Our heritage of over 150 Years

Carlisle’s oldest independent Coffee Roasters and Tea Blenders – famous for being the “smell of coffee” in the city centre.

John Watt & Son is owned by Peter & Carol Johnston who have a combined experience of 70 years in catering and hospitality so they took over John Watt & Son Coffee House on Bank St knowing they could use that expertise to build on what the John Watt & Son name was very good at for over 150 years, which was to deliver freshly roasted coffee and blending teas for all to enjoy.

Not just a coffee shop! Contrary to popular belief, John Watt & Son is primarily a coffee roaster and tea blender supplying freshly roasted coffee and blending teas for cafes, museums, hotels, guest houses, visitor attractions and business parks across the country.

Since Peter & Carol took over the ownership of John Watt & Son in 2015, they have retained both Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance Accreditiation, award recgnition (1 & 2 Star Great Taste Awards) for a number of John Watt and Son coffees and teas including the main espresso which is the 1865 Espresso Blend that was created by John Watt, launched the Grounds for Garden Campaign which encourages those who use us as their coffee supplier to re-use the coffee bags we deliver by filling them with used coffee grounds that can be exchanged for a donation to local charities: Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw by their customers.

Along with Peter & Carol’s expertise, they have built a strong team that bring with them their extensive experience in the coffee industry allowing John Watt & Son to be “More Than The Key Ingredient” to all customers whether they use one of their cafes or are a wholesale customer.

John Watt & Son Timeline:

1865 – First opening of a shop on Glovers Row in Carlisle City Centre standing near the Market Cross.

1897 – relocated the short distance to 11 Bank Street where they remain to this day.

During those early days in Bank Street rent for the shop was paid for not with money, but with six cases of dog meat. This was the only form of payment requested by the solicitors Bright, Brown and Strong who occupied the offices above the store.

Founder John Watt died in 1916 and the business was carried on by his son Henry until his death in 1943. Henry’s widow then formed a partnership with Fred Hodgson, a prominent Carlisle City Councillor and respected grocer who continued to run the business until the 1960s.

When Fred died the business was sold to Ashley Kendall. His son Ashley Kendall Junior ran it for the next 40 years. During this time the rise of self-service supermarkets and out of town shopping centres saw John Watt & Son transform from a traditional local grocers into a tea and coffee specialist with the on-site cafe soon gaining a reputation for serving home-made snacks and pastries to compliment the extensive range of teas and freshly-roasted coffees.

In 2015, Peter and Carol Johnston bought John Watt & Son and have built on the legacy and traditions of the business. They have already gained recognition for the Rainforest Alliance Expresso 1865 in the recent Great Taste Awards using the well-kept secret recipe that have been used in the business for over the century.

They also work in partnership with other local suppliers and traders to support their businesses and help maintain the fine tradition of top-quality Cumbrian produce.

Where possible all the products used or sold within the shop are sourced from within a 50-mile radius of Carlisle.

For generations of Cumbrians, Bank Street’s coffee aroma and visits to the shop with friends and family have been part of everyday life. The place is so well-known it even features in a recent novel by best-selling crime author Mike Craven. The downstairs floor of Bank Street, which is open to the public, is a marvel to behold. It takes you back in time with containers of products that were sold in the past as well as items used in the coffee roasting process.

Today, John Watt & Son roast coffee on the premises in Blackfriars Street which opened in 2017 to meet the demand for wholesale coffee and a larger coffee roaster was acquired. Both Blackfriars and Bank Street operate as coffee shops and cafes which draw in local residents and visitors to Carlisle to sample the unique award-winning coffee blends and delicious menu options.

In addition to the Blackfriars shop John Watt & Son also now have the cafe at Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life in Carlisle Castle, and the Rum Story in Whitehaven and sell coffee through outlets including Cakes and Ale in Carlisle’s Castle Street, Tullie House Museum and the Shepherd’s Inn and Auctioneer at the city’s Rosehill.

John Watt & Son have expanded what they offer with the addition of barista training on the first floor of the Blackfriars branch in partnership with a leading coffee equipment manufacturer.

They deliver to wholesale customers and their freshly roasted coffee and wide range of teas are sold online and at a number of food markets and tourist attractions so many can now enjoy their coffee and tea wherever they may be.