The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
Based in Glasgow, Dear Green has been roasting coffee in Glasgow for ten years. Lisa Lawson, the founder of Dear Green, takes on many roles to make sure that Dear Green delivers a consistent quality of coffee. I spoke with Lisa over email to learn more about how Dear Green roasts coffee. We discussed everything from equipment to what skills you need to be a successful coffee roaster. You can read our chat below.
What is your role at Dear Green? What is the first thing you do when you arrive in the morning?
Every day is different so there is no set rule or role. If I’m not covering the roasting or delivery shift I tend to be answering any priority emails or social media messages. I check in with the team and customers then tackle my ever growing 'to do’ list which can pull me in all sorts of directions! Wednesdays are my favourite day when I get to cup (taste) and quality control all of our coffees from a week of roasting and taste any new coffees to buy for our range.
What equipment do you use to roast coffee?
We use a 5kg Probat and a 25kg Probat to roast on a well as an Ikawa to roast any new green bean samples or to trial roast profiles.
To what extent do varietals and bean size affect roasting?
Screen size, density and moisture content will all affect how we roast, as will process, altitude, batch size etc. We have set profiles which match categories of coffee and are a stating point for any new coffees which arrive with us. Varieties may also have an effect on the final flavour profile.
Batches of the same coffee don’t generally have a marked difference once we have set the profile we are going to roast it to. We discretely tweak the profile (time, temperature, heat application, air flow, drum speed) weekly if required to ensure we’re always getting the most flavour and balance from the bean.
How do you and your team develop a roast profile for a coffee?
We analyse the coffee for screen size, density, moisture content, origin, altitude, process etc. and plan the temperature and speed of the roast around our findings.
Walk me through what happens from when a new bean arrives to when you start roasting the bean for production.
We analyse, we cup, we test a profile, we cup, we tweak the profile, we upload the coffee to our website! :)
What are the main skills you think an aspiring coffee roaster should have?
Patience: You have to wait a while before you can taste the results of your hard graft!
Strong: It’s a physical job.
Organised: Staying on top of green been stock, roasted stock, stock rotation to ensure freshness, projections for volumes of next seasons stock.
Sensory: The ability to cup coffee confidently is super important to be able to identify coffees to purchase and also for quality control of coffees roasted in order to realise their full flavour potential.
Technical: Ability to use and to troubleshoot roasting software issues, an awareness and knowledge of hardware, equipment parts and mechanisms for maintenance schedules and for health and safety reasons of using a large and hot piece of kit!
To what extent does software impact your roasts?
It keeps us on track, manages our inventory, records an amazing amount of data which allows us to be more analytical and extremely consistent. In fact these days it can even do the job for us! It’s a lifeline compared to the olden days of graph paper and spreadsheets! We can roast without it if need be but then our roasts wouldn’t be as repeatable.
How do you allocate time toward roasting? Do you roast continuously every day or do you have specific periods during which the roaster is on?
We always start Monday morning with the roaster on for a big roast day. Generally the only day we don’t roast is Wednesday when we are doing cleaning, roaster maintenance and quality control cupping. Each other day is according to demand in order for all of our coffees to be as fresh as possible. Nothing leaves the roastery if it has gone over seven days from roast date. The P5 helps us manage our volumes efficiently so that rarely happens and we have minimal wastage.
Dear Green is now a B Corporation. Could you tell my audience a bit about what that means for you as a roaster and why you decided to pursue this designation?
I discovered the B Corp Movement a couple of years ago and instantly realised that Dear Green's ethics and business practices were intrinsically aligned with what B Corporation promote. That is to put people and planet before profit. There are so many buzzwords around the ethics of coffee and we felt that by pursuing this certification we could have absolute integrity behind all of the statements we make.
I completed a self assessment impact survey and then was audited by B Lab for aspects of our business which are to the benefit of our stakeholders, those being our team, our customers, our community and the environment. We completed the verification process and were proudly certified as a B Corporation last year. We’re now part of a community who think like us, who care about the things we care about and who are invested in supporting us to be even better at everything we do! It's a wonderful way for us to continue our journey in 2021 and our tenth year in business!
What is your go-to brewing method?
What snack do you enjoy most with a cup of coffee (if any)?
I don’t snack whilst drinking coffee, I’d rather taste the coffee on it’s own.
What coffee(s) are you drinking at the moment?
Naturally processed, Red Bourbon from the Rama Women's Association in Burundi who I visited in 2018. I bought from their first crop and again every year since, its a treat when it lands with us and is always delicious!
You can read more about Dear Green coffee on their website at www.deargreencoffee.com or on their Instagram page at @deargreen.