Ben was interviewed for The Forager section of the InDaily in August 2015. Check out the article here:
- By Alexis Jazz Kaczmarek.
Why did you decide to get into the coffee roasting business?
I’ve been roasting beans at home for 7 years now because I just love the smell of freshly roasted coffee. It’s something that I enjoy doing, it’s a product I really enjoy and one that I had some experience in so I thought I’d have a crack at turning it into a business. It’s a growing industry, especially in Australia where the specialty roasted coffee scene is really taking off because people are becoming informed about where their coffee comes from and are making more socially conscious consumer choices. People are also appreciating coffee more and developing more sophisticated palettes.
So where do you go when you go out for a cuppa with friends?
Well I’ve got a few favourites. My regular jaunt is Coffee Amigo’s in Salisbury. It’s run by Julio who also makes the coffee and he’s somewhat of an artisan. Julio is from El Salvador and we have good chats about where our coffee in Australia comes from, the ethical issues surrounding coffee farms in South America and how to pick out the best beans. I also like The Coffee Baron for a consistently good soy flat white (my drink of choice).
Where do you get your beans from?
I have various suppliers who source beans from across South and Central America as well as in Africa and Indonesia. I buy mainly from small, family-run farms that employ around 10-15 people.
What I look for from suppliers are those who have a direct relationship with the farms, they know the farmers names, they have met them and seen the farms and they share a common goal of improving the quality of life for those who work on the farms.
So how does your ethos play in your business decision-making?
Many coffee farms have been traditionally exploited by those demanding a cheaper price for the bean. Our suppliers work with the farmers to discuss production and harvesting methods, to improve the quality of the crops which results in a more productive farm and a better cup of coffee. They help farmers get the most out of their crop by teaching them to hold out a little longer until the coffee cherry is more further developed, this way, they can actually charge a higher price for their produce.
What else is important to me about sourcing beans is making sure that my suppliers work directly with the farm so that I can ensure that the farm owner’s are receiving all the money I pay to purchase the green beans. Being able to oversee this aspect of my bean purchasing ensures transparency, which creates a fairer supply chain.
It sounds like you are really passionate about conscientious consumerism in both your career and your day-to-day life. Do you see this as a trend people are moving in?
Yeah I do and I think lots of people these days care about where the items they consume come from, and who has been affected by their purchase. We have a lot of power as consumers, either retail or small business buyers and it’s easy with a little information to make better decisions. We are learning more and more about the true cost of cheap products and that exploitation is too often part of the mass production process. I chat to customers when they come to pick up beans I’ve roasted for them and we feel like we are now at a turning point to start saying no to cheap, low-quality stuff that is mass-produced and lacks transparency and start saying yes to local, to family-run, to small business, to direct supply, to paying not the minimum wage but the living wage, to being alert and compassionate with our purchasing power.
And where to next?
Well whilst we’re only really getting going, I like to think of SCR as a small business with a big dream. Our vision is to eventually give new arrivals to Australia work experience, and employment as we grow. We’ve already been working in our local community to make recently settled Australians feel welcome and included by sharing meals and holding events so that we can all get to know each other. We’ve been working to set up the infrastructure so that eventually we can provide paid employment opportunities in the coffee roasting and making business and hopefully set a path for a career in hospitality in a welcoming community.
Well that all sounds exciting, we look forward to staying updated on your progress as a business and a social enterprise.
You know how it goes, everyone was getting a pod machine, they looked so easy and convenient, they made a great gift, and so you ended up with one. You looked around to get the machine that produces a good coffee (at least I hope you did, because some of them are awful), and you have been using it for a while now.
But you have come to conclude a couple of things:
1. The pods get expensive after a while, and because they are so easy to make, you are using heaps, and its costing you a fortune
2. The coffee isn't bad, but if you are honest, it's not as good as you used to get on your stovetop, or even plunger perhaps, and certainly not up there with espresso or an aeropress.
So, what do you do? Do you stick to your pod machine, keep paying the bucks and settle for an average coffee? Or do you decide to retire the machine early, and go back to buying good fresh beans from a reputable roaster (if only you knew one), and save some bucks and drink some great coffee?
You know, those pods hold a lot of oxygen inside them, and given that the beans are already ground, and that oxygen is the biggest killer to freshness, they're not all that much chop.
Why not think about buying an Aeropress for $48, which will be better than a plunger hands down, get some good fresh beans, and if you can stretch the budget, buy yourself a little hand grinder, and enjoy some coffee bliss.
Dilemma? No way. Beans for sure.