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Roaster of the Week

Roaster of the Week – Red Bank Coffee

Who are Red Bank?

Red Bank Coffee are a coffee roaster based in Coniston, Lake District. A small batch independent roaster, they have won numerous national awards for their coffee and their Penny Rock, Mountain Rescue and Suke Quto coffees have all received Great Taste Awards from The Guild of Fine Food.

“Red Bank is guided by three core principles – Quality, Traceability and Sustainability. From their base in the heart of the Lake District we source only coffees that are able to satisfy these criteria to roast on our eco-friendly Loring S15 Falcon. Their roasting philosophy is to roast each coffee such that it is fully developed, but to terminate the roast before “roast” flavours start to develop. The ultimate goal is to unlock each coffee’s full potential, and to allow it to sing in the cup.”

This week, we’re sampling two of their finest single origin roasts from Ethiopia and Guatemala.

Meet Red Bank Coffee

Before embarking on our week of sampling three of Red Bank’s coffees, I caught up with Tom the founder of Red Bank to learn the story behind the roastery, how it all began, get some top tips about home brewing and more.

Let’s start simple, what are the origins of Red Bank Coffee, what’s the story of how the journey began?

I used to work as a solicitor in London and I would go to the local Starbucks every morning and lunchtime. One day my colleague Ollie took me to Monmouth in Covent Garden and I had a Kenyan coffee that completely blew my mind and revolutionised my perception of coffee. It planted a seed that would eventually lead to me quitting my career in law to start a roastery in the Lake District.

 I don’t know much about the Cumbrian coffee scene, is it vibrant or are you in a bit of a niche market?

It has changed a lot over the five years that Red Bank has been operating. When we started there was only really a handful of places offering good quality speciality coffee, but it has really blossomed over the past few years, and now you’re never too far away from a great brew.  

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 work with a small number of green coffee importers who we have grown to trust for sourcing high quality, sustainably-grown coffee with great traceability and integrity. I have visited a number of the farms that we source coffee from over the past few years, including Daterra in Brazil, Huye Mountain in Rwanda and Las Palomas in Costa Rica. You can read everything there is to know about coffee growing and processing, but if you really want to understand it and the people involved in it, there is no substitute for seeing it first hand. Once you’ve picked cherries from a coffee tree yourself, and witnessed its subsequent journey to the mill and beyond, you will never take a cup of delicious coffee for granted again. Deliciousness is no accident. It is the result of great care and attention to detail at each stage of the supply chain – from grower, to miller, to exporter, to importer, to roaster, to barista. Each one has the potential to diminish the quality of the seed inside that cherry that is plucked from the tree. To enjoy a delicious, naturally sweet cup of coffee that is bursting with brightness and intense fruit flavours is a real privilege that should not be taken for granted.

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 have a genuine passion for what we do, which means we are always looking for ways to improve. Like I said before, great coffee is usually the result of a supply chain that has people who care at every stage – so we look to work with producers, exporters, importers, and cafes who really care about coffee and take pride in what they do. We also look to invest in the best possible equipment, such as our Loring roaster which is regarded by many to be the best roaster on the market, both in terms of its ability to unlock the very best potential in the coffee, and also in terms of its low environmental impact.

You have a great range of roasts from all over the world, but what are your personal favourite styles to drink?

I love a clean cup of coffee with good body, intense sweetness and really juicy fruit flavours. In that respect, it’s hard to beat a great Kenyan – although a classic delicate, balanced and aromatic washed Ethiopian comes a close second. 

For our readers who know little about coffee, can you explain your process of getting the best beans to becoming your finished product?

First and foremost, we put a lot of effort and research into sourcing great quality green coffee. Our roast philosophy is then to roast each coffee such that it is fully developed, but to terminate the roast before “roast” flavours start to develop. The aim is to finish with a roasted coffee that has had all of its potential unlocked and that is able to express its terroir and inherent characteristics fully in the cup.

Our favourite coffee recently has been your Summer Solstice from Brazil, what can you tell us about that?

Summer Solstice is from Daterra’s “Collection” range of coffees that represent the highest quality coffees that are grown on the farm. I visited Daterra in 2019, and it is a truly mind blowing place, both in terms of its scale, and also in terms of the attention to detail with which it is managed, and the focus on experimentation and sustainability. Summer Solstice is of the coveted ‘yellow bourbon’ variety with notes of fudge, caramel and orange. We have sadly just sold out of this coffee, but the idea is to always have one coffee available from Daterra’s Collection range. Summer Solstice was a real hit and sold out much quicker than expected, so I’m a little behind getting the next one profiled and ready for you all, but watch this space – it will be available very soon!

