Time to think and time to roast
Written by Dušan Matičič, head roaster and brand strategist at GOAT STORY
on October 1st, International Coffee Day 2020
OK, let's get this straight. This is not your typical company blog post. It's written by the guy who works hands-on with the coffee we roast. Let's call it a personal point of view. Biased? Maybe. Sincere? Definitely. But since many have been asking us, I believe it's time we shed some light on the fact that GOAT STORY turned from »coffee gear manufacturer« to »coffee gear manufacturer AND ROASTER«. What a better day to tell the story than International Coffee Day. So here it is ... a little bit about what we do and how we do it when it comes to coffee (beans, not gear).
*This blog post turned out longer, way longer than planned. Sorry about that.
Dušan Matičič is the head of the GOAT STORY roastery and GOAT STORY brand strategist who joined the team in 2017.
OK, a little background. You may know GOAT STORY from the past. Maybe you noticed us because of GINA, the coffee brewer that gained popularity in the specialty coffee world or even because of GOAT Mug, the love-it-or-hate-it coffee mug that was actually our first step in coffee. But lately you might have seen a bit more bean-based content from our side. The reason is simple – we're actually celebrating one year since we set up our very own micro-roastery. YAY! Happy anniversary to us!
OK, let's leap back a couple of years. The month is October 2017 when I joined the company. I was, at the time, nothing more that a guy that could write good copy and understood marketing. My job – raise the GOAT STORY brand to a higher level of understanding specialty coffee and everything that surrounds this lovely coffee niche.
It was a hectic time to join the company – the first production cycle of GINA was just coming to an end and we were preparing to ship these brewers to our Kickstarter backers and those who preordered the brewer. But that's another story for another blog post ... The point is, after GINA was delivered to coffee lovers worldwide, they reached out to us. And I believe that this was the defining moment in our little company's history. In a matter of a couple of months I was talking to some of the heroes of specialty coffee – from competitors, to baristas, roasters, green coffee suppliers and specialty coffee influencers. I really must say that these few months were the most intense – in a sense of learning about the specialty coffee industry – in my whole life. There was so much knowledge coming my way at the time that it was overwhelming: about coffee, varietals, origins, processing methods, to different brew methods, tweaks and tricks to get the best cup of coffee, tasting coffee from roasteries around the world. All of the sudden we had cupping sessions in our company, discussing flavors, types of roast, processing ... Practically every day we tasted a new coffee. Fun times indeed!
But somehow I felt that something was missing ... OK, we got to taste a whole lot of coffee at the time, but what always intrigued me was – can you make that coffee you're drinking, different? Can you change the character of a coffee by roasting it differently? Funny story, when I joined the company, I asked our CEO, Anže Miklavec, when are we going to start selling coffee, not just coffee gear. The answer at the time was clear: never.
But things change, you know ... and it was very soon that we got ourselves an itsy bitsy home roasting machine, a Hottop. That's when the true fun started! I lost count, but I believe that we roasted a bit over 200 samples on that little machine. Oh, we also got our first bag of green coffee ... for fun. And experimenting. That little machine got me hooked – I hand the chance to see what works in a roast and what doesn't. How to handle the temperature. What effect does airflow have on coffee. How to create a roast profile. What second crack looks and sounds like. I roasted small batches of coffee for our partners who used these beans as gifts for their business partners. Yes on a Hottop. And the feedback was good! It was a surprise, but this little roaster helped me to learn a whole lot about roasting coffee and it sparked an idea ... LET'S BUILD OUR VERY OWN PROPER ROASTERY!So it began. But as always in our company, we have different goals set for the future. While my eyes were set on a 2,5kg or 5kg roaster, Anže (CEO) had bigger plans ... »We should get the 15kg«. We got the 12kg Diedrich IR-12. A wonderful piece of engineering that scared the sh** out of me after we placed the order at the company. Will we really need a machine that big?
The same thing happened when we were making our first order of green beans at Trabocca ... While I was choosing a bag, two at the most of each coffee, Anže told me we should order more. Much more. In the end I ended up ordering 1,5 tons of coffee for our first order, among those a couple of our favorite coffees of all time, like the Ethiopia Suke Quto (by the way, new crop of Suke Quto is on its way!). Before we even told anyone we'll be offering coffee beans. Crazy! But I guess he knew what was coming ... after finally starting to sell coffee in March (we mainly roasted coffee for our Cold Brew Kit from September 2019 to March 2020 and didn't sell coffee beans at the time) we have roasted just over 3 tons of green coffee. In seven months. That makes us a proper micro-roastery, right?
*Update: we roasted 5 tons of specialty coffee in 2020.
