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The Thirsty Poet Interview: From VW Van to a Mobile Coffee Van Business

    thirsty poet manchester mobile coffee van

    Tiny, mobile, full of coffee and with two beer taps to accompany, what else do you need?

    This is the Thirsty Poet, a unique coffee van and mobile bar based in Manchester and available for private hire across the North West.

    The man behind The Thirsty Poet concept in Salford-born actor and spoken word artist Matt Concannon.

    I spoke to Matt recently about his coffee van venture, how he converted his VW camper into a mobile coffee hut, his eco-friendly process and where his love for responsibly sourced coffee and beer comes from. You can read the full Q&A below.

    To find out more about Matt and The Thirsty Poet, get all the contact details you need at the bottom of this article.

    From VW mini van to eco-friendly coffee hut…

    Q. What was the spark that made you set up The Thirsty Poet? 

    A. Due to the pandemic and the acting industry I’m in being massively affected, the idea to turn a new corner and move with the times seemed a logical and practical step.

    With years in the hospitality industry as a trained barista and bartender, plus my performing arts background, I thought tying the two together would work wonders. And since bars, restaurants and coffee shops were being closed for lockdown, mobile and takeaway seemed like the best alternative. Of course, the safety of customers was the number 1 priority, with great coffee and beer a close second.

    the thirsty poet mobile coffee van with matt concannon
    The Thirsty Poet in action

    Can you tell us more about the local angle of sourcing your coffee and beer? Why is this important to you?

    The Thirsty Poet’s main highlight was to be local for locals. My aim was to use locally sourced Manchester breweries for beers and Manchester-based roasters for coffee. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

    I think here in Manchester we produce some amazing, top quality products so we should celebrate these and make the most of them. Large distributors and coffee shop chains are less focused on local independents, which is why The Thirsty Poet is unique and a local champion.

    Where does your passion for coffee come from?

    I have always loved coffee but I guess it may have come from my travels in New Zealand and Australia where the coffee culture in 2010 was huge in comparison to the UK. During my time here, I noticed the attention to detail, flavours and service were impeccable and slowly but surely (thankfully) the UK has started to produce some great coffee shops too.

    During my acting career and touring different cities across the UK, I made it my mission to support local independent coffee shops rather than large brands. Also, having worked in the hospitality industry for many years and seeing the development and wants from customers for great tasting coffee, this has pushed me to produce just that and give the customers a product that I would want to drink.

    Where do you source your coffee from?

    thirsty poet eco friendly coffee beans mancoco
    Using high quality single origin coffee beans sourced and roasted by Manchester-based Mancoco. Source: The Thirsty Poet

    The coffee I use is sourced locally from a company called Mancoco coffee bar and roastery based in the heart of Manchester. Stuart the owner is very knowledgeable and has personal connections to the people he purchases his beans from.

    When discussing his products and my wants for ethical coffee, I mentioned I wanted Fairtrade and environmentally friendly coffee, and Mancoco had just the thing.

    The coffee I use their Eco/Fairtrade Espresso blend coffee which is crafted with three 100% Arabica single origin Brazilian, Sumatran and Ethiopian beans. The best thing is that the beans are roasted almost on my doorstep, making it a very local collaboration. 

    So, why a mini camper van? Where did this idea come from?

    It took a little while to work out what sort of vehicle would be the most practical. Space, weight and size were the main problems as coffee machines and beer kegs weigh a lot! Finding the most suitable vehicle was a challenge.

    I had researched many other companies and found lots of people were using converted horse box trailers but this seemed less practical for a mobile business. I wanted to be able to get in the van and head off with little set up time, so eventually a little VW van seemed like the perfect fit.

    How long did it take you to convert the original van into the end mobile coffee van? How did you find the process? 

    The conversion took around 1 month to complete, from planning, purchasing the van (having many issues with finding the right kind, the current one is actually the second edition), buying the machines to be installed and building the framework to house the coffee shop.

    I was out trading properly around 1 month later after a couple of test runs at corporate events. The build was the easy part, the assembly and making sure it was practical to use everything was the difficult bit. It was an exciting, anxious project and process with a few hiccups along the way. But making clever adjustments and researching other set ups, was the best way.

    thirsty poet mobile coffee van eco friendly built
    All materials for the build were either reused or sourced second hand, including the coffee machine. Source: The Thirsty Poet

    What sort of materials and equipment did you use for the conversion?

    I wanted to make sure the van fit resulted in an eco-friendly vehicle and coffee shop. I recycled lots of the wood for the initial framework to house the worktops as well as using reused coffee bean bags to cover the walls.

    The products and accessories I sell are all ethical and eco-friendly. I use environmentally friendly compostable cups and lids, plus beer cups too. My coffee grinds are all recycled in the compost and used as fertiliser in the garden. 

    Most of the other equipment in the van came second hand. The coffee machine has been repurposed from a shop which went under due to the pandemic, as well as the grinder and the beer pumps. I didn’t want to buy anything brand new.

    Where can people get hold of you for events?

    The main service I offer is for private events, birthdays, weddings and corporate hire. The business mainly works out of the North West due to the demand, but I would be happier to go further afield if requested.

    I am also looking to do festivals in the future. Makers Markets are a good opportunity to build connections and introduce myself to customers and potential new clients, so you may see me at a Makers Market near you.

    What other project have you got lined up in the future?

    So, now that The Thirsty Poet van is complete the next project is working to convert an old shipping container into a tiny eco house in the back garden.

    I’m using recycled products to complete the build and I’m really looking forward to making this as environmentally friendly as possible.

    A huge thank you for Matt for taking the time to speak to Tiny Eco Home Life. We can’t wait for our next Thirsty Poet coffee! Also, the next project of converting a shipping container into a tiny home sounds very exciting and we can’t wait to cover it on here and see how you did it.

    You can find Matt and get a first class coffee (and a brownie) from him every weekend at Boothstown Marina bridge (M28 1LP).

    Follow The Thirsty Poet in most of the usual places – The Thirsty Poet website, Instagram and Facebook. Give him a follow, say hello and make sure you try his quality coffee.

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