With two new openings in Southbank Tower and Principal Place this week, Black Sheep Coffee shows no signs of slowing down. But growth is not at the expense of watering down the operator’s speciality offer, head of coffee Tony Knauf says.

While the third wave of speciality coffee shop operators might appear to have a flock mentality, with their flat whties, exposed brick walls, and wooden benches, this could never said of Black Sheep Coffee.

Going beyond the fast-growing brand’s tagline of ‘leaving the herd behind’, the black sheep of the industry is picking a contrarian path towards an ambition to “rid the world of boring coffee”.

Going against the grain has not slowed down the group’s growth however, with nearly 20 sites expected to be open by the end of 2017 – many coming in the last 12 months.

Tony Knauf explained: “At Black Sheep we always look at ways to innovate and challenge the status quo so we often end up going against market trends.

“We’re famous for having launched the only 100% Robusta of specialty grade ever made at a time when the entire specialty coffee scene focused exclusively on Arabica coffee.

“Since then, we’ve looked at sourcing both robusta and arabica beans that are truly different and have a cool story to tell, whether it be our single estate Blue Volcano that grows on the flank of an active volcano in Papua New Guinea or our secret recipe for Nitro Cold brew served on tap in our shops.

“Our cocktail menu is also unique and our take on the Irish Coffee and Espresso Martini has really raised eyebrows in the London bar scene. On the food front we’ve also got a few surprises in store with a completely new concept of sweet and savoury waffle-dogs launching in October.”

The proliferation of coffee shops in the UK has led to warnings from analysts that the high streets could be approaching saturation point.

But it’s not an issue that concerns Black Sheep at this stage, such as the confidence in their differentiated offer, where premium quality is seen as a given rather than an exception.

“If we stopped investing in sourcing the best quality beans or hiring and training the best baristas in town, our customers would feel let down and would stop coming,” Knauf said.

Could high street operators steal the thunder of the new wave by borrowing their style? Knauf is sceptical but not outright dismissive – especially if it means artisan quality coffee becoming the norm on the high street.

“It’s tricky for established operators to adapt to higher quality norms,” he said. “In some cases, it means replacing automatic bean-to-cup machines with expensive manual ones across hundreds of shops and re-training thousands of baristas from scratch but where there’s a will there’s always a way.”

While the group has shown it means business with big name sector appointments such as former YO! Sushi property director Kieran Sherlock, its direct supply chain means it has not been overly impacted by the global rises in the wholesale coffee prices.