A team of dreamers, united on a mission to positively change the coffee world, forever.
Meet our founders, Kirsty and Al
Clocking up over 20 years together, Kirsty and Al share a love of all things outdoors, health and, of course, good coffee.
After 15 years working in the coporate world (interspersed with 5 years of backpacking) they quit their hectic London jobs to launch Exhale in 2020.
But it was Al's complex, 7-year health journey which spurred the move, after years of meticulous planning, research and then development...
The coffee fix: this is Al's story
From triathlons and ultra-running, to surfing and Thai boxing, I've always done a lot of sport and pushed the boundaries of my own fitness. But, like many people who also tried to enjoy their twenties, I assumed because I was fit, I was also healthy.
Well, this mistake certainly caught up with me, and by the time I’d reached my thirties my health was quickly deteriorating. And it was bad; I was in and out of hospital, broken both physically and mentally.
I discovered I was developing an autoimmune condition made worse by the excesses of a poor diet and lifestyle, the symptoms of which were stopping me from leading a normal life.
Gutted, I wondered if I had missed the boat, and that this was just the way things would have to be.
Well, fortunately I was wrong about that. But it took some effort to fix.
That started with serious adjustments to my diet and lifestyle, and soon after a re-evaluation of the importance of social connectedness, happiness and positive thinking. For me, it was a revelation in holistic thinking and behaviour, and it changed my life.
Then the coffee thing happened.
I have always loved coffee and knew, vaguely at least, it had some health benefits, but it was only after a surfing accident in Uluwatu, Bali that things really changed.
Suffering with a black eye and whiplash after a bone crusher of a wave took me out, I took some downtime to recover, and after visiting a local healer (the amazing Mr Tendon), I stumbled across a speciality coffee shop in Seminyak. It was there that I tried single origin coffees from across the whole of Indonesia.
Truly, my mind was blown. How could coffee be this good? And who knew that baristas put so much love and care into their craft?
Intrigued, I had to learn more, and ever since I’ve sought to master the art of roasting and brewing my own coffees.
And the more I learned, the more I realised coffee could be so much more than what most people make of it - but like my approach to fixing my health, it meant taking a different approach to extract the true potential.
Thus Exhale was born; a coffee company that seeks to do more - especially for the health of people and the environments that sustain them.
And for those wondering, since beginning my own health journey, I’ve not only started my dream company and fulfilled my duties as a dad and a husband, I’ve also swum the Thames Marathon, completed an Iron Man and ran multiple ultramarathons.
Exhale is my attempt at inspiring other people to live an active, outdoors and healthy lifestyle. Embrace it, and you’ll be capable of anything.
Launched in lockdown 2020
...from a kitchen in central London
In February 2020 I plucked up the courage to quit work to launch my dream business. 3 weeks later, lockdown #1 happened. Wonderful.
A planned move into a warehouse in Tottenham to open a roastery was pushed back again and again until it finally fell through. Meanwhile Kirsty and I took delivery of a custom built, £25k Probat coffee roaster from Germany! With nowhere to put it we hired 5 burly builders to shift the 0.5-tonne machine into our shed where it sat gathering dust.
After a tough 6 months we hustled and pivoted (the word of the lockdown!) and managed to claw back victory from the jaws of defeat to launch Exhale in October 2020... from our central London terraced house.
Our first hires were Kirsty's brother, Tom and his gf, Laura (still with us in customer services) followed by our next door neighbour, Kaspar (still running ops). As well as any other neighbour who had lost their jobs in lockdown in need of some work! At any one time there were up to 8 people working packing coffee from the kitchen and garden... which gave us plenty of time to perfect our Espresso Martini recipes and our hessian coffee sack race techniques.
It grew quickly as followers on Instagram followed the crazy journey with up to 200kg of coffee passing through the house a week! It got to the point that our local Post office banned us because the 15 sacks a day we were taking there was a health hazard so they came to collect from their house instead. Kirsty's butterscotch, Dutch-style bike became famous as she delivered our coffee across North and East London.
In Autumn 2021 we outgrew our house and moved into Yonder climbing centre and more recently into a roastery in Brixton. Even though we’re a much slicker operation now, we can’t help but look back fondly on our first year… the startup story to end all startup stories!
Exhale is a small business with big ambitions to promote health, sustainability and fairness in the coffee supply chain. To do this means taking a family mentality to work. Aside from roping in the kids to pack coffee occasionally, today the Exhale family is growing.
Together, we combine our passions and skills to bring you the healthiest coffee imaginable, sourced responsibly, and with a true love of the craft.
We also thrive on good company, and love hearing from customers. Get in touch to ask us anything, or to share your own stories of coffee-fuelled adventures.Our sustainability commitments
Ready to Exhale with us?
If you can relate in some way to this story, come join us, and reap the rewards of leading an active, outdoors and healthy lifestyle... all fuelled by our ridiculously healthy coffee.
Read more stories over in our blog...
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