We drink a lot of coffee here at our Auckland showroom and we thought it would be fun to share what we’ve been drinking with the people who buy our home machines around the country. We were excited to announce, starting in January 2020, every month we’re dedicating a space to a new Roaster in Residence in our Auckland showroom. We’ll share their stories, pour their coffee for our guests and even give a complimentary bag with every home machine purchased during that month.
During our debut month of January, we are featuring Espresso Workshop and their Costa Rica Las Lajas, Cumbres de Poas, Black Honey Microlot espresso coffee.
We caught up with Espresso Workshop owner, Andrew Smart to find out more about their roastery and the coffee we’re enjoying this month. Here’s what Andrew had to say.
Tell us about your morning coffee ritual.
That’s easy, double restricted flat white in a 130ml vessel. Up until that moment, I have zero personality.
Tell us about the espresso you’ve chosen to feature during your Roaster in Residence tenure at La Marzocco?
We have selected one of my favourite espresso coffees of the last year, Costa Rica Las Lajas, Cumbres de Poas, Black Honey Microlot. Las Lajas is a mill we have purchased from multiple times in our past (via John Burton for this particular coffee). There is so much happening on the palette with this honey processed coffee, very complex, with dominant flavours of Sponge Cake, Dark Cane Sugar and Ripe Cherry, also noticeable are flavours of juicy Red Currant and Toffee. Las Lajas owners, Oscar and Francisca Chacon, are pioneers in Costa Rica, they have an incredibly progressive mindset, always looking for new ways to draw out wonderful fruit driven flavours in their coffee. While there are certainly many challengers for their status in Costa Rica as industry leaders, the Chacon family have remained true to their progressive principles, their passion for coffee has led them to experiment with different honey and natural processes and consequently the Las Lajas mill has become world famous in the specialty coffee sector. The Black Honey process is a Las Lajas specialty which has been developed and refined over many seasons, this particular coffee (caturra varietal) was grown at their 30 hectare Cumbres de Poas farm. Black Honey is one of the longer honey process methods used at Las Lajas, once pulped, and with the mucilage still attached, the coffee is turned only once every 24 hours while drying, this is certainly not a text book approach to drying honey processed coffee but when well executed the product speaks for itself.
What’s the recommended espresso recipe for these beans?
19 grams in, 27-29 grams out in 24 to 27 seconds
How did you get into coffee roasting?
I was a juice guy in Central Auckland (an actual juice guy, it’s not an analogy for something else), and was spending my downtime from the juice bar hanging out in Atomic on Shortland Street, really enjoying, not only the product, but the culture that came with it. It certainly spawned my curiosity around the roasting part of the process. When I wrapped up the Juice business in 2005, a production assistant role came up at Allpress. Once my foot was in the door that was it, I was super keen to sponge up all the information I could take on board plus see what I could learn outside of regular hours. I’m definitely a flavour curious person and discovering the changing flavours you can uncover in coffee helped drive me to keep digging deeper into the product.
When was Espresso Workshop founded? How did it all start?
After a little over 2 years with Allpress, I started to get that entrepreneurial itch. I was quietly confident (probably naïvely) that I had some pretty good ideas for a coffee business. The vision and philosophy of this proposed business was a shared vision with David Huang, a barista trainer at Allpress at the time, who was also considering starting his own business. The mutual vision seemed to come together nicely, he was the barista, and I was the roaster; the two fundamental areas of expertise were covered. Espresso Workshop was a name we quickly identified with. Many more were explored, but the name was a perfect fit for the concept of the business. We managed to find an affordable little espresso bar in the Axis Building in Parnell that we thought had an awesome vibe (although quite tucked away), and after a modest refit the Espresso Workshop journey kicked off in September 2007. Although my business partners have chopped and changed over the years, I have retained a consistent culture and direction for the business. I suppose I have been the one constant influence for Espresso Workshop since its inception.
What is Espresso Workshop’s point of difference from other New Zealand roasteries?
Well, it’s that our coffee tastes so amazing, and I do 100% back that statement, but that’s the response I would expect from most coffee business owners. Each owner has their own interpretation of how their coffee should taste and what an ideal flavour profile should resemble. In the early days, we were certainly innovators in the third wave style, being one of the first to introduce manual soft brewing, a focus on single origin coffees and delivering to the customer information and transparency on the coffee we were roasting. We were very proactive in attending industry events and adopted a focus on competitions. However, this approach is no longer unique, there are now many other roasting companies with a similar philosophy (because it’s a good philosophy to have), but what I believe our point of difference is now is a maturation our early principles, continuing our commitment to producing delicious coffee, but packaging our offering up in a way to reach a broader market rather than restricting ourselves to the pointy end. This progression is backed up by the adaptability we can offer as a local independent company, and the collective knowledge and experience that our team offers. Our team are committed coffee professionals, who all strive to build on our relationships within the industry. Our deep knowledge of coffee allows us to take a very tailored approach for our customers, for example our blended coffees have purpose, rather than a one size fits all approach.
Tell us about why it’s important for you to maintain transparency with farming, processing and roasting practices?
It’s a crucial aspect of our business, we have always placed a strong emphasis on understanding the farm bio and processing details. Not only for ourselves to understand the coffee in regard to roasting and brewing the coffee, but also because an educated market is better for a business like ours. If the customer can understand which style of coffee that they enjoy, and the farm/cooperative that they are on-board with where its sourced from, then they can make better purchasing decisions. Also transparency to important for a quality product, we need the evidence that the coffee we are roasting has been carefully selected, processed and transported.
If someone falls in love with your coffee during the month of January how can they keep stocked up? Where can they buy it for their home machines? Where can they have it in a café?
This coffee is available online, or in-store at Espresso Workshop Parnell, Espresso Workshop Britomart or at our roastery in Orakei Bay Village, where we share space with Ampersand Eatery.