Shiloh Coffee Roasters in Leeds, before relocating to Whitehaven’s Haig Enterprise Park when they moved to Cockermouth last year. The business supplies ethical coffee to individuals, shops and cafes.

Last month they launched a second brand, New Eden Coffee Roasters, to supply churches and other organisations, and support good causes locally and internationally.

Mark says: “As a student, I never realised there was so much to a cup of coffee, from the variety of beans and production processes, to the different flavours you can create through blends.

“Now I love discovering more about coffee, improving the products we sell as I learn, and helping our customers to find out more about where their coffee comes from and the people who produce it.”