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Stephen Leighton’s magnificent coffee beans are not his only claim to fame. It’s not just his exuberance and boundless enthusiasm for his profession that shines through in the beans he sells online from his West Midlands roastery. His background also sets him apart: he’s also (almost certainly) the only coffee roaster to have started out working in prisons, inspired by the sitcom Porridge. I spent all my childhood wanting to be a prison officer and then in my first week I hated it,” he says ruefully. But after hard work in his spare time, he soon devised an escape plan. “I was importing green beans for home roasting from the States, because I’ve always been passionate about good coffee.

I firmly believe that espresso should be left in the coffee shop, he advises. Let the professionals do it because there are so many things that can go wrong and the equipment is so expensive. - Stephen Leighton

Then I decided to buy a little two-kilo roaster. I put it in my garage at home, built a really rubbish website and started selling online. I used to roast in the evenings after work, till until two or three in the morning, and I’d take the parcels to the post office at lunch.” The plan eventually paid off. Leighton was able to give up the prison work after a few yearsand open a 10,000sq ft roastery in Stafford in the West Midlands.

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