Interview with Diana Palmer, Redroaster coffee roastery

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Redroaster is an iconic brand in Brighton. How did the company start and what are the plans for the future?

Tim Hume created Redroaster about 20 years ago because he loved coffee and I guess he saw an opportunity. Nobody else was doing specialty coffee in Brighton at that time. We will continue to grow the roastery side of the business as we are the only certified organic roastery in the south east. We also do a lot of charity work in Rwanda which is dependant on our wholesale coffee so it is really important for us to get the message out that when customers drink our coffee a portion of the sales really is going towards a good cause.

How did you personally get into the world of coffee roasting?

Purely by accident! I’ve always worked in catering but coffee was never my main focus. I first met Tim about four years ago when I was working in Lucky Beach. We wanted to sell a really great local coffee and at that time the only one I knew of was Redroaster. When Tim came along to train us he was really passionate about the coffee and I loved hearing all his crazy stories about the industry.

Where do you source your beans to ensure quality, sustainability and fair trade?

We source our coffee from all over the world. Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and many more depending on whats out there. The coffee has to be specialty grade which means several factors such as colour and size are taken into account. For example If the green beans are different sizes this results in an uneven roast which will affect the roast quality. Some of the beans will be too dark which will give you burnt tar like flavours and some will be undeveloped which can taste grassy.

All our coffee is bought direct trade which means the farmer is at the heart of everything we do. We recently won a UK sustainability award which was mainly due to the work carried out in Rwanda where we helped build extra classrooms.

What’s the essential process of roasting? How do you alter the flavour of the beans?

We cup (taste) a lot of coffees throughout the year to find flavours that suit our blends and single origins. Rob Ross, our roaster, will roast up several samples of one coffee on a small roaster to create a particular taste profile. Once he’s happy with that, he will then roast on our larger vintage Diedrich roaster. That again takes a bit of tweaking but once he’s found the taste, a recipe is created and we follow that every time until the new harvest comes along. There are two main factors to take into account when roasting – heat and time. Change those and you change the taste. For example, we roast at high temperatures for a short period of time. This gives us a light to medium roast bringing out the best characteristics of the coffee.

And what’s the secret of a good cup of coffee when making at home?

Buy whole bean coffee and grind at home. If you don’t have a grinder buy whole bean from a specialty coffee shop like Redroaster and they will grind it for you. Follow a simple recipe to start with, for example, 15g of coffee to 250mls of water. Tweak the grind or time brewed if its not quite right to start with. Half the fun is experimenting.

Redroaster, 1D St James’s Street, Brighton BN2 1RE • 01273 686 668 • www.redroaster.co.uk

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