News  /  Community

Park People: Paul Dunning, Horsebox Coffee 

Published on 1 May 2024

In this month’s Park People, Horsebox Coffee’s Paul Dunning spills the beans on his inspiring journey to realising his dream job as Milton Park’s friendly barista.  

Hi Paul! Can you tell us a bit about Horsebox Coffee? 

Back in 2015 our founder, Emily, a professional barista, wanted to share her passion for speciality coffee in her local community and beyond by reinventing her childhood horsebox into a mobile coffee shop. She quickly expanded the business from one horsebox, to three and a cute 2CV coffee van ‘Deux Chevaux Espresso’.

We are now a team of nine dedicated baristas, with our very own roastery that offers weekend courses and experiences. Here you can learn the art of coffee making and the journey of coffee from seed to cup, including the all important roasting process.

We’re one big family here, with a warm and welcoming atmosphere that extends beyond our immediate team. The team works closely with our coffee farmers around the globe sourcing ethical and sustainable green coffee through direct trade. As well as the roasting for the horseboxes we supply to other local businesses providing training and support where needed too.

What inspired your career change to becoming a barista? 

As a qualified councillor, I spent fifteen years supporting families. Though it was incredibly rewarding, it took its toll and I longed for a fresh start to lift my spirits.  

It wasn’t until a trip to South Africa that I found my next calling. One morning, I came across a lady opening her coffee shop by the beach. As I enjoyed my flat white, I thought to myself, what a lovely job that would be. Then it hit me. This is what I want to do, that’s my dream.   

I went to see an education coach to put my dream into action. Though a slight mispronunciation of barista almost sent me to law school, I was put in touch with a training organisation in London which offered three-month courses.  

I learned the art of perfecting lattes, cappuccinos and hot chocolates, before being offered work experience in a bustling coffee shop near Portobello Road, London. I worked there for about a year before my wife and I upped sticks and relocated to Oxfordshire.  

How did you find out about Horsebox Coffee? 

Fate intervened when I was introduced to Emily through a neighbour, who mentioned I’d moved to the area and was looking for a barista role. Although there wasn’t a position available at Horsebox Coffee at the time, Emily graciously offered me a trial shift, and the rest, as they say, is history.  

I’ve been living my dream as a barista ever since. 

What does your role entail? 

Ultimately, I see my job as putting a smile on people’s faces, producing great coffee that people really enjoy. Though, I must give full credit to the beans – it’s all down to the beans! 

I start the day bright and early, getting to the van for around 7am to set up shop. I take pride in ensuring every cup is perfect, so I spend some time in the morning calibrating the machines, checking the weights are just right. 

I then resist the temptation as I bag up the delicious brownies and pastries and set up the displays, getting excited to welcome my early morning regulars.  

What’s your favourite part of the job? 

Where do I start?! I enjoy being a small part of people’s day and giving them a little boost, whether that’s handing them a sweet treat and a nice warm drink, or catching up and chatting about their lives. 

I love meeting new people and seeing them return. You really get to know people around here, it’s a close community. I noticed something recently that made me smile: when I stopped wearing my Dark Horse beanie, some customers almost didn’t recognise me! It’s the little things that make this job special. 

What’s your favourite coffee/snack from Horsebox Coffee? 

You can’t beat a flat white made with our signature Dark Horse beans. Each of the bean roasts are named after Emily’s beloved horses, which I think is brilliant.  I’m also a big fan of the brownies, they’re just too good to resist.  

What do you enjoy about being based at Milton Park? 

Milton Park isn’t just a place to go to work, it’s a real community and the staff at Milton Park really make me feel a part of it.  

I love getting to know all the diverse and interesting people that work here. I learn all about the fascinating research that takes place at the Park from people who stop to talk.  

Horsebox Coffee Co. is based behind Milton Park’s security hut at ///mission.reclaim.porridge, serving signature blends of its delicious coffee, and more, to workers and local residents – from 7am – 2pm every Monday to Thursday.

Find out more about Horsebox Coffee

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Company Spotlight: Horsebox Coffee

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