New coffee brand offers living wage to former homeless baristas


A new coffee brand, backed by The Big Issue magazine and sold by the once homeless, is hitting the streets.

It is hoped the public will get a taste for Change Please coffee which is now being sold from eight coffee carts dotted around several London hotspots, such as Covent Garden and Borough, before being rolled out across the capital over the coming month.

In what Cemal Ezel, co-founder of Old Spike Roastery (OSR) - which is partnering the scheme, describes as a "win win" situation, Change Please will serve up premium, ethically-sourced coffee while giving the staff a fresh chance of a career.

Baristas will be paid London living wage, allowing them to develop the skills and experience needed to enter the mainstream workforce after six months.

To begin with, about six staff will be brewing up and serving the £2.50 cups of coffee from the back of the grey three-wheeled vans, featuring the yellow Change Please logo on the side. This should rise to about 12 staff during the month.

With the takeaway coffee market being estimated to be worth £8 billion in the UK next year and the average London coffee drinker has more than two cups on the go daily, organisers hope they have found a way to help tackle the housing problem.

This scheme should provide a decent wage, a valuable skill and a renewed connection with society, according to Mr Ezel who is a former City trader and Peter Bird of The Big Issue.

They note that all types of homelessness are on the increase across the UK with a record 280,000 people approaching their local authority for homelessness assistance.

Mr Ezel said: "We promise one of the best cups of coffee you'll find, but even better, we guarantee that this programme will make a significant contribution to helping alleviate the homeless problem across the country - if we can get a small proportion of coffee drinkers to simply change where they buy their coffee, we really could change the world. By providing both a job and housing we are immediately lifting people out of homelessness."

Mr Bird, said: "Selling the Big Issue works well to provide people currently living on the streets with a way to help themselves work towards a better life, but there is a gap between that segment of homelessness and securing a regular job that needed a solution; Change Please provides that and will hopefully be the hand up that people need to work their way back in to society."

At the end of the six months, Change Please will be working with firms from the food and beverage, legal and banking sectors to try to find permanent work for the baristas.

It is hoped the coffee carts will become as familiar a street feature as The Big Issue sellers.

The weekly magazine, which has founded in 1991, is sold by the homeless and long-term unemployed. They buy it for £1.25 and sell to the public for £2.50, keeping the difference.

OSR are providing the coffee for the carts.

Anyone who is interested in buying the hand roasted coffee can go online - at - for more information.