Meet Sean McHugh from Trading Post Coffee Roasters

We meet Sean McHugh and delve deeper his expertise as Wholesale and Training Manager at Trading Post Coffee Roasters in Brighton, uncovering valuable industry insights on selecting the perfect coffee for your business.

Learn the essential factors to consider when purchasing coffee, his advice on careers in the industry and the benefits of working for an independent Brighton coffee shop.

What do you like most about working in hospitality in Brighton?

It’s got to be the people.

There’s such a variety of personalities and cultures around Brighton, so every person you meet has their own unique story. The coffee community is thriving here, it’s so interesting to see so many roasters and baristas doing the same thing but in their own way. No day is ever the same. On top of this, there’s such a vast amount of food and drink places to explore, you barely need to leave the city!

What are your roles and responsibilities at TPC?

My role at Trading Post Coffee Roasters is Wholesale and Training Manager. It’s my job to grow the brand and showcase our coffees to other business owners. Day to day, I’m out and about visiting coffee shops and restaurants, carrying out coffee tastings and visiting customers for barista training or just to touch base.

Alongside the wholesale element of the job, I also help to co-ordinate events we attend, such as London Coffee Festival and Brighton Coffee Festival, ensuring we have the right coffees, equipment, branding and people available.

Please can you share a whistle-stop tour of your career? 

It’s pretty much always been coffee.

I started working in a Coffee Shop when I was 15, washing up and cleaning stock rooms.

After a couple of years I’d worked my way up to Manager.

I then moved on to work at The University of Surrey as a Catering Assistant Manager. Day to day, I managed two Starbucks sites, as well as being a manager for the wider catering department there.

In 2013, I moved into a training role at UCC Coffee where I received such incredible, intense training, I have them to thank for my knowledge on equipment and training today.

After that, I slowly progressed through other coffee/equipment suppliers, until I found myself applying for the role at Trading Post Coffee Roasters just after lockdown in June 2021, and I haven’t looked back!

Is there a moment in your career that stands out above the rest? 

My first dip into the world of coffee and machines outside of being a barista was at UCC Coffee. Here I was extremely lucky to meet so many important figures in the coffee industry, as well as travelling to equipment manufacturers in Europe.

I’ll never forget my first visit to Nuova Simonelli/Victoria Arduino in Italy, visiting their factory and learning about their history and development.

This role was pivotal in cementing my love for the industry, being able to learn about so many different coffee machines, surrounded by so many passionate people.

Describe the features of the coffee types at TPC and what makes these good choices for baristas and consumers alike?

At Trading Post Coffee Roasters, our expertise lies in crafting unique coffee blends. Regardless of the coffee shop you visit, you have the freedom to select from our diverse range of blends, each with distinct origins and flavours.

We offer four consistent blends, catering to a wide spectrum of preferences, from velvety and sweet to robust and bold.

This uniformity across all our locations ensures a consistent experience for our customers, no matter which Trading Post Coffee Roasters they choose to visit.

When selecting a coffee for a hospitality business, what should a business owner consider before choosing a coffee supplier

There are so many things that need to be taken into account when choosing a coffee supplier, but the main one should be flavour.

Coffee is subjective, and you’ll never be able to please everyone with one coffee, but by understanding your customer base and type of establishment, we can help to recommend which blend would work best.

Alongside coffee flavour, it’s also important to look at Sustainability credentials, deliveries, and what support a coffee roaster offers. 

One of the most important factors to consider is the team. I think it’s really important to have a good relationship between supplier and partner, so you can have some fun along the way!

What support does TPC business offer from a wholesale perspective?

Being a family run company, we like wholesale partners to feel like part of the team. From the initial meet, we set up bespoke 1 on 1 coffee tastings to give the customer an idea of our company as a whole.

Once we have been chosen as a coffee supplier, we will be there throughout the journey, we won’t just disappear after the first delivery.

We include ongoing, complimentary barista training to all of our wholesale partners, to ensure the customer is confident and happy making coffee, but also to make sure the Trading Post Coffee Roasters brand is being well represented.

We work with the best coffee equipment suppliers, such as La Marzocco, Victoria Arduino and Mazzer.

Currently we have an incredible machine rental bundle deal on offer, supplying a coffee machine, grinder, water filter and full service from just £45.00 per week!

How does Brighton sit nationally in terms of its presence on the coffee map? 

Brighton is definitely up there as a destination for excellent coffee, I know that people travel from all over to our city for the coffee experience.

We have so many incredible artisan coffee roasters, crammed into such a small area that it’s easy to get superb quality coffee round every corner.

We’re very lucky to be part of an industry that’s thriving in Brighton. This is shown through the success of the Brighton Coffee Festival. I was talking to people here who I had met at London Coffee Festival. People know that travelling to Brighton means not only great coffee, but fantastic food and seaside vibes!

How has the coffee industry changed in your time in the industry?

A huge amount!

Since the early 2000’s, our knowledge of good quality coffee has come on leaps and bounds!

Back then, it was very much the thought of ‘how fast can we make this coffee, how hot can we steam the milk’, whereas now, we really understand the importance of process and recipe, to bring the best flavour possible to the cup. On top of this, it’s no longer a case of buying a dark roast, low cost, commercially roasted coffee. People now have expectations with coffee and want a variety of flavours.

How do you think this industry will change in the future? 

From a coffee point of view, I think Sustainability is going to continue to grow to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, especially with a focus on how we leave a footprint on our environmental effects.

How important is the team at Trading Post Coffee Roasters to its continuing success?

The team at Trading Post Coffee Roasters are key to its success. As I mentioned before, it’s a family run company, and everyone knows each other.

Each and every person working for the company has a role, and without that person we wouldn’t be growing at the rate we are.

I get to work very closely with the Director of the company, so it’s lovely to get to be involved with all aspects of the company, and means I can get fast decisions when required!

Your favourite venues in Brighton for brunch, dinner and drinks and why?

There are so many to choose from, but I think it would have to be Baked in Hove for brunch, their food is incredible and the team at Baked are always so friendly and welcoming.

Colin at Baked Interview, Hove cafe for breakfasts and brunches. Exterior shot

In the evening, the award winning Burnt Orange is a favourite of mine. The atmosphere is electric, the cocktails are so moreish and the food is always top class.

Obviously, Trading Post Coffee Roasters for brunch and coffee too!

What is the one, most important, piece of advice you would give to an aspiring barista?

Work for an independent. Big chains serve a purpose, but you become a number and don’t receive the attention you deserve. Working for smaller independents gives you the opportunity to learn how the business works as a whole, as well as having some of the best, most talented baristas around you.

Generally, the quality of coffee in an independent cafe who use locally roasted, artisan coffee, or roast their own coffee, tends to be much higher.

Also, get involved in everything coffee related. Get yourself to coffee festivals and cupping sessions, immerse yourself in everything you can to do with the role and you’ll learn so much and meet some amazing, like minded coffee people.

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