In the first of our ‘Spotlight on supplier’ series, we would like to introduce you to Black Mountain Roast (BMR), our excellent coffee bean supplier. I had the pleasure of being shown around the wonderful roastery and had a mini masterclass in roasting.
BMR are nestled in the foothills of the Black Mountains just outside Hay-on-Wye, in a barn of a grade II listed farm house dating back to the 15th century. The vista offered from the patio makes for the perfect setting to sit and enjoy one of their delicious coffees.
I’m getting ahead of myself, first we need to get roasting.
We head into the barn where Simon, the passionate ‘chef’(?) behind the brand, proudly shows me the beast of a roaster where all the magic happens. It’s German-made small batch machine which allows full control of the process of turning bland raw beans into wonderfully aromatic coffee. It seems to me that coffee roasting is a perfect fusion of science and art – Alchemy. It’s the fine tweaks of the machine as the roast takes place which lead Simon to produce the perfect roast.
To start off Simon made me a cup of his Rwandan coffee and showed me how he ‘tastes’ coffee whilst we wait for the machine to get up to temperature (~220degrees centigrade). By taking a sip, looking down and drawing air through the mouthful of coffee it allows you to pick up on the more delicate flavours of the coffee. Next over to the white board where he shows me the areas on our tongues which detect sweetness (the front), acidity (the sides) and bitterness (the back). Did you know women have twice as many taste buds as men! Anyway, what Simon wants to do is start the journey off towards the front, with a balanced acidity and sweetness, followed by a developing, though light, bitterness as you get towards the end of your coffee.
Time to roast.
We get ourselves some bland, grassy smelling green Rwandan beans from a hessian sack and put them into the roasting drum. Simon shows me how the beans quickly pull the temperature down below 100 degrees centigrade. As the temperature rises he explains to me about how the duration of the roast and the final temperature both affect the flavour of the coffee. Every now and then he takes a sample out for me to smell, as the beans darken I can begin to get those familiar coffee aromas which inevitably leads to an ‘mmmm’ sound.
As the beans approach the first ‘crack’ (~200 degrees centigrade) Simon turns the gas down to stop the temperature rising too far. The crack is just about audible over the thrum of the machine as gentle, high pitched crackles caused by the beans cracking due to pressure build-up to release steam and carbon dioxide. A medium roasted bean, which BMR pride themselves with, are ready at this point. The ‘strong’ coffee people get from supermarkets are often dark roasted beans which have gone to the second crack, jokingly referred to as ‘burnt’ by Simon.
The beans are quickly decanted from the drum onto a cleverly designed cooling tray, which has a powerful extractor fan beneath which kicks in and drops the temperature of the beans from over 220 degrees centigrade to below 50 degrees centigrade in only a few minutes. This is crucial to stop the beans from continuing to roast. It’s amazing to see just how evenly the beans are roasted!
Finally, the beans are emptied onto a container where they sit to give off gas for 24hr before being bagged and ready to go.
Before heading off we sit and digress from coffee and I hear about Simon’s adventures in Australia, where he developed his passion for coffee.
BMR source their high-quality beans from small farms and co-operatives around the world and, whilst not certified fairtrade, you can rest easy knowing the beans they use are traded fairly ensuring the growers get a fair price for the product. Some of the beans also carry organic and Rainforest Alliance certification.
What you get from Black Mountain Roast is freshly roasted, aromatic coffee, bursting with flavours, a world away from the burnt coffee, roasted months ago which you will often find in the supermarkets.
What we love most of all about our partnership with this brand is how flexible they are. We get our coffee from Simon on a weekly basis in small batches to ensure the coffee you get from us is always fresh. We even return the 2.5kg bags to him to refill and reseal for us, zero waste too! When we had requests for a ‘strong’ (dark roasted) coffee we asked Simon for this and the next week we had it. What more can you ask for?
On that note, I’m off to enjoy a nice cup of Ethiopian coffee. Yum.
Don’t forget to bring your containers in to top up ?