The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
Obadiah Coffee, based in Edinburgh, roasts a range of excellent single origin coffees, including some unique coffees that are rare to find. I have bought coffee from Obadiah in the past and I had a few questions about their work. I reached out to Danny, the head of coffee at Obadiah, who took some time to answer my questions. Read out chat below.
For my readers, could you tell me a bit about Obadiah Coffee and your role within the business?
Obadiah Coffee is a speciality roaster made up of a small tight-knit team located in Edinburgh and founded by Sam and Alice Young back in 2017. We specialise in single origin coffee from top producers all around the world, roasting to highlight each coffee's natural characteristics.
The simple answer is I get to find and drink incredible coffee! The reality of that is a little more complicated. I guess my role is to do everything I can to make sure our coffee is represented in a way we are proud of and pays homage to our fantastic producers. That generally involves endless cuppings, profile development, roasting and methodical quality control. All in all, I have a pretty sweet job!
You often change your range of coffees, and sometimes offer special coffees like the Rum Aged one you had on offer last year. How do you source coffees for Obadiah? Why do you use this approach?
We want to create an exciting and diverse seasonal offering for our loyal customers, giving them the opportunity to try a vast array of coffees throughout the year. Our subscription program is perhaps the best example of this, where we release exclusive and rare coffee's each month. It works as a kind of "off menu" offering which you are unable to get anywhere else. Once things get back to relative normality, we plan on expanding this to include exclusive access to events in our new space which is pretty exciting!
Occasionally, I come across something special or a producer that is excelling in their field and we dedicate a special release to them. The Rum aged was a part of the Arcila series which was dedicated to the Arcila Family to highlight the great work they're doing! It's a sort of salute to the elite and we are stoked to be able to offer them to our customers.
On your website, you say "We have built strong relationships with sourcing partners who work directly with farmers producing outstanding quality coffee." What is involved behind building strong relationships?
We are lucky enough to work with various green sourcing companies who have a direct line to Farmers and Producers. Within these companies we work with a contact daily, conversing over upcoming and current coffees that could feature in Obadiah's offering. Whether it be because of our fierce interest in excellent coffee or merely the satisfaction you get from being a part of a tight knit industry, these contacts end up becoming strong relationships and in most cases friends. Working with these people who are great at what they do is certainly one of the most rewarding parts of the job!
What work is involved in selecting a coffee that you will later sell to your customers?
I generally cup 10-15 fresh crop from each origin as their season rolls around. These are selected from green sourcing partners in line with qualities we look for and producer practices we support. After the initial cupping I cut the table down to the strongest five lots and of those I choose two to four to buy and feature in our seasonal offering as well as various other offerings.
What is involved in selecting a price for speciality coffee that you charge to customers? What factors do you take into consideration when deciding on a price?
We pay a premium price for all of our selected coffee's which helps producers maintain best practices and supports the supply change. Once the coffee is purchased, we add moderate charges to cover our running costs while trying to keep the cost at a price point that's approachable for our customers.
I see most coffee roasters, like Obadiah, provide some description on where the coffee is from and how it was produced. Could you tell me how you go about writing these descriptions to inform consumers as to where their coffee is from?
We receive marketing information from our sourcing partners and in some cases directly from the producer which is then developed into short and concise summaries by our in-house writer. We try to keep our information informative without being overwhelming and I think our team does a great job at this.
I noticed that your coffee boxes and bags are recyclable. What was involved in designing Obadiah's packaging?
Sam’s a bit of a visionary when it comes to product design so the aesthetics, feel and environment impact of the product is important. He worked closely with a local brand developer to come up with the packaging design and sourced the local materials used.
The result is a bag, box and sleeve system you see today. It’s clean, minimalist and we hope it creates a satisfying user experience while having a low environment impact and using minimal new materials.
The bags and their valves are both recyclable and the boxes and sleeves are made of recycled coffee cups!
What is your favourite part about working at a coffee roastery?
Personally, I love the progression of coffee as a whole. It's a fast-moving industry and there is always plenty to learn which I really enjoy. Roasting as a subsection within that greater industry has everything I love in a profession, precision combined with creativity, science and craftsmanship; it's got it all. Regularly enjoying great coffee too, that's a pretty nice perk!
What advice would you have for someone who wants to start a career as a coffee roaster?
I would say it's often a case of being in the right place at the right time, I'd suggest working as a barista in a cafe that's attached to a roastery or other roles within the roasting space. That way when roles arise you have first refusal. Mind you roasting roles are rare. It was five years spinning milk before I had my first opportunity!