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Hermanos and the magic of Colombian coffee

Founded in 2018 by brothers Victor and Santiago Gamboa and business partner Adnan Millwala, Hermanos Coffee Roasters has made its mission to present a modern, contemporary vision of Colombian specialty coffee in the UK

Santiago Gamboa, Adnan Millwala, Victor Santiago | Photo credit: Hermanos Coffee Roasters 


Colombia is a nation of rugged mountains, lush rainforests and turquoise coastlines and the huge diversity of the country’s coffee owes as much to these microclimates as it does to the skill of its smallholder farmers. 

With over 20 different coffee growing regions and more than 850,000 acres dedicated to coffee cultivation, Colombia is the world’s largest producer of arabica, with an estimated export value of $3.96bn. 

“Colombia produces some of the best coffee in the world. But the variety is huge, and few places have celebrated that diversity,” says Victor Gamboa, one of the three founders behind London-based Hermanos Coffee Roasters. 

After moving from Colombia to the UK in the early 2000s, brothers Victor and Santiago Gamboa identified an opportunity to share their passion for Colombian specialty coffee in London. 

With London-based friend and business partner Adnan Millwala – whose passion for coffee flourished after taking a six-month career break from the financial sector to visit coffee farmers in Colombia – the trio began roasting coffee in the UK in 2016 under e-commerce brand Zona Cafetera. Two years later they founded Hermanos – meaning brothers in Spanish – with a pop-up location in Walthamstow, east London. 

“Many shops offered Colombian coffee, but usually among many other origins – Brazilian, Indonesian or Ethiopian. Being Colombians, we saw a great opportunity to be the specialists championing Colombian coffee,” says Santiago, who leads Hermanos’ coffee sourcing programme. 

Hermanos has now scaled to nine outlets across the UK capital, including prominent sites on Portobello Road and Columbia Road. 


“We saw a great opportunity to be the specialists championing Colombian coffee” 
Santiago Gamboa 

With tasting notes ranging from tangy apple crumble and strawberry gelato to bergamot and earl grey tea, Hermanos champions the diversity of Colombia’s coffee by supporting smallholder farmers to invest in quality and boost crop profitability. 

Investing in long-term relationships with producers is key for Hermanos. The coffee roaster began working with Santander-based coffee farmer Felix Torres – who produces the brand’s best-selling, single origin Maria Torres coffee – in 2021. Purchasing Torres’ entire crop provided him with a stable income and saw his coffee sold overseas for the first time in three generations. In July 2023, Hermanos flew Torres to London, where he was able to chat with customers enjoying his coffee for the first time. 

Buoyed by strong footfall and a growing wholesale channel, the business has new domestic and international opportunities firmly on the horizon. However, the founders say any growth will be grounded in their Colombian roots. 

Victor (left), Adnan (second right) and Santiago (right) with Javier Alvear of Finca Las Brisas farm in Huila, Colombia | Photo credit: Hermanos Coffee Roasters 

“Being Colombian highlights our credentials and customers appreciate our first-hand knowledge,” Santiago says. 

Santiago, Victor and Adnan visit Colombia two to three times a year to maintain direct contact with farmers, providing technical advice and support to ensure they are producing coffee that is both high quality and relevant in the international specialty coffee market. 

“We try not to play with the market price of coffee. We pay farmers based on the quality of the coffee they produce,” Victor adds. 

Most Colombian coffee is produced by highly committed smallholder farmers. However, with climate change causing more frequent but lower yield crop cycles as opposed to a main annual harvest, many have struggled with the additional labour, storage and transportation requirements. 

With limited land for cultivation, smallholder farmers often focus on producing smaller batches of high-quality coffee over larger harvests of lower-grade crops – a dynamic Hermanos is keen to support. 

“Some farmers have exceptional facilities and the infrastructure to process coffee on-site. Others are more reliant on external assistance, such as making advance payments to get coffee milled at a certain centre or needing additional funding to move coffee to the port. Here, we can bridge that gap. It’s OK if they only have five or ten sacks – we can buy the lot because we know the positive impact it will have on them and their ability to scale,” says Adnan, who heads up Hermanos’ business strategy. 

Hermanos conducts an initial quality assessment in Colombia, before conducting further testing, selection and roasting in London. The team reviews up to 50 coffee samples every quarter and presents a rotating selection of products, with new coffees introduced every four months. 

“There are thousands of coffee farmers in Colombia. In the future, I’m sure we’ll get to buy from most of them,” says Santiago. 

Relocating and rebranding 

In July 2023, Hermanos moved its roastery from Elephant & Castle in south London to Walthamstow in the east as part of major upgrade, with the new site equipped with state-of-the-art 6kg Giesen W6E and 15kg Loring S15 Falcon roasters. 

“We also invested heavily in additional packaging and labelling machinery to make ourselves more efficient. We want to be poised for growth rather than fumble amid rising demand. The new roastery gives us the space to do that,” Adnan says. 

Retail outlets are currently Hermanos’ main sales contributor but online and wholesale are growing fast. E-commerce sales have achieved triple-digit growth since the pandemic and roastery production has increased threefold in the last six months to meet rising wholesale demand. 


“We try not to play with the market price of coffee. We pay farmers based on quality” 
Victor Gamboa 

A Hermanos Coffee Roasters store on Portobello Road, London | Photo credit: Hermanos Coffee Roasters

Prominent wholesale clients include The Gantry Hotel (part of the Hilton Group), Page8 Hotels, Panas Bakery, as well as a range of smaller independent businesses and coffee shops. 

“We’ve got a lot more interest coming in on the wholesale side. We expect that to be hitting high double-digit growth soon,” Adnan adds. 

With strong growth across all sales segments, Hermanos has more recently focused on a re-brand to more effectively communicate its connection to Colombia and its coffee farmers. 

“A significant challenge is making sure we are more vocal about our Colombian roots. It’s a good challenge to have because it means we have to find new ways to communicate our heritage better. That’s why we carried out a re-brand last year,” says Victor. 

Alongside vibrant shopfronts adorned with the eye-catching facades frequently found across Colombian towns and cities, Hermanos’ rebrand also included packaging, with new designs representative of Colombian architecture and natural landscapes. 

“Even the smallest of touches builds the conversation about what Colombia means,” says Adnan. 

Going global 

While the initial focus will remain on building its wholesale client base and maintaining e-commerce momentum, Hermanos is keen to scale its UK retail footprint and reach new audiences. 

“UK customers have become more demanding and knowledgeable. If they are spending their money, they want consistency and quality,” says Victor. 

The specialty coffee chain will open a tenth store in London in the first quarter of 2024 and has set its sights on adding at least two further sites later this year before accelerating outlet growth in 2025, including outside of the capital. 

“You’ve got great cities in the UK, like Birmingham and Manchester, where appreciation for specialty coffee is really evolving,” says Adnan. 

Any international growth will see Hermanos seek external capital for the first time – a move the coffee chain sees as a prerequisite for sustainable expansion. 

“We have seen a lot of specialty operators move to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are hot markets – there is a lot of opportunity for us there. Specialty coffee is also growing rapidly in southeast Asia – a lot of customers from those regions visit our stores in London and ask us to open over there,” Adnan says. 

As Hermanos goes from strength to strength and sets its sights on further expansion, the founding trio remain firmly focused on championing the magic of Colombian coffee – and placing many more consumers around the world under its spell. 

This article was first published in Issue 18 of 5THWAVE magazine.

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