For many of us, preparing and enjoying coffee is a daily ritual. But what do we actually know about it? We get some insight from coffee fundi Jono le Feuvre.
Tell us how Rosetta Roastery came about.
It started with three of us who shared a digs at varsity. We had a band, but we realised very quickly we weren’t going to pay the rent with [it], so we were asking ourselves how we could stick it to the man and not have a 9–5. And coffee was the answer that came up.
What sets Rosetta Roastery apart?
Our big gamble [when we started in 2010] was to hit the top end of the spectrum and out quality everyone. We really worked hard to try and find the raddest quality we could possibly get our hands on, and that’s still what we do best. And we refuse to blend coffees, we only have single origin.
What’s the difference between a blend and single-origin coffee?
It’s not that single-origin coffee is good and that blends are bad. The most significant thing is that you can make a nice blend with cheap coffee at its core, and then put flowers and petals and unicorns around the outside, and you get an okay product. If you’re not blending, whatever’s in there is what it tastes like. We’re trying to show people how distinct various coffees can be.
Does that mean you source your coffee from all over?
Exactly. We do have our favourites [though], and there are regions that will always be on top.
What have you learnt about coffee along the way?
Probably the most important thing is what I’ve learnt about people. All the best coffee is handpicked by migrant labourers, who go from valley to valley. And the guys who are efficient, fast, and who have a great eye for ripeness get paid more. So if a consumer wants to source things ethically, it’s not about traceability, it’s about quality. There are very few outstanding producers that exploit the people they work with. Looking after people means looking after quality.
Share some coffee trivia with us.
What we know coffee to taste like is the result of poor engineering at the height of the Ottoman Empire, where instead of using big stone mills they started using little single-serving hand grinders. I think that was the rise of the hipster movement, actually. But the lighter roasted coffee that was being produced then was hard, and the grinders kept breaking.
But instead of going, okay, let’s reinvent the grinders, they totally went for form over function. And they said, well, we love these grinders so much that if we roast the coffee a different way, making it much darker [and softer], we can use them … but it tastes like a butt, so what do we do? Now at that point in history there was this miracle crop that was reputed to give long life. And that was cane sugar. Very dark roasted coffee with sugar was quite palatable, so that marriage was the result of them trying to solve a problem, and it’s just perpetuated.
Finally, if you could be anyone else, whom would you choose?
Sherlock Holmes, because he’s so observant.
This post first appeared on Food24 on 28 March 2019.