This week, we sat down with Thomas, our Head Roaster, to explore his journey and insights into the art of coffee roasting.
Q: Thomas, how did you first become interested in coffee roasting?
Thomas: My interest in coffee roasting sparked not long after I started working as a barista. I saw roasting as the next step in my coffee journey. I was intrigued by the coffee and its origins, not just the drinks made from it. This led me to push hard for a position where I could start roasting.
Q: Can you describe your journey from being a barista to becoming a head roaster?
Thomas: I started at a little espresso bar in Toronto, believe it or not. After that first taste, I had caught the ‘coffee bug’. My next role was soon after I moved to the UK; I was applying for coffee jobs at all companies associated with their own roastery. I ended up getting a position at a fast-growing company that had just started roasting for themselves. I kept learning and pushing, with the final reward, a position in the roastery. I spent nearly six years with them before making the leap across the channel to take over the Head Roaster position here at Five Elephant.
Q: What’s your philosophy when it comes to roasting coffee?
Thomas: After roasting for nearly nine years, I've learned to work with the coffee's natural tendencies. My approach is about guiding the roasting profile rather than dictating it. It's important to have an understanding of where you want the coffee to end up but also to respect how the coffee wants to roast.
Q: How do you approach roast levels, and how do the origin and variety of the bean influence your decisions?
Thomas: I generally lean towards lighter roast levels. This helps highlight the hard work and effort that has gone into farming the fruit better. In general, the origin and variety of the bean tend to have more of an influence on the style and roast level than the other way around.
Q: Could you explain the concept of a roasting curve and how you determine the ideal roast profile for a particular bean?
Thomas: We use a roasting software called Cropster, a fantastic tool to help track the necessary parameters roasters look at when profiling coffees. The imagery left by the data results in a graph (the roast curve). The ideal roast profile is a blend of the inherent qualities of the coffee that we purchased the coffee for, and our adjustments based on test batches.
Q: How do you ensure consistency across different batches of coffee?
Thomas: Consistency is key. We rely on our software to maintain consistent temperatures and roast curves. For quality control, we cup every batch to ensure it meets our standards and the expectations of our customers.
Q: Finally, what do you wish more people knew or appreciated about the art of roasting?
Thomas: I wish people understood more about what happens before the coffee gets to the roastery. Farmers work in tough conditions to grow and harvest their crops. We, as roasters, are the middlemen who ensure that the hard work of these farmers is reflected in every cup of coffee we serve.