Roaster Feature: BlueBird Roastery

Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Where did your love for coffee come from?

I actually hated coffee until I was about 23. I’m not exaggerating. The only time I made coffee was to dunk a rusk. When I was done, I tossed the coffee. Then one fateful night one of my best mates forced a Turkish coffee on me. Of all the ways to introduce someone to coffee, this dark, bitter sludgy drink would not be my first choice. But I loved it! The next step was a Breville Café Roma from a friend, then an AeroPress and Porlex Mini for Christmas and into the rabbit hole I went.

What is BlueBird Coffee Roastery’s origin story’? How did you come up with the name?

BlueBird is a full on passion project turned business… After tasting some delicious coffee roasted by a friend at his home, I had to try roasting for myself! What I have learned is that coffee is part nature, part science, part art. And yet it’s all about people. The name BlueBird, for me, represents happiness, fun and approachability. As a consumer, I found the world of specialty coffee to be very intimidating. I so badly want BlueBird to be inclusive and inviting. Whether you only drink 88 plus coffees through your R100k setup or you just learned that ground filter coffee is not the same as instant, I hope you’ll feel comfortable interacting with us!

What is your vision for the company?

We have made the decision to purchase, roast and sell specialty coffee only. We have about 40kgs of commodity left and then its done. No more. Big, scary, challenging decision but I feel that it’s the right thing to do. There are two simple reasons for this choice. Firstly, specialty coffee is flipping delicious and our customers deserve delicious! Secondly, with commodity coffee prices as low as they were in the 1980’s, it’s logical that not enough money is making it back to the people farming and producing our coffee. We are either fuelling the problem or funding the solution. 

How do you source your coffee beans?

There are a handful of passionate green coffee buyers who focus on specialty coffees in South Africa. I cup samples of everything I buy. The number one criteria is taste… delicious only. We are a growing business but we look forward to buying whole micro lots from the same farmers year after year. These things keep me up at night!

What has been the highlight of your business journey, or your favourite moments?

There have been a few already. Watching our customers growing and learning in coffee is awesome. Seeing someone who only drinks coffee with milk and sugar smile after his or her first sip of one of our coffees served black. Sweet and delicious.

Meeting awesome roasters and café owners in Istanbul, Barcelona and Rome on a recent holiday was eye opening and hugely educational.

But honestly, I got a simple email from someone I respect the most in SA coffee. He liked my Kenyan PB. I was so chuffed. It’s the small things…

What do you like best about your line of work? 

I guess it’s that moment when you cup a new coffee for the first time and it feels like gentle sunshine on your face, angels singing from above and all is right with the world. If you haven’t had that moment, you’re drinking the wrong coffee.

What is your coffee of choice these days?

Generally I’m a sucker for a good funky natural. And peaberries. But my favorite coffee at the moment is neither. It is a fully washed coffee from Rwanda. I love it because it is delicious, but more so because of the way it was produced and bought. Knowing that the wash station is empowering the woman in the community and that a serious premium was paid makes the marmalade sweetness even sweeter!

As far as brew methods go, I love espresso but I spend most of my time geeking out over V60 or AeroPress.

What does your average day look like?

Wake up next to the woman of my dreams, head out for a surf, do some work and drink some coffee. Lex and I run a couple of exciting businesses together, we have a baby on the way and we enjoy our sport. So life is busy in all the best ways!

What are you most looking forward to over the next few months and years?

I am fired up for our new 10kg roaster to arrive in the next few days. I am thrilled at the prospect of meeting as many like minded coffee friends as possible and growing a large community of home baristas. I’m excited to partner with café owners who care about the quality of their coffee and introducing as many people to specialty coffee as possible.

How do you see the coffee scene growing/changing in South Africa?

I’m not sure that I am qualified to answer this question. I just hope that we are moving towards quality and transparency. All I know is that to see any real change, we need to focus on the elements within our control. What I can do is buy great coffee. I can build my business in such a way that these great coffees remain affordable.  I can continue to obsess over quality. I can do my best to connect with our customers and create an inclusive community of people who get it. I love people who get it. French press and blade grinder or GS3 and EK43… at the end of the day its about passion and happiness. I love coffee!

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