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Pilot Coffee is the 2014 Micro-Roaster of the Year!

Roaster of the Year!

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Parts 1,2,3

Okay, there was no commotion, other than the sounds of the mill. Had you going though, didn’t I?

Now to the guns. At another part of the Serben compound we got to see their cupping lab. Inside were two vintage Probat roasters that looked awesome and steampunk. In this lab the staff roast, grind and cup the various coffees they receive in order to determine cup characteristics and potential defects. Just before we left I learned why there is so much security, though it should have been obvious by now: coffee is a hot commodity, especially in locations where a lot of it is concentrated, like a dry mill. It is not entirely uncommon for tractor trailers flush with bags of coffee to be hijacked by bandits brandishing assault rifles, the drivers shot and tossed by the side of the road. That stolen coffee ends up sold on the black market. In order to prevent such attacks, or at least to reduce them, mill owners have had to spend a lot on security. Now a lot of trucks are equipped with GPS, and if they are immobile for more than 60 seconds, the mill calls the drivers to inquire why. They travel in convoys of at least 3 trucks to better their chances of arriving at port alive. In response, the bandits (which some believe actually have the support of corrupt local police) have upped the ante and have started to raid the dry mill in the middle of the night, killing guards and stealing tons of coffee. This is why the mill looks like a maximum security prison from the outside; but rather than trying to prevent escape, they are trying to prevent people from getting in.

The final full day in Guatemala we visited the HQ of ANACAFE for an awesome lunch and a tour of their state of the art cupping facilities. Then we were off to one of Unitrade’s retail cafes for a pick-me-up, during which a short woman with a green t-shirt rubbed up against me and stole my camera (I was under the impression that I was hot stuff, but really it was just theft. Meh.). Not to be discouraged because everyone else on the trip has pictures, we departed to Unitrade’s offices for a tour and a cupping of regional coffees from Guatemala. For some reason there was some kind of caged owl in their parking lot.

And thus ends the overly verbose account of our trip to origin. Minus the theft, I would recommend an origin trip to pretty much anyone – not just coffee professionals. It is an altogether different and I think more enriching experience than a resort trip. With the dynamic locations, and dust, and coffee pulp, and wildlife, and education, and the kids, and the beer, and not to forget the discussions with our tripmates, I have grown and learned more than I thought possible; I also am hungry to learn even more and to continue to expand my horizons. The main thing I think I will take away from this trip? To not allow strange women rub up against me, in public at least. Kidding! It is the awareness that in coffee, and in specialty coffee in particular, we are all linked in a chain from seedling to cup; that we all, for the moment, occupy certain links in that chain; and that by increasing dialogue and education we can strengthen these links and even begin to transcend them – coffee drinkers, roasters and baristas become farmers, farmers become cuppers, roasters and coffee drinkers.  We are all partners in the process.

Many of you watched our new roaster being unloaded off the truck on Queen St, and into it’s new home.  Replacing the Sivetz, this new roaster allows us to roast greater quantities (as we had reached capacity with our old machine), roast during the day (goodbye baker’s hours!), and has a more sophisticated afterburner, which means way less emissions.

Thank you to our customers for being so supportive of our growth and changes.  During some of our first roasts on Saturday morning, Te Aro was buzzing, and it was awesome to chat with our customers about the new equipment as the place filled with the smell of freshly roasted beans.

We will still be roasting pretty early in the mornings, as we don’t want to interrupt the Cafe too much, and the boys need full concentration as they actually do the roasting.

Thank you as well to our amazing team – Tyler played a key role in disassembling the old roaster, and putting into place the Diedrich.  Nicole was also behind the scenes giving the back end of our business a complete facelift.

Here are some pics and clips of the work we did last week.

The arrival of the roaster….

some pics:

"Nothing Beats Wellington on a Good Day"

Did you know that Wellington, New Zealand (population 400,000) has more Cafes, Bars and Restaurants per head than New York City?  It is next to impossible to get a bad coffee in this city, and it is home to over 6 large coffee roasters.

