Words and Photos | Simone Ribeiro
Moseley is the bohemian spot of Birmingham where students, business people, musicians, artists, and creative ones (among others) have chosen to visit, study or work. Some of them, end up staying much longer than they have planned. People like the entrepreneur Akram Almulad, that nearly 10 years ago, picked Moseley to open his business. In this #MeetTheBusiness, we are going to talk about, Java Lounge, an independent coffee shop that typifies the mood of the lively suburb of Moseley.
Midlands Traveller: How did you have the idea of opening Java Lounge?
Akram Almulad: The idea was to open something, somewhere which is an escape from the everyday busy life. I grew up around a coffee culture in Yemen. It was in our blood. So when I came to the UK, I did a lot of travelling across Europe where the coffee culture was really kicking off already. But in Birmingham, it was inexistent. Then I had this idea of bringing all of these different experiences into Birmingham. So when I opened it [ Java Lounge], it was an idea to bring a bit of old and new, a bit of history, a bit of Europe, and everything all together to show that a coffee shop is like a melting pot. It doesn’t matter where you come from, your social origin, or where you are in the hierarchy. Everybody can enjoy it. There are no political or religious standings, everybody can come and feel comfortable in this environment where you get a bit of everything.
MT: When was the opening?
Akram: In 2005, it will be our 10th anniversary next year.
MT: Birmingham didn’t have many independent shops back 10 years?
Akram: No. There were only big chains in Birmingham. Although they were nice, they had no soul. If you are used to having coffee abroad, you have to have high-quality coffee with personality and when you come back to the chains, it’s very generic. You can feel it. It`s very robotic. There is no real passion or drive behind it making sure this got to be good.
MT: Why the name Java Lounge?
Akram: Firstly, it’s a place in Indonesia where the gene of the Arabica plant made its way through history. So you have the Arabica plant, which originated in Yemen, then the Dutch smuggled the plant out. They used Java, their colony, to grow coffee. Then they took the coffee all way down to Suriname in South America to start growing there too. It is part of the gene of coffee. Plus, I like the idea of Java is also a computer programme spot and we introduced Wi-Fi in the coffee shop at that time. Java is a name that brings it all together and a lounge is a place to relax and have a time out.
MT: Why did you choose Moseley?
Akram: Actually, I studied in Moseley. I studied Sports Management and I know it’s a bit different from what I do now (Laughs). But I always thought Moseley was different, very eclectic, and mixed. It doesn’t conform to the normal in any certain way, as they said. And for something that is different, it needed to be somewhere different because people want this and they are ready for this. I just thought that Moseley would be the area people would understand it more. There is a lot more culture here and people are not scared to try something new.
MT: Who is your clientèle?
Akram: It’s amazing because we don`t have a specific type of clientèle. We get people who are on Job Seekers allowance to any kind of workers, medical professionals or even other coffee shops as baristas and all types of different works. People who do blogging like yourself. There is no status quo here. I think, partially why I picked Moseley as well. You can walk to Java Lounge and you don’t have to be anything but yourself and you going to get the same service.
MT: So, do you interact with people that come here as well?
Akram: Yes, it’s good to interact. I think it’s very important to have personality when you have an independent business. What makes us different as a business is that we have real-life stories. It’s like you are evolving with the people.
MT: What is the differential of Java Lounge?
Akram: Well, we source our coffee history instead of just buying packaged coffee. We work very closely with our roaster who has been roasting coffee for over 28 years, in a very authentic style. He doesn’t use the latest equipment. It has been passed through generations which is something that was attractive to me. I wanted somebody with a history and passion for coffee because they can understand quality. They want to give you the best. Also, we always tried to challenge ourselves in the coffee industry. So from where we started to where we’re now, we are different in terms of coffee-making skills, the equipment we use, and the technology available. We always follow the updates.
We try to make a science from the coffee but not in a gimmick way. We don`t use operators that you can may see in a science lab. But we try to keep updated with latest’s that will really make a difference in the quality of our coffee.
For example, the coffee machine that we use is one at the top of the range in the market but not because of looks or name. What it does is give you a level of consistency that gives us the accuracy we are looking for. It means we can hit the perfect coffee every time.
MT: So do you study your suppliers and the products you buy?
Akram: Of course, I need to know what I am buying. For example, I know exactly what I am serving you. If you don’t know, you are missing something.
MT: Are your suppliers based in the UK?
Akram: They are based in the Midlands area and we work closely with the roasters. I think if you’re trying to achieve something special, you have got to have a trusting partnership. I always see coffee as food; you have to be passionate about it.
MT: Do you import your products?
Akram: From Brazil. Close to the Santos area, also from Colombia and El Salvador, Nepal, Yemen, and Africa as well. It`s a nice network with the hotspots of coffee. But our house blends are made with a combination of coffee from Yemen, Brazil, and Colombia. And it`s always AAA beans. They are more expensive but you can taste the difference.
MT: Is there something special planned for the 10th anniversary of Java Lounge?
Akram: Yes, we are going to have a nice surprise but I can say yet. (Laughs).
MT: What are your objectives for the business?
Akram: We’re in the process of opening the second brand of Java Lounge. Hopefully, we are going to do it. I think it’s time to grow now. It has been 10 years already.
MT: To finish, what is your advice for someone who is thinking about starting a business?
Akram: My advice to anybody starting any type of business is that firstly, you really need to have passion for what you going to do. If you are going to business with the sole purpose of making money, business is not going to be for you. Because in any type of business, you are going to have tasting times and you cannot think just from a money point of view. You have to think about what is right for your business. Your passion has to come through in your product and people will know it because people know what they are having nowadays. Especially in this business area.
Passion is the most important drive you have to have inside you.
The second most important thing is to sit down and do as much research. Learn your craft. Whatever you are going to do, go away and learn it. Don’t start to do something you have no clue about. You must do preparation before because you know, if you fail to prepare you are prepared to fail, it’s an old saying. And it’s so true. These are the key components I would say to start a business.