The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
Argyll Coffee Roasters is a one-person operation based in Tighnabruaich, Argyll, Scotland. Argyll Coffee offers a range of seasonally-rotating single origin coffees and two blends to their customers, who live all across Scotland. I wanted to learn more about Argyll Coffee so I reached out to the founder Eve. We spoke briefly over email about Argyll Coffee, how Eve decides the way in which a coffee is roasted, and more. Read the interview below.
For my readers, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Argyll Coffee?
About ten years ago I moved to Argyll from Bristol. My family had an old holiday cottage on Loch Fyne and I moved in with a vague plan to do lots of walking, get some chickens and write a bit. I picked up work writing blogs and web content locally, all the time hatching a plan for my own business. I met some of the amazing food and drink producers and saw the interest in provenance and food from Argyll. I loved coffee, starting looking into coffee roasting, did some training and before I knew it a shiny red Diedrich roaster was being shipped from Idaho in the US to Portavadie and Argyll Coffee Roasters was born.
That was two years ago, and we're now supplying freshly roasted speciality-grade coffee to cafes, delis and farm shops across Argyll - from the shores of Loch Lomond to the island of Islay. We source our seasonal coffee from all over the world and roast it right here in Tighnabruaich. Because the business is so young, it's just me so I do pretty much everything, from the roasting to the packing, marketing to the accounts. It's been a serious learning curve!
What inspired you to start Argyll Coffee Roasters?
I think it was seeing all the other amazing producers in Argyll. The Argyll food scene is so vibrant right now, with passionate and talented producers and chefs to be found in the remotest of spots. I've had great fun collaborating with other Argyll food producers, creating everything from a dark chocolate espresso bar to an orange and coffee liqueur. It was also seeing the speciality coffee scene in Glasgow and at the Glasgow Coffee Festival and thinking this is something really special and we need more of it in Argyll. I did some training with Lisa at Dear Green and I found her approach really inspiring. She's so ethically driven and has an absolute commitment to quality.
What is the first thing you do to prepare the roaster for a day of work?
I've normally done that all the day before. It needs a good clean after every session, with all the chaff removed. The last thing I want is a roaster fire! And I need to keep on top of the build up of oils. If oils buildsup, overtime it can affect the taste of the coffee. I also need to make sure I keep on top of lubricating the drum bearings. Maintenance of the roaster is really important and is the one thing that probably feels most out of my comfort zone.
How do you know when a roast is ready to come out of the roaster?
We have a roast profile for every coffee. So the roast follows a certain curve. All being well, you know from the time and the temperature when it's the right moment to drop the beans. You also have sample trowel which means you can take small samples out of the drum while that batch is roasting - so you can keep an eye on the colour and any other changes in the bean.
I read on your website that you source coffees from Mercanta. Can you walk me through how you decide which coffees to purchase from Mercanta, roast, and then sell to your customers?
Ah so Mercanta have been absolutely brilliant. Basically they send out a weekly offer list with available coffees and when new coffees will be landing. You look through the list and if anything takes your fancy, they'll send you sample to cup. Stephen my contact is based in Glasgow and is absolutely brilliant. He's super knowledgeable and happy to share his knowledge. If he thinks that there's a coffee I'd like or that would add to what I offer, he'll flag it up. He also has a cupping lab in Glasgow where (pre-COVID) you can go and sample different coffees together. I have my two seasonally changing blends and I like to have three or four different seasonal single origins on offer at the same time. It's good to showcase coffees that taste different, so I'll try and have a mix of naturals and washed and a geographical spread. When you're cupping new coffees, one or two will just totally jump out at you.
How do you decide how a particular coffee should be roasted once it arrives?
There are a few things I'll look at. First what do I want to do with the coffee, for example is it for an espresso blend or is it destined for filter? I look at how was it processed and where it comes from - is a high grown dense bean? Then it's basically looking at the variables - time, temperature and airflow - and using these to highlight the coffee’s best qualities. For example, a longer roast will reduce a coffee's acidity and brightness. So if it's a bright, fruity African coffee, I might want to keep the roast shorter.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to start a career in coffee and is just getting started?
The SCA courses are a really good starting point and a great way to meet other roasters. You can work your way up and learn about sensory, green beans, brewing, barista and roasting. You need to know a bit about all of it. I don't have a cafe background, so I've really had to work hard on learning barista skills. The coffee festivals are brilliant places to meet other people and try lots of amazing coffee. I think for me the most important thing is finding the right partners to work with. There are so many knowledgeable people out there and you can't be an expert in everything. Find the right coffee engineers, green beans suppliers, barista trainers etc. and work with them.
What is your favourite method of preparing coffee?
Moccamaster for my morning brew. AeroPress on the go.
If you could sum up the Scottish speciality coffee industry in one (or a few) words, what word(s) would you use?
Collaborative, fun and growing - it's so exciting to be part of it.
What snack do you most enjoy having with a brew?
Has to be sweet and you can't beat tablet made by my friend at Wild Kitchen Argyll.
You can learn more about Argyll Coffee Roasters on their website at www.argyllcoffee.co.uk or on their Instagram page @argyllcoffee.