OUR APPROACH TO COFFEE
We buy small quantities of speciality grade beans from single farms and cooperatives around the world and update our portfolio regularly to reflect seasonal coffee harvests. We are always discovering new favourite coffees and hope we can help you do the same. Below we've set out our thoughts on sourcing and roasting if you'd like to find out more about our approach to coffee. Please visit our shop for details of our current range.
Our approach to sourcing
We buy relatively small amounts of green coffee and it is important for us that we source coffees according to global harvests so that our offering reflects a range of the best beans available at any given time. Each coffee producing country has a different growing season and harvest period according to climate and it then takes several months for coffee to be shipped to Europe. This means that our range of coffees changes throughout the year. We try to balance the need for consistency with a good level of seasonality throughout our coffee portfolio.
We source speciality grade beans only – this is coffee that has been professionally graded by industry experts and scores at least 80 points on a stringent 100 point scale based on cup quality (taking into account factors such as aroma, flavour, sweetness, clarity, body and balance). The coffees we buy score highly and are typically graded between 86 and 90 (not many coffees achieve a score above 90). Before committing to buy a new coffee we test lots of pre-shipment samples, normally blind tasting several different coffees alongside one another. We don’t focus on particular scores or metrics but instead think about the overall quality in the cup, the flavours coming through and whether the coffee adds something new and interesting to our existing range.
All of our coffees come from single farms and cooperatives depending on how the coffee market in each producing country is structured. For example, our coffees from South and Central America tend to come from single, family-owned farms with an established history of growing high quality coffee from one year to the next. When it comes to our African coffees, the beans are normally harvested by a number of different smallholder farmers, who individually produce coffee in very small quantities and then deliver their crop to a processing station operated by a local cooperative in the nearby town or village.
While we would love to be able to visit the producers we buy from in person, as a small roastery we simply don’t have the time or resources to do so and so we are grateful to be able to work with some great people who handle this side of things for us. We work with some of the top coffee importers around Europe who manage quality control at origin as well as all the complicated issues relating to export and international shipping. For small roasters like us, our green bean partners add significant value and make it possible for us to access some of the best coffees from around the world. All our partners have a close working relationship with the farms and cooperatives we buy from, visiting them regularly to ensure not only the quality of the coffee, but also that appropriate ethical and environmental standards have been implemented by the producer.
We don't focus on particular certifications such as Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade. These are generally not as relevant at the speciality end of the market, where good quality coffee commands higher prices and provides greater returns for farmers well above the standard market value for commodity coffee. The important thing for us is the traceability of each coffee throughout the supply chain.
Our roasting style
We are often asked about our approach to roasting and the most common questions relate to our preference for lighter, Nordic style roasts as well as our thoughts on roasting for espresso and filter.
When we first opened our roastery, the most important thing for us was to roast each coffee to bring out the full potential of the beans for filter coffee – preserving the natural flavours inherent within the beans, developing a nice level of acidity and avoiding anything that starts to become too dark or roasty. That said, we don’t roast lightly for the sake of it (very lightly roasted coffees can taste vegetal and grassy and can lack sweetness and body). Most of our coffees are roasted to a light to medium level to allow proper development during the roast and to enhance body and sweetness in the cup.
While we have a natural preference for filter coffee, we also want to make sure we always offer coffees that work well for espresso. The reality is that most coffee shops sell most of their coffee in espresso form, whether as espresso, long black, Americano, flat white, piccolo, cappuccino or latte. Inspired by some of the more progressive coffee shops and roasters in the Nordic countries, we want to produce coffees that lend themselves to a more “modern” style of single origin espresso that is brighter, fruitier, sweeter and more fragrant. At the outset, we certainly considered different roast profiles for espresso and filter but decided that we much prefer a properly developed but lighter roasted coffee that works well for both espresso and filter brew methods. We don’t produce any espresso blends as we prefer to taste the distinct individual characteristics of each coffee in its pure form.
We have had some great results with our “omniroast” approach. We’ve often been pleasantly surprised that funkier, fruitier African coffees like our natural processed Ethiopia Kochere and Adado and our washed Rwanda Karengera and Gashonga coffees have been really popular as espresso with our coffee shop customers, offering something bright and vibrant as a single origin guest espresso alongside a more conventional chocolate, caramel or nutty tasting espresso blend. This can require dialling in the coffee slightly differently compared with a more conventional espresso roast – by tightening the grind setting or slightly lowering the temperature on the espresso machine – but once this has been done it can produce an espresso with more character and interest.
With each new coffee we source, we spend several weeks working to try to find the optimum roast profile. Getting this right is not easy, with plenty of variables to manage and experiment with in terms of times, temperatures, quantities and air flow. Ultimately the test of success is a subjective one. Coffee is a very personal experience and different people have different palates and enjoy different flavours. We try to roast coffees that we enjoy drinking and then hope that others enjoy them too.