Rounton Coffee Roasters: Putting the Special Back into 'Speciality Coffee'
If you have ever taken the time to delve deeper into the turbulent, and often amusing, history of coffee, you would be aware of a momentous moment in the 20th century when a split became apparent in the coffee bean’s journey from a cheerful red cherry to the cracking black liquid we love. It was a shadowy period filled with idealistic debates about quality versus profit and clashes between business principles and the love of good coffee. It is from these shadows that the term ‘speciality coffee’ was born (as opposed to 'regular coffee'), and, nowadays, represents a discerning factor of ‘good taste’ and trendiness.
Rounton Coffee Roasters have retained everything special of the original concept of ‘speciality coffee’. However, they are considerably more concerned with the sourcing and provision of exceptional tasting coffee beans and considerably less with capitalising on trending ideas.
The unique location of the roastery in itself embodies this concept. As you take the turn-off to the Rounton villages, you tumble from the A19 hamster cage rush into a Brontë fantasy tale. A cycling paradise of dense verdure, narrow winding roads, hidden turns and the serene speckled air of farm life. Rounton Coffee Roasters established themselves in an old converted granary near East Rounton. The building dates back to 1907 and has never been anything other than a granary. An old brick building next to some stables, a wooden black door with intimidating iron door handles, and windows misted over with thousands of scratches. There is nothing now to announce that it has become anything else.
Except the scent of freshly roasted coffee, a thin trail of smoke and an imperceptible drizzle of coffee chaff.
The story of this micro roastery is not so much that of a business enterprise but of three people named Dave, an ideal and a Turkish-imported coffee roaster. I had the privilege to visit the Granary where I met two of the three Daves: Dave Beattie, the driving force behind Rounton Coffee and Dave the Roaster. (The other Dave, called Bruce the Barista, was busy being “the best barista in the North East” at Bedford St Coffee House.)
It was when ex-chemical engineer Dave Beattie went travelling in an attempt to escape the daily grind of the corporate world, that he became inspired to open up his own coffee roastery in the UK. In particular, it was while travelling in Sumatra and meeting the Sumatran coffee farmers that this business concept and the possibility of leading a different type of lifestyle started maturing. It was an idea not based on the attainment of grandeur or a large capital return but on making a difference in people’s lives. A difference in the lives of potential customers by providing superior quality coffee beans that are roasted to a recipe that guarantees the ideal cup of coffee, and a difference in the lives of each collaborator involved in the process of sourcing these beans by rewarding them according to their respective roles.
This small team of coffee roasters started with the minimum: a Turkish-imported coffee roaster, no customers and a burning question: “Why would anybody buy from us?”
Because they have a genuine passion for coffee every step of the way from the hand-picked coffee cherry right down to the end cup. Quality-control, traceability and sustainability form part of this ideal and it’s the beauty of the ideal that gets translated from thoughts into something tangible: infinitely varied and enchanting tastes, textures and smells expertly brought out during the roasting process.
It is this very roasting process that needs special mention in order to fully appreciate why Rounton coffee is so consistently good. These coffee roasters are concerned with finding the ultimate profile, or ‘cooking method’, to enhance the flavour of the coffee beans according to their specific origin. Coffee profiles are regulated mainly by varying the rate at which the beans' temperature changes, the development of certain traits such as acidity, body and sweetness, and the amount of airflow. These profiles are further developed and improved during public ‘coffee tasting’ sessions where acidity, body and extra flavour are measured. In general, their aim is not to mute the coffee’s flavour by over roasting it nor to leave it too acidic by under roasting it, but finding the perfect intensity of flavour in between these two extremes.
Rounton Coffee Roasters is the materialisation of an idea born out of travel, the need to take time out and a fascination with this deceivingly complex fruit and its multiple transformations. And that is exactly what they are all about: creating moments of enjoyment and discovery with exclusive coffee sourced and roasted in a special location with special care.
Rounton Coffee Roasters is now a firmly established coffee company in the North East with customers throughout the UK. They additionally have an expanding network of coffee houses selling their coffee, (including their own Bedford St Coffee House in Middlesbrough). They sell their coffee to companies and individual customers alike and offer subscription services as well as advice on equipment. For more information about the Rounton team, the Granary and their exclusive coffees visit their website here.