How to choose a speciality coffee roaster: 5 questions to ask

How to choose a speciality coffee roaster: 5 questions to ask

Starting or running a hospitality business? You need a speciality coffee roaster. Like all business relationships, you need to find a roaster who aligns with your values and price point. 

When you do have that initial phone call or business meeting, what should you ask? How can you best decide on the partnership? Here are five simple questions to ask. Once you have the answers, you’ll know very quickly if the speciality coffee roaster is right for you.

1. Where do you source your green coffee?

Speciality coffee is usually “single origin” meaning it comes from one small farm. This gives farmers more control over the growing and harvesting processes, making a higher quality, better-tasting coffee.

A good speciality coffee roaster should have a strong partnership with their farms, know the stories of their farmers, and know the farming practices and processes. 

Studies show that consumers want to know exactly where their coffee comes from. They want to hear stories about the sustainability of their coffee, and the real people who produce it. They want to know that the farmers of their coffee are being paid well and that no wildlife was harmed. Yet, consumers are sick of greenwashing statements. They want real stories about real people.

At Souter Bros, we source our coffee beans from small family farms. These are our business partners, and we’ve even lived there to learn the art of growing and harvesting coffee.

2. What varieties do you offer? 

Know your Typica from your Catucai and Mundo Novo? Unless you are a serious coffee nerd, you probably have no idea what we’re talking about. Your coffee roaster should. 

They are names for different varieties of Arabica coffee beans. A good speciality coffee roaster should always know the exact coffee bean varieties they are blending — and should be able to tell you about the flavour profiles and how best to prepare their different blends.

Our house blend is a combination of Mundo Novo, Catuai, Catucai, and Acaya. We’ve blended and roasted them to create a sweet, nutty flavour with gentle acidity. Think milk chocolate, peanut biscuit and caramelised sugar.

But our house blend might not be right for you. When we work together, we’ll design a blend and roast to create the best coffee for your needs. Which brings us to…

3. How will you work with us to fulfil our needs?

Every speciality coffee shop is different. You have different equipment, different offers on your menu, and different coffee tastes. That means you need a speciality coffee roaster to work with you to provide you with the perfect blend and roast to suit your business.

You are trusting your roaster with your entire business. Bad coffee means no business. So you need a roaster who will take the time to ask you all the right questions about your needs, desires, equipment, menu, etc. 

Check that they have the time and space for you. If they take the time to understand your business, make you feel listened to, and make you and your business feel special, they might be the right speciality coffee roaster for you.

4. What support can you offer us?

A speciality coffee roaster is not just a seller, they are your partner. That means they should want to support you in any way they can to ensure your coffee business is a success. Because if you’re successful, they are too.

So check what else they can support you with. At the very minimum, they should be supporting you by teaching you how best to brew and serve their blends. 

5. Do you have decaf? How is it processed?

Lots of younger people choose decaf nowadays, especially with all the hype about sleep hygiene and no caffeine after midday. So offering a tasty decaf option is crucial for your speciality coffee shop.

The problem is, much decaf coffee lacks the rich flavour profile — and a lot of it hangs on the decaffeinating process. At Souter Bros we use the Swiss water method, the gold standard. It’s clean, sustainable, and makes the best-tasting decaf. But it’s expensive and can only be done on a small scale, which is why most roasters will use other, cheaper methods.

Choosing a speciality coffee roaster

Everything in business comes down to the relationships you have with people, especially when looking for suppliers who will help support your business growth. Working with the right suppliers can make a difference, especially when you start feeling the pressures of rising costs and unexpected outlays. The right partners will understand that businesses who work together have stronger relationships where they grow together. 

Find out more about our wholesale speciality beans here. 

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