After years as a barista and cafe manager, Emily Stewart decided to launch her own coffee business, bringing the cosmopolitan coffee culture of London to South Oxfordshire – thank you Emily!
She converted her Mum’s old horsebox into a coffee van, and Horsebox Coffee was born in 2014. You probably know her van from its permanent site outside Oxford’s Natural History Museum, or if you’re a commuter (remember those days?), you might remember the elixir in a cup that she served you before boarding the 6:54am from Cholsey.
Emily now has a roastery that’s about to move to bigger premises in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, and her coffee is sold to farm shops and cafes in the area (she’s one of the fabulous local producers nominated in the 2021 Muddy Awards, natch).
We asked Emily about her typical morning as part of our series on morning routines for happy women. You might be surprised to learn what her first drink of the day is…
What wakes you up in the morning?
At the moment it’s my husband getting up for work. As a teacher he has to get up earlier than I currently have too and so I get to ‘lie in’. Historically it’s been the other way around – when I started out selling coffees, it was at farmer’s markets at the weekends and Cholsey Station in the week, which meant 5am starts.
And at what time?
It’s my husband who now gets up at 5am. I lie-in until 6.30am.
I’m not sure most people would consider that a lie-in! What’s the very first thing you do on waking?
The first thing I do is to throw on a robe and start waking up my boys – this can take a while!
Do you bounce out of bed or do
you need to be dragged from the bed, still clutching your duvet?
Some where in between, I generally get up without a fuss, but not exactly bouncing!
What’s the first thing you
Surprisingly, it’s not coffee! The first thing I drink is a pint of warm water with a squeeze lemon juice. I am a little obsessive about staying hydrated and this gets the day off to a good start. I’m not a breakfast person though – I eat late so I don’t wake up hungry. I keep yoghurt and fruit at the roastery for when I get in but I am just as likely to grab a bun or a pastry if I’m out and about all morning. The second thing I drink is most definitely a coffee. Either with one of our clients when I’m doing deliveries, or at the roastery as part of a cupping session (comparing coffees at different stages of roasting or different coffees that have been brewed in the same way) or on-going quality control.
How do you set the mood for the
This is an interesting concept – I’ve not really thought about it, but would welcome some tips?
Well, previous interviewees for Muddy’s morning routines have suggested a workout (Scarlet Page) or writing down affirmations (Katy Hill).
Thinking with my coffee head on, I usually check in on Jim Hoffman’s Insta or Youtube at some point each morning. I got into specialty coffee later in my career and have Jim to thank for much of my personal development whilst he was on his journey to become World Barista Champion. I love his approach – he’s an incredibly knowledgeble man. Taking a moment each day to get new tips and generally ponder on coffee keeps keep me motivated.
Who else shares your morning
My 14 year old daughter,
although she is self-motivated and self-contained, and then two boys 9 & 12
years old who need a little more persuasion to get up and out of the house.
What’s on the radio/TV?
Nothing – I’m not keen on a lot of noise in the mornings, and I usually have quite a lot to organise in a short space of time and would rather not have any kind of distraction. In the car I’ll listen to Jack FM or Radio 4 depending on what’s on and my mood.
What skincare/beauty products
do you swear by?
I’ve got very dry and quite sensitive skin so pretty much stick to the Aveeno range. A friend of mine introduced me to Tropic skin care and they have some lovely soothing balms and serums.
What’s the first thing you do
The school run, or sat on the garden bench if I need to make any early morning calls. If I can steal a few minutes for a quick trip to the allotment, that’s also a great start to the day.
When do you first check your
I check my phone fairly regularly from waking up for what’s app and texts from the team, our clients or growers. I use an online platform to buy coffee direct from growers. This morning I had messages from Raphael, a grower in Brazil – he sends me videos of the farm and updates. I recently connected with a Columbian grower who doesn’t speak any English, We did the whole transaction in emojis and I bought his full crop for the year – five bags. That will be my guest coffee for the month. The ethical aspect of dealing direct with growers and the transparency is really important to me.
I don’t do emails on my phone as these are less urgent and I like to deal with them properly when I can.
How do you choose what to wear?
That’s not difficult! Whatever is available and appropriate for the weather / outdoor temperature. I spend a lot of time outdoors and the roastery is not heated. I am generally a bit scruffy as anything smart would quickly get ruined by my working day. I’m always in my apron at the roastery.
If you were breakfasting out,
what’s your favourite local spot & why?
This is a tough one, there are
so many lovely local places, some of them I am proud to roast their coffee… I
will wriggle out of answering as I don’t think I have ever actually stopped for
If you could wake up anywhere
& with anyone, who would it be?
I would love to wake up on one of the farms we source from, around harvesting time. Perhaps I could be joined by my speciality coffee friends that I’ve not seen for ages and some of the team too. We’d just get stuck in to drinking coffee and learn.
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