When Michael Allpress started as a fledgling coffee cart business, the benchmark for flavour was pretty low. It quickly became apparent that he’d have to roll up his sleeves and do it himself.
This constant pursuit of flavour has driven us ever since. As you may know, Michael has some pretty strong feelings when it comes to the F-word. We sat him down to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
When we started, coffee was roasted so dark it was almost black; in recent times it has swung to the other extreme, and we’ve danced through the middle. The coffee industry is a funny thing – it can be a noisy, inward-looking and very trend-driven place. We do our best to follow our own path and look elsewhere for inspiration.
We’ve been around long enough to start seeing trends cycle back for the second time. This has given us a great sense of confidence to stick to our guns and not be reactive.
All we can do is adhere to our beliefs; to focus on flavour, whether that be the way we roast or the support we offer our partners. It’s incredibly hard to make a café business work, so we do our best to protect our partners from the distractions. Great flavour is the constant, and it’s a pursuit that will never be over.
Simplicity is a radical act – it’s at the heart of everything we do. Anything that doesn’t connect on a deeper level has to go. We believe in preparing coffee beautifully, but simply. There is elegance in the restraint. We've been very considered in building our coffee range; five classic blends and this little wildcard on the side is enough for us. There is something for everyone. Consistency isn’t a very sexy story, but we firmly believe in it. We want our coffee to be reliable, to be dependable.
Each of our blends has a flavour profile that's set in stone, and our roasters are continually sourcing the coffees and tweaking the roaster to honour that profile. We want the coffee drinker to form an intimate relationship with our coffee. We believe they are looking for that consistent experience that keeps them coming back – and that’s the best outcome for our cafe partners and their businesses.
Our coffee is sweet, balanced and rich. We are not here to challenge people’s perceptions of what coffee should taste like. We want it to be delicious! Sometimes people forget about that part.
We knew if we were going to compete on flavour, we'd have to bite the bullet and get our hands on a hot air roaster. Generally, they are big stainless steel boxes that look like a piece of dry cleaning equipment. There isn’t much romance in them.
When we bought our first one, we immediately started swapping out the parts – adding speed drives, improving the perforated grill – which changed everything. When we opened our Dunedin Roastery, I got together with an engineer friend of mine to build one from scratch. We wanted a roaster built by a coffee roaster, as well as an engineer. We’ve built two others since then. They just work better. Everything is how you want it. And we managed to make it look pretty damn sexy too.
There is a lot of convention surrounding traditional drum roasting, and in my opinion, hot air roasting is a far superior way to roast. I find it surprising that the coffee industry hasn't more widely adopted it. If flavour is your focus, there is no other choice.