The Sailor's Son

Ed Tanner

His dad may be the captain of a ship, but Ed Tanner is well and truly at the helm of a different kind of vessel: The coffee cup.

The Sailor’s Son is roasted and served at Ed’s city fringe cafe, The Anchorage, as well as supplied to an increasing number of cafes and restaurants.

Starting his career as a high school leaver at Underground Coffee Roasters, Ed got a taste for the black stuff - eventually taking him to Melbourne where he fully immersed himself in the local specialty coffee scene.

“I started making coffee when I left high school, and haven’t stopped since,” says the 34-year-old father of two.

While in the Australian city, he worked for local gurus like Seven Seeds, Pope Joan and Padre Coffee.

So when he returned to Christchurch, it was very much to the city’s benefit. He used top of the range equipment to maximise his top of the range beans and top of the range knowledge.

“Coffee tastes awesome. There is so much different coffee it’s not funny. Not just here, but overseas, it’s all different. The same bean can be different if it’s treated differently, or roasted differently.”

And it is these differences Ed wants to share with his customers.

“Coffee is so different everywhere you go, it is so subjective. You want to be good at what you do without the cringe factor, without that pretentious image people might think.

“We just really like coffee, not some sort of hipsters that don’t want to serve people - we just want to go a good job.”

When The Anchorage opened its doors on Walker St, it didn’t just transform an old industrial warehouse into a sleek-and-a-little-grungy cafe, it really did change the local industry.

At The Anchorage there is only two types of milk (organic whole and coconut), limited cabinet food only - and just one size of have-in coffee.

Brews are made from a changing menu of beans, and on an array of different gadgets and machinery.

“The most challenging thing is making the right decision and sticking with it, even when you feel like it’s not going to work,” says Ed about the decision.

“Opening something like this in Christchurch, doing minimal food in a community that really wants food.

“Trying to be not polarising, but limiting people’s options because more options doesn’t mean it’s good. So the whole doing two milks thing and only one size coffee for having in.

“Not pandering to the needs of the many and just focussing on our core trade, that’s the challenge - not saying yes to everything. And people really like it. For every negative comment because we don’t do trim milk or soy milk there’s 40 or 50 positives.”

These few ingredients appear to be the right recipe for The Anchorage, which hums the six days a week it is open with a cross section of customers. You’ll find mums coffee-ing with their kids, business meetings, freelancers and students using the free wifi, uniformed police officers stopping by for their fix - the appeal really does seem universal.

“It was surprising that it worked,” he says. “It was a huge risk, but so far, so good.”

The Anchorage may be on the fringe of the city, burrowed between car yards and office blocks in an old rubber factory, but it is very much at the forefront of hospitality.

The space is sleek. Featuring a large roller door which can be opened to flood the cafe with sunshine or closed to ward off cooler climes.

Dark walls and dark woods are lit by low hanging lights and greenery, and cosied up with ample gas heaters on colder days.

“In creating the space, I wanted to create a good space for anyone who wants to come in here,” he says.

“It is quite rewarding when people are so happy to be here, and when the staff want to be here.”

When it comes to his business philosophy - as The Sailor’s Son continues to expand its client base - Ed says he goes by two words: “It’s okay”.

“Everything will be okay. We don’t have trim milk, that’s okay you can go over there or try this delicious coffee.

“Oh, and look after number one. Look after yourself because then you can look after all the other things that you need to look after.”

His advice to others?

“Go away.

“Go overseas and get some experience, eat some different food, drink some different coffee. Go away and come back and help Christchurch be awesome.”

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