Last week our co-founder Jack Hanna, and Training Manager, Andrew Hunt, took to the floor for a series of events we’ve been running in partnership with General Assembly. For these ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions we’re inviting professionals at the top of their game to share their stories and knowledge. When it came to coffee it seemed a no-brainer to invite these two coffee heads to speak. Here’s a little recap of what went down…
WHERE THE BOYS BEGAN:
Jack’s journey started when he was 17, washing dishes in a cafe and begging for an opportunity to jump on the coffee machines, and went on to win the World Latte Art Championship in 2007 by creating a pretty impressive rosetta behind his back. He then launched his own coffee label, Jack and the Bean, before meeting now business partner Ramzey Choker and starting The Grounds in 2013. The rest, they say, is history.
Andrew started out at the age of 18, taking a real interest in coffee – so much so that he dropped out of university to follow a career in it! Andrew calls it all a journey of persistence and learning; a few years back he became a licensed Q grader (someone who is qualified to score coffee) and is now on the path to getting his tea mastery as well.
KICKING IT OFF WITH A FUN FACT:
Did you know that coffee is a fruit that grows on a tree? There are so many different levels of coffee. You’d probably be pretty shocked to see what goes into that $4 latte that you pick up from your local cafe.
ON THE TOPIC OF THE GROUNDS COFFEES:
Talking about our seasonal blend (Jack’s baby) the goal was to achieve something chocolatey, smooth and buttery. Typically the industry trends towards fragrant, jasmine, honeysuckle notes in coffee, but the goal for us at The Grounds is to create something that’s something really enjoyable to drink (that’s the whole point after all, right?). Jack can be a bit of a purist himself when it comes to coffee (read: he prefers it black), but is definitely a team player when it comes to making a coffee our customers are going to love. Most of which is milk based espresso at The Grounds so it’s gotta be good and balance well with milk!
On the controversial topic of decaf Andrew jumped in as a bit of a leveler (Jack really is a purist) who’s come across a decaf coffee that he believes would stand up next to any premium specialty coffee. With the world’s major decaf plant located in Canada, the majority of decaf coffee is transported across the world and back again to be processed. Our blend on the other hand is decaffeinated in Colombia, where it’s grown. It undertakes a natural process meaning it loses very little of its characteristics and flavour, and it’s considerably more sustainable so we’ll count that as a double win. If you’re curious to know a little more about it, we’ve written a post here.
TALKING COFFEE SOURCING TRIPS:
At The Grounds we purchase a lot of our coffees from Colombia. Last year Andrew and our Head Roaster, Nick, travelled to a few different areas and farmers to source coffee from in an immersive trip. It’s an incredibly beautiful country with incredibly smart farmers who are clued in to ways to keep the industry progressive. We’ve now developed strong relationships with farmers and we can plan our future buying and quality. Guaranteeing with our farmers that we’ll purchase next season’s crop offers them financial security and we can also be more experimental with the way our coffee is grown. It’s amazing how much we improved the quality of our coffee by experimenting and tweaking different elements, whether it’s the soil, washing, the way the coffee is produced, and more.
WHERE TO START IF YOU’RE A ROASTER YOURSELF:
Starting out in the Australian coffee market (being mindful that we’re one of two markets where Starbucks failed), is a pretty tricky thing to do. From Jack’s experience, it took The Grounds brand a while to cement ourselves and build our brand recognition from nothing. It’s hard to create a brand out of thin air and push it in an industry that’s so competitive. But that’s what you need to do – you need to create a strong brand identity and be relentless.
STARTING YOUR OWN CAFE AND NEED A WHOLESALE BRAND?
Steer clear of the internationally roasted, imported brands. The trend is shifting towards locally roasted because it’s fresh and you can work with that brand to get what you want. It’s also ok to trust Australian roasted coffee these days – it’s come a long way (comparing to the desire for an Italian roast for example a few decades ago). Another big tip is to trust your palate too; if something tastes good and you want to go back for more, then do!
BIGGEST MISTAKES WHEN IT COMES TO COFFEE:
Following trends and not trusting your instinct – remember, if you like it, chances are your customers will too. On another note, going darker doesn’t necessarily mean bitter. Lighter coffee means more acidity, more fruit and more sweetness. Darker tones connote chocolate, earthier flavours but not necessarily bitterness.
GOOD TIPS FOR MAKING COFFEE AT HOME:
Jack’s tip – come to The Grounds…
Andrew’s (more helpful) tip – buy a grinder and use fresh beans. When you keep the bean in its whole form, all of the oils and flavours are retained. Once you break (or in this case, grind) it open, all of those compounds begin to break down and you only have 10 minutes to retain what the coffee should taste like before it begins to lose its profile. So, through buying fresh beans, you’re setting yourself up for success at home. A good home grinder shouldn’t set you back too much either.
WHERE THE FUTURE OF COFFEE IS GOING:
Andrew believes that we’re at the peak of where specialty coffee can really go. There’s room for improvement, of course, but examples of the best coffees in the world today will stand the test of time and will still be considered the best in decades to come.
Jack added that there are three key areas of coffee that all equally play into coffee and where there’s room for improvement:
- The consumer world: In terms of machine technology, methods and equipment we’ve developed in leaps and bounds! The industry is at the forefront of improving its quality and using state of the art equipment.
- The farming world: This area has also come a long way. The relationships we have with our farmers demonstrates
- The roasting world: This is really where there’s so much opportunity for growth and development when it comes to roasting, and also for us at The Grounds in our future – future – we’re currently building a new state-of-the-art coffee roastery so we’re pretty excited about that!
So that’s a wrap! If you’re keen to learn more about our courses in perfecting your at-home coffee or are looking for a coffee wholesaler, we know a guy. Reach out to our wholesale manager, Oli, here +61 419 650 678. If you’ve got a general Grounds query, buzz our main line on (02) 9699 2225