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Roasting & Clients

For my last training stage at Ozone Coffee Roasters, we start the day by cupping in the aim to re-invent an espresso blend, or in Courtney’s words, to nail a “killer awesome blend”. Because it’s an espresso blend, “we’re looking for balance and general niceness” she expresses.

Courtney – The Roaster – is assisting me for the whole morning, to share her mastery with me when it comes to coffee roasting in the shop’s cellar, where a titanic cast iron roaster awaits us. A digital program is used when defining the curves for roasting, as well as for regulating the heat and time in accordance with the optimum roast you want to achieve from your coffee, 1 minute being the difference between achieving a light rather than a dark roast.

Straight away, we roast the in-house blends, passing from one to the other, each roast taking about 13 to 13 1/2 minutes.

During our first round, Courtney points out the green curve of her digital chart: as the temperature gradually increases, “you don’t want to flatten the curve, otherwise you’d get an unpleasant cereal-like, baked flavour in your coffee.”

This job requires patience, attentiveness and physical work as well, but I can see this is balanced by how it can turn into a prolonged and genuine moment for appreciation of the scent-full aromas, the sense of comfort, relax, meditation, joy, and also by the fact that – in Courtney’s words – “It is so nice to lay on a roaster during the winter and warm up. Roasting coffee is therapeutic. It’s a craft and a profession.”

The afternoon … is time to talk about Customer Development Management: The person in charge for this is Ben, who wisely says to me how it is important to have “a holistic understanding of the industry”. We share some v60 filter coffee and exchange – and agree on – thoughts about business relationships, promoting the bigger picture in which you find yourself in, and divulging the passion to engage and excite people.

You want to know who your ideal customer should be and identify him Ben tells me, and we both are on the same page when we discuss how doing and developing business is more about the quality rather than quantity, more about fidelity and the long-term perspective.

The following day (dedicated to Dispatch & Wholesale Operations) I spend the morning with Kaz for a “look behind the scenes” of what brown coffee goes through before we actually see it proudly displayed on a coffee shop counter or before it is un-packed at the supply chain’s final destination. In other words, I take part in the process of how roasted coffee beans are being weighed, hand-poured into 0,25kg / 1kg / 2kg / 2.5kg bags, sealed, stored, boxed, and get ready!  I am told they are then shipped to customers, either by bike or traditional courier companies, depending on the distance lying between the customer’s premise and the OCR shop.

I start by putting labelled stickers of coffee blends on elegantly sober-looking recycling-paper-made packages (or bags), which I unfold one by one. I then tare the scale and begin to weigh my roasted coffee beans, scooping them with a scoop from a massive container, marked by blend type, date of the roast, and weight. I pass on to sealing the package at its top through a heat-generating machine, which seals the sides of the package once you step on a bottom pedal and lever the machine in order to exert pressure and seal the coffee bag.

When the bag is set, I gradually store it on the shelves or boxes – whether for retail or wholesale – just behind the corner in a precise and logical manner, as the orders of coffee have to be arranged according to the digital “call sheet” and a logical pattern according to available physical space. Lack of room here won’t stop the operations running, and yet everything here is indeed artisan.

I then enjoy a pleasant, “conclusive” talk with Lou about her role as Customer Coordinator, her main tasks ranging from the management of “back-office” operations and coffee dispatching support to general assistance, digital content editing, and customer promotion.  I learn we have some things in common and – at the near “conclusion” of my apprenticeship experience at Ozone – I listen gladly to what Liz has to share and teach me, as I believe each member of the Ozone team adds value to my professional and personal growth, to the life chapter taking place in the UK, in the winter of 2014/2015.

*** A special THANKS to the Ozone Coffee Roasters staff who have taken care of me, taught me a lot about coffee, but most importantly, have made me feel at home even miles and miles away.