After leaving NZ over 2 years ago, Jessie and I decided to dash across the world for a quick visit.  I was there for 5 days, while Jessie stayed on for 8.  While the main focus of our trip was spending time with family and friends, we were so excited to tour around the coffee scene, and made plans for a coffee crawl before we even arrived.

Jessie and I started our coffee crawl in the Windy City at Coffee Supreme’s new café, Customs Brew Bar.

In a country that has been dominated by Espresso, we were excited to hear that Coffee Supreme was bringing something new to NZ – different brew methods (including Clover, Chemex, French Press, and Espresso),  as well as single origin offerings.

We were even more excited when we heard that Customs had a brand new Slayer Espresso Machine.  We ordered a Sumatran Espresso, a Panamanian in the Clover, and an Ethiopian Sidamo in the Chemex.  The coffee was fantastic, and we had a great chat with the Barista about the beans, menu, and his new Slayer, which is a beautiful machine.

We were told we should head up to the Coffee Supreme Roastery for a tour, so we did just that.  Olivia Ihamaera-Smiler kindly spent some time with us and gave us a tour of the Roastery.  It is a beautiful spot, so well-organized, and after speaking with Olivia and their Roastmaster, Jessie and I felt that Te Aro and Supreme shared many similarities.

Pics of Customs Brew Bar and Coffee Supreme Roastery:

Next stop, Café Laffare in Te Aro, Wellington.  The smell of freshly roasted coffee wafting up into our apartment when we lived next to Laffare was probably what started my dreams of opening my own Roastery!  Jessie and I used to frequent Laffare almost every day, we really were spoiled living next to such an incredible Roastery.

Tony Kerridge, GM of Laffare, kindly met with me when I started writing my business plan before leaving NZ over 2 years ago, and it was great to catch up with him now, after Te Aro was born 10 months ago.  We have certainly come a long way since we opened, and after spending time with Tony, touring around his packing line, storage rooms, training rooms, roastery, and looking at the site of his new roastery, I am even more excited about Te Aro’s future.

Laffare is a Wellington Institution.  The Café is always buzzing, and the energy given off by the staff, along with the amazing coffee give it such a great feel.  We met with the 2 Roastmasters – they work on a Probat and can roast 100 kg at a time.

Pics of Laffare:

After an espresso, a cappuccino, buying an Otto Espresso Machine, a couple t-shirts, 4 packets of espresso beans, and 3 packets of their own Fair Trade Hot Chocolate mix, we were ready for our next stop.

Milk Crate.  This café was also one of my favourites when I lived in Wellington, and was opened 4 years ago by a friend of mine, Ben.   It shares a space with a book store, and is using a local roaster, People’s Coffee.  The espresso tastes like dark chocolate, and has the most beautiful long-lasting finish.  This is definitely one of the smallest, and best Cafes in Wellington.  After a long black (which is the same as our Americano, but much shorter), an espresso and flat white, we practically ran to our final destination.

Last stop – Mojo.  Seriously excited about this stop.  Mojo seems to be growing and growing and growing.  They have around 16 Mojo cafes in Wellington and Auckland, and they have just moved their Roastery from Wakefield St. in Te Aro, Wellington to Shed 13 on Wellington’s Waterfront.

It is so beautiful, your jaw drops when you walk in.  They also roast on a Probat, and because this building is a historical building, it is open to the public, which means anyone can come in and watch the action.  We said hello to Steve Gianoutsos, who started Mojo with his wife back in 2003.  We also said hello to the Roastmaster, who is Steve’s father, and had just finished a roast of their Espresso Blend.

Pics of Mojo:

I was then rushed off to the airport (Jessie was staying on for another 4 days), and was loving that there was a Mojo café, a Fuel Café, and an Orb Café.  It really goes to show how much Coffee is a part of NZ Culture.

I’ve come back feeling even more inspired, picking up new ideas from each of these Roasters.  Perhaps what I was most inspired by was that even though these Coffee Roasters have all experienced a huge amount of growth, they still have such an artisan feel to them, and continue to focus on the Craft of Roasting.

If you are interested in trying some Kiwi Coffee, I have coffee from all these Roasters, plus a few more!  Just drop by Te Aro and ask.