Coffee Roastery Tour in Estonia
Café tours are so last season, nowadays baristas and coffee-geeks make coffee roastery visits instead :) Coffee Roasteries are great places to learn more about coffee and coffee roasting: coffee roasters are often more than willing to share their knowledge about coffee and maybe even organise cuppings. I did a little coffee roastery tour in Estonia couple of months ago, here's a little report what I saw and learnt from it.
For a barista, being a coffee roaster is a next level thing. Coffee roasting requires excellent knowledge about coffee, scientific mindset as well as understanding of the coffee business. And of course passion - a lot of passion towards coffee. I visited few coffee roasteries in Estonia and met some amazing coffee roasters who shared their views what inspires them in coffee and coffee roasting.
At Karlova Kohv, the roasting is done by the owner Laura Mähar and her husband once a week, mostly on Mondays. They were trained by one of Tim Wendelboe´s roastmasters Måns Akne Andersson. Roasting days are quite special because of the limited space. For operating the roasting machine they have to move the tables in the cafe to make some space in the room. But still, they manage to roast about 400 kg monthly, which is quite a big amount for their size.
I asked Laura what she loves about roasting and her work: "About roasting, I mostly love the fact that it is always interesting, I feel that I am still at the beginning of my journey and therefore there is still so much to learn. I love experimenting and checking my hypotheses. For example, if I make a random change in the roasting process I'm interested in how it will affect the final taste. Also, I like the fact that we have very good baristas working with us and that we have very professional feedback by our side when needed. And of course I love my business trips - I get to visit a lot of cafés."
Karlova Kohv roaster and café is located in Tartu in Karlova district. Tartu is the second biggest town in Estonia and is often considered the intellectual center since it is home to the nation's oldest and most renowned university, the University of Tartu. Karlova district is very cozy with its old private houses and wooden buildings. The roastery is located on the corner of Kuu and Tähe (Moon and Star) streets. Kind of romantic location I would say! :) Room of the roaster and café is quite small but they have managed to fit there some tables, shelves, green coffee bags and Probatone12 roasting machine.
In Karlova´s selection of coffees you can find quite many origins: Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua and Ethiopia. They roast coffee light to bring out the best in every origin and treat it with respect. I tried Peru coffee made with Kalita filter, it had very juicy nice sweetness and medium pleasant acidity. Their focus is to offer only organically grown and certified coffees, so this makes buying green coffee a little more challenging. But they have kept their focus very well and have a good merchant from Europe to supply them. In addition to a good organic coffee, they also serve food made from local organic ingredients.
Coffee People is the pioneer of specialty coffee roasting in Estonia. They started out as a very small roaster back in 2007 and over the years have become the biggest. As one of the owners, Annar Alas said: "We started with 100 kg per badge back in 2007 and in this year we aim for 80 tons“. Impressive!
I was so fortunate to plan my visit there when they were roasting and had a good chance to chat with head roaster Johan Rohtla. He has a great scientific approach to roasting and work because of his biochemistry and molecular biology degree from the University of Baltimore. He also had this special spark in his eyes when he talked about coffee and roasting, I was able to see so much passion. He knows exactly what happens in the coffee bean during every second of the roasting process. I learned more things from him about roasting in 30 minutes than I have learned in last 3-4 years. Thank you, Johan!
Coffee People office and roastery is located just outside Tallinn City borders, not far from Tallinn Lennart Meri International Airport. During my visit there I had an opportunity to visit production, showroom, warehouse and training room. They also have a factory store where they have all their coffee range for sale. Production takes the biggest part on of the building - there are shelves full of green coffee bags form different origins, ready-made and packaged products and table tennis (so you can relax a bit).
Heart of the room is roasting space with Loring S35 Kestrel roasting machine which uses convection heating. This ensures that oxygen and flavor remain inside the bean. Very important part of the roaster is the corner with small Probat sample roaster where they roast samples from every badge that comes in. They roast coffees also mostly light to highlight the coffees natural taste and bring out the best.
Coffee People buys their coffee from all over the world but mostly directly from origin countries. They buy from Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya and Indonesia. And never before tasting it in advance. Over the years they have expanded supply network and have also closely work with some coffee farmers.
The Brick coffee
Roastmaster Henry Politanov started his roasting journey more than 6 years ago in Coffee People, but over the years decided to move on and establish his own business. Since then it have been quite successful and have grown very well. Today The Brick roasts around 500 kg per monthly. Roasting takes place every week, depending on the needs. Henry is a true roaster and great fan of his job: "I like roasting because not one roast is the same. You can learn from every roasting process and you get the chance to make the next roast even better. The biggest pleasure is if you've been struggling with roast, changing it factor by factor, bit by bit and then when people understand it and say: 'Ohh, that tastes even better than the last time!'. "
The Brick coffee roaster is located in popular Telliskivi Creative City and share rooms with famous restaurant Trühvel. Roasting room by itself is quite small, but everything you need is there: Dietrich IR12 roasting machine, small office table, armchair, buckets, packaging corner and coffee. The roasting room can be separated from a restaurant with glass doors. If you plan your visit well you can observe roasting process also. Dietrich roasting machines use infrared burners to reduce noxious gas emissions. This cleaner roasting process allows bring out the true quality and flavor of the coffee bean.
The Brick Coffee buys coffee mainly from Europe merchants but also in some rare cases directly from origin. Some coffees are certified some are not. The price range of their coffees varies a lot form very high-end coffees to mid-rage. "We want to show people that good coffee does not always have to be very expensive. Reasonable price coffee can also taste very good" says Henry. They also use quite light roasting profile for filter method and slightly darker roasts for espressos. In their range, you can find origins like Ethiopia Duromina, Colombia Huila, Guatemala El Socorro and Brazil Campo Altos. During my visit got to taste Guatemala made with Hario V60 and also I was fortunate enough to get a small sample of freshly roasted Honduras Peaberry coffee. That coffee tasted very well prepared with Chemex.
Thanks to all coffee roasters who took time to chat with me - you inspire me a lot!
the writer is Paulig's Channel Marketing Manager in Baltics