I love the artwork and detail on the branding, what’s the story behind the art and the packaging?

I launched Red Bank at a time when the market seemed to be saturated with minimalist Scandinavian influenced packaging. I do quite like this style, but I also like to be different and not to follow trends. Coffee is a very evocative and colourful product, and drinking it can take you on an imaginative journey to the places where it is grown, and I wanted the packaging to reflect this.

We’re in lockdown and many of us stuck brewing at home. What are your top tips for getting the best coffee at home right now?

Everyone has their own favourite home brewing method. I’ve always been a fan of clean, filter coffees, and I flit between the Kalita Wave and the Hario V60. It might seem obvious, but my top tip – if you don’t have one, buy a good quality burr grinder. It’s the best thing you can do to improve the quality of the coffee you drink at home. I’ve been using the Sage Smart Grinder Pro at home for years. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s so well built and thoughtfully designed. I’ve never met anyone who has regretted getting one. Oh, and buy great coffee!

What’s the plan for the rest of 2020 for you guys?

Tough question. It’s been a funny one. We’re incredibly grateful for all of the support we’ve had through our online business that has allowed us to stay busy and continue trading even though the majority of our cafe, restaurant and hotel customers have been closed during lockdown. We’re here to support the gradual re-opening of these businesses over the coming months, and we’re also busy sourcing new coffee to keep our offering fresh and exciting. Now is a particularly exciting time as fresh crop Centrals and Africans are starting to reach these shores. We’ve got plenty of tasty new coffees lined up to share with you very soon. Otherwise its business as usual in the perpetual quest to improve what we do, deepen existing relationships and develop new ones. There’s a few surprises lined up as well, but I wouldn’t want to give them away just yet! 

Thanks so much for your time…to finish, can you give us one fun fact about Red Bank not many people will know?

We are named after Red Bank Road in Grasmere, which is where my wife and I lived when we moved to the Lake District. 

Red Bank Coffees

SUKE QUTO – ETHIOPIA

Suke Quto - Ethiopia

The coffee:

Ethiopia is a country that right now, is producing some of the best coffees in the world. Known predominantly for their washed varieties grown in high altitudes, several of the top ranked coffees globally are from this part of the world.

Tom’s comments:

Suke Quto has become a bit of a Red Bank classic. A couple of years back we were on the hunt for a knockout Ethiopian coffee. I remember cupping this with Mick on a table of about ten other washed Ethiopian coffees, and when we got to this one we both stopped dead and looked at each other knowing that we had hit on something special. This year is the second consecutive year that we have bought coffee from Suke Quto, and I’m already excited about what next year’s harvest has to bring. 

Our thoughts:

Really quite good. We brewed this roast in two ways, Aeropress black, short and V60 long, with a dash of milk. What I instantly noticed from the smell of the Suke Quto, is the amount of spice and fruit notes. From jasmine right through to juicy stone fruit aromas, it was strong and pungent when brewed both ways. The kitchen smelt amazing for a few hours!

The taste – much the same as the aroma. Not too chocolatey or nutty, but packed full of peach and raisin-like flavours. This excelled with a dash of milk I have to say – it was a little bitter as a short black, but with milk became a whole different coffee; smooth, light and the fruit notes thrived. Great brew.

MOUNTAIN RESCUE – PRIMAVERA FAMILY, GUATEMALA

Mountain Rescue - Primavera Family, Guatemala

The coffee: So Guatemala, without doubt my favourite nation for coffee production in 2020. I’ve had some incredible roasts, namely from 92 Degrees in Liverpool so I was excited to give this a whirl. Like the Suke Quot, these beans are grown at high altitude in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala giving it the best opportunity for quality. Washed process with notes of Dark Chocolate, Plum and Nougat.

Tom’s thoughts

We donate £1 per kilo sold of our Mountain Rescue coffee to the Lake District Search & Mountain Association. This has become one our most popular coffees and we are delighted to now be able to make regular and meaningful contributions to this great cause. We currently source this coffee from a group of smallholder farmers in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala via Primavera coffee importers. 

My thoughts:

Another good coffee I have to admit. Is it the best I’ve had from this region this year? Not quite, but my 150g bag went down very well in French Press and V60. I had this with milk both times, due to the difference in quality in the first brew when I added milk and I’m glad I did. There was a strength to this I wasn’t expecting and it was very much dark chocolate over milk which was a nice surprise.

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