Situated just outside of the North Yorkshire Moors is Rounton Coffee, a speciality coffee roasters. Rounton though, isn’t your normal coffee roasters, they have a mission to source coffees across the world, from small farms, and make relationships to find the best tasting Arabica coffees whilst ensuring a fair deal for everyone involved.
I recently caught up with Tomas Keavney and Head Roaster Guy Snead from Rounton to talk about their roasters, how they source their coffee and much more but first…their coffee.
Colombia – Flor Penna & Guatemala – Finca Rabanales
What makes the coffee that Rounton roast so special, is the fact the coffee they source is from farmers and suppliers that they have, on the whole, met and have personal relationships, and this personal touch is evident in the quality of the coffee. Two of their origins I have recently brewed are their Colombia – Flor Penna & Guatemala – Finca Rabanales and it has to be said, both blends were outstanding.
Colombia – Flor Penna
For those that don’t know, in a small town in Colombia, Inza. Situated on the “Macizo Colombiano” the region is known for it’s growing conditions, and it’s here that Rounton’s Colombia – Flor Penna comes from. I brewed this blend via the Cafetiere method and have drank it both black, and with a drop of milk – both times, beautiful. The aroma was tropical, with a floral hint; there was a distinct sweetness, but not the normal caramel hit I’d expect from a Colombian blend, it was more subtle, but was enticing. Black – there was a real fruity depth; labelled as Pear, Milk Chocolate and Green Apple, the chocolate was clear but there was also strawberry and pineapple notes in the aftertaste. White – the milk really does add to this origin, making it a smooth, medium-bodied coffee. It is when milk’s added that the sweet pear shines through the flavour. Well balanced, and the best blend of any coffee I’ve had in 2020 so far.
When drinking Guatemalan coffee, I expect full bodied, big chocolate flavours and punchy citrus aromas so I’d have been forgiven for expecting Finca Rabanales to be similar, that though wasn’t the case! Rather than having deep cocoa flavours or the acidity of a normal Guatemalan roast, Rounton’s blend from the Fraijanes area of Central America, was more fruity and packed a malty punch, as described on their label. As with the Flor Penna – I brewed this with a cafetiere for consistency and much preferred this one black rather than with a dash of milk. The aroma of this origin was stunning, floral, citrus smells with a dark fruit undertone; black, there was a full-bodied depth to the taste that left a lingering malt taste on the tongue. Ace coffee highly recommended.
Q&A with Tomas and Guy
Let’s start simple, what are the origins of Rounton Coffee, what’s the story of how the journey began?
Tomas Keavney (TK) – Dave Beattie set the wheels in motion when he was travelling the world back in 2012. While he was in Sumatra, he met some coffee farmers and was taken aback not just by the amazing work they were doing, but how little all their hard work seemed to be worth. On returning back to the UK, he quit his job as a chemical engineer, bought a roaster, and started Rounton Coffee – his aim being to give farmers like the ones he met a better cut.
And what about yourselves, how did you both get into coffee?
Guy Snead (GS) – The Cafe Culture really appealed to me. I enjoyed a fair few coffees at Rounton Coffee’s flagship cafe (Bedford St Coffee) and loved the passion of the staff and (obviously) the coffee. I think the Aeropress really pushed me down the rabbit hole of coffee. I just kept on digging and digging, hungry for more.
TK – I found a café supplied by Rounton Coffee back when I was working as a chef – I’d spend the middle of my split shifts there, taking in everything there was to learn about coffee. I ended up working there, and after a while, jumped ship to the roastery. The rest is history!
For those that haven’t heard of Rounton, in your opinion, what makes it unique and different to other roasters?
GS – Accessibility. We try to be knowledgeable but approachable; we don’t want to intimidate people and I feel we succeed at that. We have a wide range of coffees and love talking to people about them regardless of their level of expertise.
You take great pride in the roast profiles of your coffee, what is your relationship with your suppliers, and how do you source your coffee?
GS – We have been to a fair few Coffee Origins with our importer. This helps us really understand how our business affects the places we buy from. We’re able now to make longer-term relationships and buy from the same places every year – farms like Los Pirineos and Bosque Lya (where we have visited in the past). We have had good long conversations with the farmers from these farms (and many others).
It seems you’ve got connections with farms across South America and Africa, what’s your personal preference on location/origin of coffee and how do you drink yours?
TK – I think the beauty of coffee is its seasonality, so I don’t really have a set favourite – it tends to change as the year goes on… I tend to brew with either a cafetiere or an AeroPress; we’ve just got a really fresh crop in from Uganda, so I’m mainly drinking that.
GS -I’d agree with Tom that the seasonality of coffee often dictates my current drinking preferences. Currently, I’m drinking our Peru through my espresso machine. A Kenyan coffee can be really special at the right time of day though.
With coffee still certainly in a “boom” phase, more people are appreciating good coffee, how do you stay on top of flavours and styles to be on top of your game?
GS – We always try and taste other people’s coffee. We will trade bags at trade shows. They always say the best gift is something you wouldn’t buy yourself so I often ask for subscriptions from other companies to see what their take is. Trying things that aren’t coffee brings a lot to the table as well. I once brought in a selection of single origin chocolate for us all to try and it was eye-opening (Cacao is roasted in a similar manner to coffee and it’s a great parallel to speciality coffee).
TK – You can buy anything we’re roasting over on our website – a lot of our customers drink our coffee at home (even when we’re not on lockdown!) Aside from that, we supply cafés and shops all over the UK, but mainly in the North East, where we’re able to get out to visit the people we supply.
TK – We think that great coffee should be as accessible as possible, so we wanted to set up a way for people to get their deliveries through their letterbox. We source new coffees all the time, and we thought there’d be no better way to showcase those new arrivals than giving our subscribers the first chance to try them. As a team, we chat a lot about what we think is freshest and most exciting – that’s usually what we send out to our subscribers!
Other than Rounton, who do you look up to/learn off in the industry?
GS – Oh there’s a fair few. Probably too many to mention. But the top three are Barista Hustle, James Hoffman & Scott Rao.
My personal preference whilst stuck at home is Cafetière, what are your top tips on making the perfect brew with this method?
TK – We probably brew with a cafetière more than any other method; the tiny amount of effort you have to put in versus the quality of the result just can’t be matched by anything else. We tend to use a 1:16 ratio (but feel free to tweak it), and brew for 4 minutes. Then break away the crust, scoop away the remaining bubbles on the top, and let it rest for anywhere from 4-10 minutes. After that, there’s no need to use the plunger – just pour gently into your cup and enjoy!
And in short, can you explain the process of turning beans in Rwanda for example into your finished product?
GS – In short?! I don’t think I can but I’ll give it a try. Let’s take Huye Mountain that we’re roasting at the moment as an example. We get our samples in and roast it a few different ways, until we decide on an approach that we want to go for. Then we have to take into account where it’s grown (high altitude, so the beans are quite dense and we need to adjust how much energy they’re given accordingly); how it’s processed (natural; we need to try and avoid burning the sugars in the coffee, and account for the energy they tend to lose around first crack). It’s a mixture of understanding the coffee’s origin, plus a load of science, and a bit of creative license!
Thanks so much for your time…to finish, can you give us one fun fact about Rounton not many people will know?
TK – We’re situated in rural North Yorkshire, tucked away in a little old barn. We probably see more sheep and horses on a daily basis than we do people! The building we’re in is actually an old granary, hence the name Granary Blend (our house blend).
Cover image from: https://www.rountoncoffee.co.uk/about-us-i1