Travelling with Ed Cutcliffe

When The Little Marionette’s founder, Ed Cutcliffe, decided to start up in London, he realised that the coffee culture would be quite different from ours back in Australia. Luckily, two of his co-workers, Kirby Sinclair and Wesley Cusick, had moved to London to train, play and coach squash. During their time there, they found they couldn’t get a decent coffee anywhere. Otherwise, they loved the city and wanted to move there!

They were great mates with Ed and had worked in all corners of The Little Marionette business in Sydney. After consulting him, the three of them decided to start up a roasting business with minimal outlay. The boys started coaching squash for income while they spent a year building the business in Winchester, just one-hour south-west of London.

They found that being Australian was an advantage, but Ed said it wouldn’t matter how good your sales skills were, they didn’t help in London.  Being an Australian roaster helped but, most of all, it was quality that won over the locals.

Party at Pavillion, Sloan Square | Image by Reverb London

Ed said they adapted their approach to meet the market expectations. They had to redefine their flavour profile whilst not compromising on quality, and adapt that into their roasting style.

“We found London was a different market,” Ed said. “I found the coffee scene was about 7-8 years behind Australia with regard to consumer appreciation and delivery expectations.”

“We found that double ristrettos were the norm, and split shots were just not being used anywhere.”

He believes that this will evolve over the coming years, the same as it has in Australia. “The coffee market is driven by expat Australians,” he said, “who are trying to make their antipodean coffee experience and products relevant to a very different consumer.”

The Little Marionette boys seem to have hit the mark. Their roastery, The Roasting Party, has successfully pushed into the wholesale market throughout the UK as well as Europe. They have also helped more operators open multiple stores than any other brand.

They have also recently opened their own store – Party on Pavilion – a laneway cafe just off Sloane Street. Owned by the 8th Earl of Cadogan, the shop is part of one of the largest property portfolios in London. When Lord Cadogan sent a survey to his tenants recently, he asked them what facilities they would like located nearby. Amongst the mix of requests was good coffee and the Earl went to the market to find the best. He approached The Roasting Party to set up shop, and the rest is history. Set amongst other artisan stores, and with Bill Granger’s restaurant, Granger & Co, at the end of the lane, the boys wave a cheery hello to the Earl as he walks by daily to and from work.

The puppeteer founder of Little Marionette is not one to sit still. He has also sent his puppet strings into the New York market. A client who was going to open a cafe in Paramatta decided to open in New York instead. With the help of Ed, they studied the US market and found another demographic again.

Ed said that the New York market was being driven by expats who, like those in London, were adapting to very different requirements. Firstly, the market is still filter-driven with 60% of the coffee sold in summer and 40% in winter being filter coffee.

He also found that there were two extremes of espresso coffee being served – either double ristrettos or very fast split shots. There was no in between – no slow extractions producing a nice chocolatey, coffee flavour.

Together with Lee Zheng and Sid Chitnis, the trio have taken on the coffee scene and produced what they believe will be a unique experience to the coffee drinkers of New York at their east-side cafe, Saltwater, using coffee that Ed is shipping over from Australia. You can find it on East 12th Street, NYC.

This article was originally published on Smudge Eats | Words by Jonette George