OK, this was a little historical overview about our beginnings as coffee roasters. But what I wanted to address in this post is something that I believe is the core of what we do and how we do it. I get a lot of questions from our customers about how we choose the coffee that we offer to you. It's a question that is harder to answer compared to what I wrote above, but here goes ...
As you might have learned from our communication, the first thing we look for in coffee is flavor. After sampling hundreds of coffees from every possible origin and every possible processing method, we developed a »taste« for coffee that we enjoy and pursue. You might notice that we offer quite a lot of natural processed coffees. That's not a coincidence, but a preference. I love naturals. I love their »wild« nature and misfit behavior when roasting them. They are a challenge to roast, I can say that. But the result can be, if they are treated correctly, amazing. Take one of our all-time favorite coffees, the Colombia La Marianela, a natural microlot. This coffee is, when roasted very light, as many roasters prefer, a mediocre coffee. Roast it differently, a bit more to the medium roast spectre and extend the last phase of roasting, this coffee suddenly transforms into one of the wildest and most aromatic coffees I have ever tasted. But it took a while to find its sweet spot. Oh and I'm also happy to let you all know that we are getting this years crop of the Colombia La Marianela natural in about a month, so be ready for an explosion of flavor once again!
Don't get me wrong, of course. I am a fan of naturals, but there are washed coffees that knock me off my feet every now and then. Take the Burundi Rubanda, the underdog in our offer. It's not a superstar on paper, but after cupping the sample I knew that this is an »everybody's darling« type of coffee. It's been in our offer since June and I'm happy to say that we got a couple more bags on stock to last us until Christmas.
And then there's my favorite washed coffee of all time, the Ethiopia Suke Quto. I tasted a cup in Berlin at World of Coffee and I knew that this is a coffee that we need in our coffee line-up. And it's not just the flavor of the coffee, it's the story of the origin that keeps me coming back for more. When I learned about how Tesfaye Bekele, the man behind Suke Quto, transformed a whole region that is now becoming, in my opinion, the leader in Ethiopian coffees, I feel proud to be able to offer his coffee.
It seems like I opened a chapter that I wanted to talk about in the first place in this (now very long) blog post – the impact of specialty coffee on the coffee industry as a whole.
Again, a litle background ...
When we started roasting coffee we raised a lot of interest among our friends and business partners. And every single one asked us one question: Is your coffee different from what we're drinking now and how is it different?
As a country where coffee culture is low (yes, low), it was quite a challenge to answer that question. But we took a common sense approach ... we brewed a cup of coffee for them and let them taste it. Yes, it was different from anything that they have ever tasted. But the flavor itself, especially when the coffee has strong fruity notes, acidity, strange spicy notes, was, at first, not something they would enjoy. It's an acquired taste, that's a fact. But after a few cups, people began to enjoy the new flavor dimensions and started to wonder, how is it possible that this coffee tastes so different compared to what they drank until now.
That's when our »educational« speech began: how does coffee grow, processing coffees, the impact of terroir on flavor, how is coffee roasted differently ... it all started to come together for these specialty coffee noobs. And we're happy to say that we have »converted« a lot of people into drinking solely specialty coffee.But there is more to specialty coffee than simple flavor. And this is something we all need to be aware of. Every coffee is grown by a coffee farmer. The coffee he grows pays the food for the family, the education of his children, the bare necessities of life. And if he has a little extra on the side, it's an investment into growing better coffee. And you know what better coffee means? A premium on quality. That premium will be transferred into better living conditions for the farmer and family and also into the quality of coffee grown next season. The result? If we pay that little more for a kilogram of green coffee, it will not only benefit the farmer's lives. It will benefit the quality of coffee that is improving in quality each season. It's the cycle of coffee quality explained very very simple, but this is something that I truly believe in and can be backed by proof – the quality of coffee that we're getting from a farm. After tasting this years samples of coffees that we offered last year, I clearly see progress. The Ethiopia Suke Quto, for instance, was a wonderful coffee last year. But when we tasted this years samples, the progress in flavor is clear. And we're happy to pay about an euro more per kilo this year. Because I know that this is money well spent and everybody will benefit from it: from the farmers whose lives can improve due to extra earnings and all the way to you, the coffee lover who will benefit from an exceptional cup of coffee.
Oh, we're in the middle as well, the coffee roasters. And we love to connect both – the farmer who grows and processes the coffee and you, the coffee lover who enjoys a good cup of coffee. We're bridging the gap and adding a little extra value by showcasing the flavors with our roasts.
Thank you all for your support and feedback and I'd be thrilled if you let me know your thoughts about coffee. I'm always happy to listen and even happier to answer.
The coffee guy and roaster at GOAT STORY