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Nolo: A Coffee Revolution with CEO Pierre Darnton

When it comes to coffee, most of us think of it as the essential morning pick-me-up. But what if that pick-me-up was actually doing us more harm than good? This is precisely what sparked the creation of Nolo: a brand dedicated to serving decaf and low-caffeine coffee without compromising flavour. We sat down with Nolo's CEO, Pierre Darnton, to get a taste of their journey and the challenges they faced. He’s joined by his brother Max Darnton and good friend Tanner Johnston as the founders behind Nolo.

The Wake-Up Call

Pierre reminisces about the pivotal phone call from Max, his brother, that set them on the path. Max, a fit and healthy individual, experienced a coffee-induced anxiety attack after consuming three strong cups of coffee. The incident, combined with the quest for a quality decaf coffee for Max's wife who was pregnant at the time, marked the beginning of Nolo.

Challenging Beginnings

Establishing Nolo was no easy feat. The coffee industry was skeptical. “Decaf sucks” and “there are no good decafs” were common dismissals. However, with persistence, they sampled over 250 coffees over 24 months and found the perfect blend. Add to that challenges like Covid and securing a steady supply due to bad harvests, and it's clear their journey wasn't without its hiccups.

The Nolo Difference

Nolo prides itself on quality. Their coffee is decaffeinated to perfection without losing its rich flavor. A testament to their commitment to uniqueness, they've even introduced a low-caffeine variety.
Pierre fondly recalls an "Aha!" moment at a trade fair where they served 600 cups of their coffee. No one believed it was decaf! It was clear validation.

Quality and Feedback

Working with global coffee brokers ensures a fresh supply. Every batch is tested for caffeine levels before and after decaffeination. Feedback played a pivotal role in shaping the brand. Regularly sending samples to different continents ensured they received diverse opinions, enhancing their product's global appeal.

Initially, the quest was purely for taste. As Nolo's journey unfolded, they discovered coffee's potential as a superfood, rich in fibre, antioxidants, and beneficial for gut health.

Core Values

Nolo's ethos is rooted in the "No and Low" principle – be it caffeine, environmental impact, or sugars. Being fathers, Pierre and Max are dedicated to leaving a better future for their kids. They've even introduced "Mental Health Mondays," where no meetings or calls are scheduled, giving the team a day to reflect and think.

The Future at Nolo

While Pierre was tight-lipped about all their future plans, he did hint at upcoming Nolo cafes and evening coffee pop-ups, extending the traditional trading day for coffee. Pierre's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to persevere. "Don’t stop. Keep going," he emphasises, stressing the importance of believing in one's product.

Interestingly, Pierre only recently started enjoying coffee, given his caffeine intolerance. These days, he's relishing the iced coffee variants from Nolo.

This year, Nolo will be stocked in all major supermarkets in the UK, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. In 2024, Nolo’s heading to the USA!