Meet the owners
Today he has two bustling Cambridge cafes and a roastery in Shepreth, but Simon Fraser’s idea for speciality coffee company Hot Numbers originated in Australia, over a decade before, as he explains:
The Hot Numbers story begins
I was working in the engineering department at Cambridge University, and went on a positive thinking course run by the university. We had a presentation from a couple of old gentlemen saying they wished they’d done more crazy things in their lives, which really resonated. I left my engineering job to go travelling round South East Asia and ended up in Melbourne. I decided to study saxophone there and began working at a place called The Old Fish Shop, where there was this whole coffee culture – and it excited me!
I worked on a coffee cart and loved being up early making six coffees at a time while chatting to customers, with this little white dog sitting under the counter; it was quite an experience! At the end of that trip my boss sat me down and said ‘when you get home, you need to find a way to bring together your passions for coffee, engineering and music’. He became my mentor; he was the catalyst for me coming back to Cambridge and opening my own coffee shop.
The first café
In 2010 I was installing coffee machines all over London and the whole coffee scene was really taking off, and that gave me confidence that the same formula would work in my hometown. We opened on Gwydir Street in 2011 – and called the cafe Hot Numbers after a record shop owned by my friend in Kingston Street. It incorporated my passion for music – and we had live blues and jazz music from day one!
We got really good feedback on the coffee and I was able to feature some nice latte art which I’d learnt how to do in Australia. The beans were supplied by London coffee roaster, Climpson & Sons, but after a year I decided to roast my own coffee, so that was the engineering element coming in.
When I started roasting the beans, I wanted everyone to see the roastery, but there wasn’t space in Gwydir Street so we moved the roastery to our second location on Trumpington Street. Then we got a chef in to elevate the food at Gwydir Street, and everyone wanted that at Trumpington Street too, so we moved the roastery to a third location at Stapleford Granary, where we were for about two years, growing the business, before moving out to Shepreth.
We ethically source our coffee beans directly from farmers, or from producers who pay farmers fairly on the quality of their crop. We buy coffee from Ethiopia, Kenya, Columbia, Guatemala, Brazil. We use state of the art Giesen coffee roasters, which we connect to a computer so we can control the temperature that the beans are roasted at and create a roast profile. During lockdown we moved the roastery to the front of the store, adding an element of theatre.
A lot of our coffee business now is wholesale, so we supply Burwash Manor, Duxford Lodge, Bushel Box Farm Shop in Willingham, and further afield, our coffee can be found in Scotland and Great Yarmouth.
We offer fantastic brunches; exciting, colourful dishes, nicely presented, made with fresh ingredients. Our bestseller is our buttermilk pancakes, along with our cinnamon buns, which we make in the bakery. We have become known for our sourdough bread and bake over 100 loafs daily.
Another big seller at Shepreth is our sourdough pizzas; we use hot sauce from local producer David Underwood. We make most of our cakes inhouse and Ian (Cumming) from Bake Off comes in to make cakes once a week; his Jaffa Cake is my favourite. We’ve also collaborated with local producer Jack’s Gelato on coffee ice cream.
I haven’t got any expansion plans; the business has never come from a place of financial gain – it’s a true passion. I love the diversity of the people you meet. I recently worked on the coffee machine at the Gwydir Street cafe alongside a girl who’d just started and she couldn’t believe how many customers I knew. It’s amazing that regulars are still coming back after all these years!
Love Cambridge are working with Velvet Magazine to showcase some of Cambridge’s best independent businesses, read their latest issue for more local interviews like this one.
Photo credit: Richard Fraser
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