Roaster: Social Coffee & Tea Company
Didn’t expect to be doing a roaster tour within 2 weeks of starting my blog. And what an incredibly memorable one at that. My knowledge about roasting is limited, so I will mostly highlight my experience, what caught my unprofessional eye, and then I will talk about the few espressos I had.
After seeing a comment from Mark Prince on the Coffeegeek Facebook page , about a new Toronto roaster, I corresponded briefly with Steve from Social Coffee & Tea Company. He invited me to drop by to pick up some espresso coffee to try. I was in for a big treat when I dropped by, not only in terms of the quality espresso I had, but also of the facilities and equipment that I saw.
In describing the roasterie, I realize that I am quite a bit outside my knowledge comfort, but I will try to describe the set up of the facilities which really impressed me.
When I walked in the door, my eyes immediately fell onto the Slayer espresso machine that sat at the far end of the room on the left side. Yes that’s right. Here in Toronto. I had followed their blog on the development of this pressure profiling machine, but hadn’t seen one in action yet.
On the same side of the room, I saw an Anfim grinder and a Verlab M3 set up beside. I had read about the M3 on Home-Barista as an unconventional grinder producing some very fluffy grinds, but again I had never seen one.
Feeding this setup and the entire cupping lab, was a water filtration system that both completely de-mineralized the water, and then re-mineralized it with the correct mixture. This is to ensure the highest quality in terms of brewing and cupping consistency.
At the back of the room was some hot water stations, and two other grinders including a Malkonig Guatemala and a Ditting Grinder.
On the right side of the room was the roasting equipment. A large Giesen W6 was the highlight in terms of size, and was hooked up to a computer as the controller. And a small US Roaster Corp sample roaster sat beside it for small test roasting. A microwave-like laser reflectometer also was on this side of the room which was hooked up to a computer to measure the roasting level by measuring the color of the roasted beans on the Agtron number scale helping ensure consistency.
This also surrounded a very large central table that is used for cupping which Steve ensured me that he did plenty of. In creating this setup, Steve’s philosophy is to ensure everything is done to a very high standard to ensure the highest quality and consistency.
As I continued my tour to the back warehouse, he assured me that this philosophy extended to the bean selection and storage which he had in the back. I saw hundreds of bags in storage of green coffees from many different origins, some of them just arrived in jute bags. These then get repackaged in vacuumed packs or special protective bags in order to maintain appropriate moisture storage parameters and ensure that no taste is picked up from the jute bags.
The experience of tasting 5 different quality espressos with a wide range of flavour profiles was great. Especially with someone who agreed that people have a range of tastes; therefore, it would only make sense if a roaster offered many different types of beans so that people could find coffees that matched their tastes, as well as explore new possibilities that exist out there.
After describing my taste, we agreed that I would try a variety of coffees, although I was definitely going to have some that were not towards my taste. Each shot that I received was meticulously prepared in terms of preparation including scaled measurements of the beans beforehand, temperature control and timing of the shot including pressure variation on the Slayer. The results when tasting was that I was really focusing on the taste and flavours in each cup, rather than the imperfections due to preparation. As far as experiencing this before, it has never happened to me. Each cup had mound of crema that was the right brown colour. All the shots were syrupy, complex and had long finishes. When tasting, no sourness or off tastes that shouldn’t be apparent. This is a real first for me.
Trying this many coffees was tiring on my palette, and I wasn’t smart enough to bring something to take notes with. I was also given samples of many to take home, so I will go into more in depth reviews on the blog as I try them at home. But I give two highlights of the tasting for me.
First the Ethiopian dry processed Sidamo. As I smelled this coffee, I was immediately aware that I was going to taste something different. There was a real wine-like smell in the nose. The taste had a bit of brightness, but it was really dominated by the wine and sweet berry taste that to me was candy-like, with some subtle chocolate in the background. Truly, something different for me.
Secondly, the Farmer’s Collective Organic Espresso. This blend was less bright and had many rich layers that seemed to highlight the chocolate and the sweetness.
I am looking forward at trying many of these roasts at, and discussing them in this blog. The experimentation in trying this variety of the quality coffee is going to interesting as I continue to learn about different flavours.
In terms of the Social Coffee & Tea Company, I think they have a good future ahead, based on conversation with other roasters in Toronto. In terms of dedication and sophistication, I believe they are at the very top here in Toronto. It will only be time now that hopefully others across Canada will discover Social and be able to compare to other roasters across the country in terms of the results in the cup. Based on my tasting in the lab, it is very promising. I look forward to reporting more results from home.
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