Rising star The Bicycle Bakery secures sourdough supremacy

Catchline Bicycle Bakery taking Tumbridge Wells by storm

A rising star in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, owner Jamie Tandoh’s earlier decision, to snap up an empty neighbouring property, and expand the business into a café for brunches, lunches and takeaways, has come good in more ways than he had hoped. 

Profound lifestyle changes since lockdown have turned it into a destination for the hybrid work-from-home crowd who leave “with bags of bread and pastries,” says Tandoh who has now introduced a digital loyalty card with Embargo.

After opening in 2014 as a small shop and kitchen, this year’s £340,000 turnover is forecast to top £400,000 in 2024/25, with the café side contributing 30 percent of the income.

Formerly a pastry chef in big kitchens, Tandoh’s rejection of the harsh working culture he experienced then led to his rebellion and the decision to go it alone as an entrepreneur baker. 

Today The Bicycle, named after his love of cycling, employs seven staff. “The heart of the bakery is community and that is ever-changing. Social media is very important to gauge feedback and develop our offering,” he explains.

“During Covid we remained a constant, open for takeaways, and being that beacon of constancy has remained. Our customers can see everything being made, and us doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

“We have grown with minimal borrowing not big capital injections you see in other ventures so we aren’t constricted by returns targets. 

“We invest only in product quality and our team, treating them fairly and equally, so we don’t struggle or lose our way.” 

Demand nationally for sourdough is surging, making Tandoh’s specialist range even more timely and distinctive in a market where lesser quality versions, with a touch of sourdough washing, are increasingly prevalent.  

Fermented in a 72-hour process using the bakery’s own starter cultures, “our sourdoughs are authentically chewy and tangy, the flavour deep and lasting,” says Tandoh, who also pays tribute to the top quality UK suppliers now available that all help contribute to the small business success he is achieving. 

Flour is a baking fundamental and for that Tandoh sources its organic premium bakers’ grade white, as well as spelt and organic rye varieties from long-standing agricultural star Matthews Cotswold Flour, the miller now spearheading a nutrition revolution with regenerative growers and heritage wheat blends.  

“For our speciality products we need consistency and that’s Matthews,” he explains.  

The bakery has also gained a reputation for great coffee with Sussex supplier Pharmacie doing the all-important roasting. 

A fixed-rate energy deal gives the bakery breathing space until the autumn. “But all the volatility and before that Covid made me re-evaluate what we could do differently, from purchasing to production structure for our space,” says Tandoh.

“We are now achieving more efficiency and less waste. Any surplus goes to the local food bank, charities or to farms for animal feed.”

Alongside the handmade premium Belgium chocolate eggs and the ever popular crispy, melt-in-the-mouth macarons this Easter are The Bicycle’s Alban buns, a suggestion that Tandoh took up from local vicar the Rev Fr John Caster of St Barnabas Church.

“The citrusy buns have a subtle heat our customers find intriguing and very different,” he explains. “Clients love our seasonal products, but they make interesting and varied work for our team which is really important too.”

  • Bicycle-bakery.com, cotswoldflour.com

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