AROUND THE WORLD IN 8 WEEKS
For eight weeks I am curating a host of world coffees at Stone & Crow. I started in London with Alchemy Coffee Roasters (available throughout the duration) featuring Nomad Coffee (Barcelona), Five Elephants (Berlin), Coffee Supreme Melbourne (Australia) and Coutume Coffee Roasters (Paris), DoubleShot (Prague) and Reunion Island (Toronto). For my penultimate weekend (I love that word) I had something very very special air freighted over, Rich Coffee Roasters from New Zealand!
Over the weekend at Stone & Crow, I had Rich Coffee Roasters and to add some spice, Taco Dave and Mexican streetfood stall came to the party also. It was a fantastic weekend of Mexican food and great coffee.
Rich Coffee Roasters is owned and directed by Cameron McClure and Richie Russell and is all of about two months old – so London you got the debut roasts at my pop up first! I had an party in the weekend for industry, old customers, friends and family to celebrate their opening and my second last weekend of my popup. Around 70 people showed up in support –What a great bunch of people. So amazed by the talented and awesome people in one room. Weirdly there was about 10 litres of Gin punch, and 20 crates of beer, but people wanted the coffee!
Cam and Richie have been hugely instrumental in the coffee industry we have here in London today. Granted, there have been others who have contributed to this growing industry over time, but I believe at a ground level, a cultural level of where artisan specialty coffee was 8-10 years ago, there is no doubt that their contribution changed the scene to what we now know it to be today. Both of them have had massive careers in coffee here in London over the last ten years or so.
Richie began his career in coffee in the 90’s but arrived in London in 2003 working his way up at Monmouth coffee quickly over the ten years he was here. Monmouth coffee is one of the original specialty coffee roasteries in London founded by Anita Le Roy back in 1978! Starting as a manager in their Park St store, Richie swiftly moved into their roasting department where he wrote the first Monmouth espresso training manual for staff and wholesale customers, travelling around England training customers before he went onto full-time roasting at their Malby St market roastery.
Cam, (who was my boss for about seven years) to owned Flatwhite which is a café in Soho and it was the pinnacle of good coffee for a long time until he sold it and went back to NZ in 2012. It was a sad time and it’s never been the same again. The whole team ended up leaving with his departure, but it was also a good thing as many of us have gone on to have successful businesses of their own, learning a lot from our experience there.
For those of you who knew it many years ago in its heyday, it was a pretty cool place to be as a worker and customer. Mainly because it was probably the only place, only cool place to get a great coffee at the time. It was the first stop for any Auzzie or Kiwi in London. I think the thing people remember about Cam is his relentless enthusiasm and his obsession for coffee. Day in and day out, he was there to pour perfect rosettas on your coffee while you watched and talked loads of nonsense with him. Quality and consistency was key. It was the rare place where you’d see baristas throw shots away if they weren’t up to standard. There was conscious effort and pride in our work that came as a result of Cam’s ethic. It also made it a fun escape for customers with a vibe that was energetic. People learned to appreciate coffee. Sometimes it could get stressful as there were constant queues out the door, but very seldom did Cam loose his cool with anyone and he always had your back no matter what. No one could touch his staff. I remember him being very protective of us. There are a number of times he did selfless things for us, and others – maybe not consciously, but because that’s just what he’s like. He probably doesn’t even think anything of it. The pessimist in me at the time probably didn’t appreciate it, but I do now, after a bit of growing up and reflection. Who he is and what he created there was pretty darn special.
Those were the “Golden days” where pretentiousness was low and customers were so grateful for a good cup of coffee and everyone was really just striving for the same thing – being good at their job, growing up, experiencing London life, figuring out careers, developing new relationships and drinking way too much beer. Like a family of brothers and sisters (sometimes squabbling) but ultimately loyal, we all wanted the two cafes to do well, we wanted show Cam we were good at what we did – and he wanted us to have fun and be happy! Indicative of this, many of the core staff remained for that whole time. They stayed for years – a rarity.
We cut our London teeth there in the industry when it was thriving. We made hundreds of coffees a day and we were Squaremile coffee’s first and largest client when they first opened in 2008. It was a fun time learning and discovering all that was new in specialty coffee here in London.
We were like a family, which Cam is all about - so its no surprise that his immediate family - Georgia, his awesome wife and two kids are a constant inspiration. But the ‘family’ extends to the old crew and to his work with SquareMile coffee roasters too, from back in the day. He tells me he even remembers the first coffee that got him into it, and the person who made it – he often thinks about that cup today.
Richie and Cam wanted to set up a roastery at Flatwhite but at the time, but one of the investors didn’t go for it, but it planted the seed, and after all these years, that seed has sprouted back in the homeland, and I couldn’t be more excited to see it grow.
Richie takes particular inspiration from NZ’s local coffee guru Chris Dillion (NZ’s Coffee Supreme) for introducing him to coffee all those years ago and to Anita Le Roy (London’s Monmouth Coffee) for her enthusiasm and drive to source top quality green beans and investing in lasting relationships with producers.
I found Rich Coffee Roaster’s espresso evenly roasted, buttery and smooth. It was a blend of Brazilian and Kenyan. The recipe was slightly different to what London has traditionally been following, and it follows more closely to Australian specialty coffee recipes. 18-20g dose, approximately 50ml volume and 40-45g brew weight. My friend, Mark Dundan here the other week (original creator of St Ali and the current of Seven Seeds amongst others in Melbourne) and he was telling me similar recipes to try.
The Kenyan Kamwangi was delicious as to Cam’s prediction as were the other filters I had – two Brazillians, and an Ethiopian Birnahu. I tried them as batch brews, V60 and aeropress. All delicious.
With Richies knowledge and principles that he learned from Monmouth and other quality-focused roasteries and their combined network, understanding of quality, flavor, roasting and sensory analysis, they are a powerhouse duo!
London misses them dearly, but NZ is super lucky to have them. I cannot wait to see their new venture unfold brightly. One thing is for sure, Rich Coffee Roasters will not only be ‘rich’ in taste and quality but heart and soul too.