Malton, a market town in North Yorkshire is the heartbeat of food and drink culture in the north of England. With excellent breweries, including Brass Castle and some of the best food courtesy of The Talbot and their regular food market, Malton has become a hub for visitors and locals alike. One of the exceptional areas of the town is the Talbot Courtyard, home to the best coffee in Yorkshire, Roost Coffee.
When I first visited, it was on work duty, making a short film about the local independent businesses in Malton, of which Roost were involved. Ruth and David, the owners were so accommodating and following a year of touring the country filming these videos, we had a vote on the best coffee we’d drank, Roost came out a resounding first for the three of us. So, when I set-up this coffee and beer blog, they were top of my list to feature.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting to know three of their roasts in detail, their single origin roasts from Kenya, Sumatra and Mexico. Brewing via pour over, Aeropress and French Press, I’ve tried these three in numerous ways, black, with milk and have the verdict below. Also read on to find a great interview with David from Roost about the roastery and more.
*For reference, all coffee was whole bean, ground for the method.
Kenya – Single Origin
Known for its coffee and rice production, the Kirinyaga County region of Kenya produces some of the world’s finest produce, including this Single Origin roast. This particular roast I brewed through Aeropress and French Press, offering two distinct cups of coffee with each method. Through the latter method, this roast offered a light, chocolate taste; clean but not too sweet. Being a wet bean, this Kenyan roast is acidic, fruity and has a bitter bite in the aftertaste.
Via Aeropress, whilst a medium-light roast, it offered a full-bodied blackcurrant and cherry flavour. The chocolate was reduced to the aroma which I found interesting, but it was sharp, fruity and a real delight with a dash of milk added.
Sumatra – Single Origin
A quick Google tells you a lot about this coffee. The Kokowagayo Cooperative where this bean comes from, is the product of a group of women who broke off to create their own cooperative, having found their voices go unheard in the mixed-gender cooperative. 544 women in Sumatra control this huge region; read more about the cooperative here if you’re interested.
The coffee itself was smoky and had full tobacco and bourbon notes. This isn’t the kind of coffee I’d normally choose, and through a standard Aeropress with 14g of coffee to 250ml water, this was too strong for me. I reduced the coffee to 11g and it turned into a smooth, beautiful coffee.
Where this Sumatra Single Origin thrives though, is in an iced coffee. I’m not a fan of sweet, sugary iced coffee, so this smokiness and vanilla notes made it a perfect roast for pouring with milk over ice. I reverted to the 14g Aeropresss and it was just perfect. 14g coffee + 200g milk, pour over ice and shake before serving.
Mexico – Single Origin
As I write this I’m currently drinking this coffee from the Nayarita region of Mexico having brewed with V60 pour-over method (I had also had an Aeropress Americano earlier in the day too…guilty). I’ll be honest, before starting this blog, I didn’t know just how historic Mexico was in the production of global coffee. More attuned to South American, African and Asian beans, I didn’t know just how huge the Mexican trade was. Most production is in the southern regions, but this particular origin is from the northernmost coffee producing regions of the central American nation.
Whichever way this one was brewed, it offered a sweeter taste than the other too. Aeropress gave a smooth, long-lasting sugary aftertaste and via pour-over I kept getting hit with caramel, cherry and chocolate. This is a great coffee and I’ll be exploring other Mexican beans over the coming weeks.
Q&A with David from Roost Coffee
Let’s start simple, what are the origins of Roost Coffee, what’s the story of how the journey began?
The journey of Roost began back in 2007. Ruth and I were due to marry in Rome that April and were both working in separate careers. But we had started proceedings to start a speciality coffee shop, called Roost in Lincolnshire. Then we fell pregnant and decided this was not the right time to give up careers and salaries. Four years later I was made redundant and after endless research we moved to North Yorkshire to open our first coffee business. At this time we visited roasteries in London and this started our plan to move into roasting one day. Fast forward four more years and again countless research and education, we opened Roost Coffee & Roastery in Malton.
And what about yourselves, how did you both get into coffee?
After we met on a blind date in 2004, we took our first holiday together in the Autumn to Rome and found the love of espresso, cappuccinos and outdoor cafe culture. This was not quite the speciality coffee experience we now know, but it began here. From there, at home we found local shops selling beans, invested in equipment and the rest is history.
For those that haven’t heard of Roost, in your opinion, what makes it unique and different to other roasters?
Our true family ethos. Emphasis on relationships. True artisan roasting, using analogue techniques. I have thousands of roast profiles all handwritten, using mainly knowledge and senses for profiles. And being able to offer a wide range of speciality coffee from across the world, at affordable prices for the consumer.
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?
We use a few speciality coffee importers. Our main importer, who we contract coffee for up to a year with, is DR Wakefield. They know what we like and often send samples of new or interesting coffees. We have our favourites which we like to keep on our offer list throughout the year and then bring in single origin coffees that are either exquisite or unique. For us, the importer is a vital link in the chain. Someone who knows us well and can travel extensively to farms, ensuring relationships and quality control.
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?
We would always be keeping an eye on what is happening in the industry, particularly in the US. Although I don’t really go in for trends, such as nitro coffee. I would be looking for what is happening at farm level with differing areas of growth and processes. For example coffee being grown in California or different styles of fermentation post harvest. We are looking at bringing in a coffee from the Philippines from an Importer called Indochina. Quite a rare product in the UK. This interests us. However, it will have to be good and value for money. This is are stumbling block, keeping prices at a reasonable level.
We’re in lockdown and I’ve recently been brewing your Kenya Single Origin by both Aeropress and French Press methods. What are your top tips for getting the best coffee at home right now?
Use fresh roasted coffee beans. Grind at home. Use correct coffee / water ratios, the right grind size (size of your coffee particles from fine to coarse) for brew method and brew times. And if in doubt, watch you tube videos. I like Gail from Seattle Coffee Gear.
That particular origin, is your highest ranked coffee right now. For those that don’t know, what are the main differences between Speciality Coffee at this level and more commodity level coffee?
The SCA is an international body that score coffee on a scale of 1-100. Using a cupping / tasting technique they look at aroma, flavour, balance, acidity, uniformity, cleanliness, and sweetness. If the coffee scores over 80+ it will be classed as speciality and this would guarantee a good and fair price to the farmer (often 3 x Fairtrade price). The coffee will show it is traceable and has been sourced ethically, usually from Single Estate farms. It will be hand picked and sorted, without defects, and where place a priority on human rights and the environment.
Whereas Commodity Coffee is coffee without provenance, usually of much poorer quality, with many defects. It will be mass farmed, using more industrial techniques. Certainly not score on the SCA chart and end as coffee for instant or multinational corporation use. And most importantly the price is tagged to the Stock Exchange and often this is very low, causing farmers to receive very little.
You have a great range of roasts from Africa, South America and Asia, but what are your personal favourite styles to drink?
Two short flat whites in the morning using a bolder, darker roast espresso blend, I use our Tonto Espresso. I like a blend for balance in an espresso. Afternoons and weekends are for filter, here I prefer a big juicy African like the Kenyan you mention. With or without milk. Drink with either something sweet, like a Portuguese Custard Tart. I don’t drink coffee past 5pm. Move on to IPAs and red wine.
Thanks so much for your time…to finish, can you give us one fun fact about Roost not many people will know?
Betsy, our second daughter was born just before we opened Roost in 2015. She literally grew up in the roastery for those first 4 years, spending everyday with us. A master roaster in the making. Immortalised by the famous ‘Betsy in the Bucket’ photo.