Today’s Saturday Supplement is the first in an occasional series called “Meet the Roaster”. I did cover a roaster, Leighton Buzzard’s House of Coffee last year, back when the Coffee Spot was young and the Saturday Supplement wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. However, since the Coffee Spot’s focus is on places to drink coffee, rather than on how it’s produced, I’ve tended not to cover roasters.
That said, there are many wonderful small roasters out there and every now and then I find myself visiting one. So, I present the first “Meet the Roaster”, none other than Rave Coffee, who we met last month, when the Coffee Spot featured the café attached to Rave’s roastery in Cirencester.
That I went to Rave at all is down to Sharon, head box-packer and promoter-in-chief on twitter. Sharon arranged everything, handing me over to the owner, Rob, on arrival. I had a tour of the roastery, although “tour” might be overstating things: Rave fits nicely into a single industrial unit, going from green beans to bagged, roasted coffee via a series of stations around the room. It’s a little confusing to the untutored eye, but is actually a very smooth operation.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Rob’s coffee background started in Australia, where he was a barista in Sydney. Fascinated by the technical processes involved in making coffee, in his own words, he “followed the food chain back to roasting”. Arriving back in the UK towards the end of 2009, he started training café staff, but by 2010 the first roaster was purchased and Rave was in business. Initially selling wholesale only, for the first 18 months it was just Rob and his wife Vicky, but Rave has grown considerably since then. Now Rave employs six staff, who are, for the record, Rob, Vicky, head-roaster Brooke; barista, Donovan; Ops Manager, Sharon and apprentice, Pete.
Rave’s trade is now roughly 40% wholesale (cafés, etc), 60% retail, usually direct to the consumer. Rave sources green beans via a few trusted brokers who maintain direct relationships with the growers, thereby allowing Rave to have knowledge of the bean’s complete journey from farmer to cup.
Rave’s focus is on quality rather than quantity, with growth in sales coming organically. The beans are carefully chosen, with Rob and Brooke roasting sample batches of green beans before deciding which ones make the cut. As well as selecting upcoming single origin beans, Rob is constantly working on new blends.
The precise beans on sale vary since coffee is a seasonal commodity and, as one lot runs out, so Rave moves onto the next. Rave usually has twice the number of single-origin beans on sale compared to blends, but the blends are the best sellers. According to Sharon, roughly half Rave’s sales are blends, and half single-origin. Rave ships either whole beans or it will grind them for home-users. Based on the grinds requested, the humble cafetiere is still dominant, although the Aeropress is gaining ground, with Rave selling a fair number of Aeropress starter kits.
I had the pleasure of watching Brooke roast batch after batch of green beans. It’s a fascinating process (see the gallery). According to Brooke, roasting is still very much an art, despite the fact that there’s a laptop hooked up to the roaster, plotting temperature profiles on a second-by-second basis.
We chatted about the various pressures of roasting: for example, Brooke roasts for around 15 minutes, while a lot of the (vast) commercial roasters go for 12 minutes, but, according to Brooke, the quality suffers. Three minutes might not seem much, but some quick maths tells you that over a day’s roasting, you’ll roast 25% more coffee that way, so you can see why the big boys, with an eye on the bottom line, go down that route.
I discovered, counter-intuitively (at least to me), that lighter roasts are heavier, because the beans retain more moisture. Another thing I learnt is that the taste of the coffee evolves post-roasting. Beans that have just been roasted rarely taste that good, generally reaching their peak around five to 15 days after roasting, another reason why you should always try to buy beans fresh.
Finally, we did a cupping (we had to really) where we tried a couple of Rave’s single-origins. I also got plied with flat whites and espressos by Donovan while I was there, so I came away rather caffeinated! All I’ll say about the cupping is that both my technique and my palette have a lot to learn…
|UNIT 7 • STIRLING WORKS • LOVE LANE • CIRENCESTER • GL7 1YG|
|http://ravecoffee.co.uk/shop/||+44 (0) 1285 651884|
|Monday||08:00 – 17:00||Seating||Sofas, Benches|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 17:00||Food||Cake|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 17:00||Service||Counter|
|Thursday||08:00 – 17:00||Cards||Visa, Mastercard|
|Friday||08:00 – 17:00||Wifi||No|
|Saturday||0900 – 13:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||19th September 2013|
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Interesting that they say it tastes best 5-15 days after roasting. There’s a place in Bristol called Two Day Coffee who make a point of selling coffee that’s never more than two days old. I presume they count from when it’s roasted as they roast it themselves. I’ll have to buy some fresh and see how it does over time.
The 5-15 days is a rough guide, depending on the coffee, although I have heard others say the same thing. Let me know what you find out.
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