I got into coffee roasting by a very roundabout route, having started off as an ecologist and biostatistician, then being lured into the dark world of IT for many years. My work took me to many places and by the late ’80s I was living in Melbourne, Australia, which became our home. More recently, with our children now grown, I made another career change and spent an enjoyable spell working with the Victorian Environment Protection Authority before we made the difficult decision to return to the UK for family reasons.
I have always been a coffee lover, abandoning the dreaded ‘instant’ for the real thing as a teenager. Not long after and led by that irresistible scent of roasting coffee, I came across an old-fashioned coffee shop, strewn with sacks of green beans and with an old drum roaster in the corner. I was immediately struck by the visual differences between the green beans and started to work my way through their roasted counterparts – I still clearly remember the contrast between New Guinea Peaberry and Old Government Matured Java. ‘Coffee’ was not just something bought in packets, it was a world of complex flavours and I was hooked on it.
Over the years we witnessed Melbourne becoming a vibrant part of the world’s new coffee scene. On my various travels I began to realise just how much better the coffee was in Melbourne than I was experiencing elsewhere, particularly in the UK. I needed to know why and started researching all aspects of coffee, also training as a Barista to gain practical knowledge.
My interest became centred on the new approaches to coffee that were developing in parts of Scandinavia, Canada and the United States as well as Australia. These emphasise fine single-estate beans combined with lighter roasts to bring out their unique flavours. New fluid-bed roasting technology was producing subtler results than was possible with traditional drum roasters.
On our return to the UK, and now living in Gloucester, there was an opportunity to turn an obsession into our business. We imported a new and radically different type of fluid-bed roaster from the USA which allows precise artisan control of the roasting process. The roasting beans are lofted on a cushion of hot air and there are no hot surfaces to char or overheat them. Development is very even throughout the bean structure and flavours are clean, not masked by burnt or baked notes. We believe very few small capacity roasters can match ours for results or flexibility.
Coffee is not my only preoccupation and I enjoy making artisanal foods, especially charcuterie, bread and beer. I am an environmentalist, as is probably obvious from my background, and a keen beekeeper and beekeeping instructor going back many years. Some might suggest this is also an obsession! I have plans to establish a community apiary in Gloucester, once I can obtain a suitable site.