At the end of the nineteenth century a German, Ludwig Fern, established a firm of Tea and Coffee Merchants eventually operating from a shop and warehouse at 27 Rathbone Place – London W1. Above the shop there were flats, one of which was occupied by a young Italian couple, the Brugnonis whose story was to become intertwined with that of Ferns coffee.
L. Fern died in 1917 and his Italian tenant, Mario Brugnoni purchased the Coffee Merchants business from Mr. Fern’s widow, Agnes, whom he later married after the death of his own wife. Public sentiment towards German-owned businesses was hostile at this time which may have prompted Agnes to sell. The business was now Italian-owned and protected from disorderly crowds.
Agnes now Brugnoni died during the 30s, and Mario re-married. 1939 then saw the outbreak of World War Two. After Mussolini joined the War in June 1940 Italian male civilians living in England were interned, and Mario was sent to a camp on the Isle of Man. Here, the story goes, his cellmate was one Charles Forte, later founder of the great Forte Hotels in London, the Mayfair, the Savoy and the Ritz. A business partnership with an important new customer was formed for Ferns blends which still carry the names of Forte’s great hotels today.
After the war Mario divorced his third wife to marry Elizabeth and eventually their son Michael and daughter Elizabeth, joined Ferns business. The 50s saw Mario’s eventual death, and Ferns became a Limited Company. Mario’s son and daughter ran the business for some years before passing to the Saywell family, the third family to run the Coffee & Tea Importers and Roasters.
The 1970s saw the expansion of the Ferns group, with the addition of specialist tea retailers and importers like Layton & Co. The acquisition of a coffee roasting firm, Mead & Sons, in 1974 brought extra roasting capacity based in Whitechapel Road, adding to the roasting which had continued at Rathbone Place for over 80 years.
In the late 70s the original 45 kilo roaster was relocated from Rathbone Place to our current home in the Basingstoke roastery. In 1983 it was joined by a new 120 kilo roaster. Basingstoke has been the sole production source, roasting and packing coffee for Ferns since then. Ferns Coffee final transition was from the stewardship of the Saywell family to Newlands Coffee in 2011, and from there to 2468 in 2015.
Ferns is one of the UK’s oldest roasters and has witnessed decades of change and evolution. What a Ferns has always offered generations of coffee lovers is a moment which is crafted, a moment apart, and a moment of quality. For us, that moment is everything. And great coffee, we believe, makes everything better.
Why not take a moment now to browse our blends?