Klatch Coffee RoasterQ&A with Mike Perry | 0 Comments
AN INTERVIEW WITH ONE OF THE WORLD’S BEST COFFEE ROASTERS
Since 1993, Klatch Coffee (formerly known as Coffee Klatch) has been searching the world over for the finest coffee.
Buying from only the top 1% of beans available, Klatch roasts in small batches to ensure optimum flavor and freshness.
Mike Perry (Roastmaster and Owner) blends a background in chemical engineering with a love for great coffee to balance science and artistry in achieving the perfect cup.
EDE ONLINE was privileged to interview the man behind the coffee that has caused so much buzz.
You have a degree in Chemical Engineering – can you explain what drew you into this particular vocation? How does your scientific background complement your ability to roast coffee?
Long story, short version: I sold a previous business and decided to return to college to get my degree. After 2 years, what I thought was a pile of money was running out. So my wife and I, who used to go to coffeehouses as our date night, decided to open a coffeehouse to pay the bills. This was 1993. I graduated with my degree in Chemical Engineering, had offers to relocate and use my degree, but fell in love with the coffee business so decided to follow that path.
It was at this time that I struggled to find great coffee. I was buying from 6 different roasters trying to find great beans, but their claims fell short in the cup. So I decided to buy a coffee roaster and do it myself. Once I bought a roasting machine, my degree helped me modify the roaster to record actual bean temperature (vs drum temperature like an oven) and then to develop a spread sheet to record and plot all variables. After roasting, I would cup every result to learn what worked and what did not. This is how we developed our ‘Peak of Flavor’ roast style where we use science and (culinary) art to create the perfect roast for every bean.
Guess those answers were not as short as I hoped…..lol.
How do you select your beans? How important is it to your business to know the source of the beans and the farmers involved?
I select my beans by cupping, only buying the best I can.
Sometimes this is done in my lab. Sometimes this is done at origin (a producing country) either at a lab there or at a mill or farm. Most of our beans we buy using a direct trade model. It is explained better in attached document or on our website. In a nutshell, we start with a great cup (the best beans).
Once we find a great bean, we visit the farm and farmer to learn what they do environmentally, socially and economically in their community. We always guarantee to pay the minimum of 25% over the higher of the ‘C’ market or Fair Trade price and often pay double or triple those prices for great coffee beans.
Could you describe your idea of the perfect coffee experience?
Great coffee goes without saying, so for me the ambiance and setting would be sitting in atop a hill in the middle of a coffee farm with a friend and the farmer, talking together while enjoying a great fresh cup of coffee that the farmer has worked so hard to create for us. The brewing method, a simple pour over with fresh spring water from the farm.
You have a wide range of coffees available, some with intriguing titles (we love the name ‘Crazy Goat Blend’), do you have any personal favourites? What are your most popular products? Are there defining features for coffees from particular countries? Could you give some examples?
For me, my favorite is our WBC Espresso. First, because I love espresso and the flavor of this blend. I also have a special bond with this blend as it was 2 months in development and was the only espresso ever named “Best Espresso in the World” at the Tokyo World Championships.
Defining features from many countries fall into generalities like earthy rich Sumatra, bright and floral Kenya’s, fruity naturals, clean and citrus coffee from Central America. However, we find unique Terrors or micro climates that create great flavors in every country.
Can you explain how the process of roasting affects coffee flavour? Are single estate roasts superior to beans that have been blended from different estates (indeed, even different countries)?
During roasting, there are 1000s of chemical reactions that affect the flavour of the bean. It is actually during roasting that the sugars caramelize and the flavour itself comes to life. Without going into a chemistry lesson, the bean profile of how it is roasted affects the flavour like any culinary process.
As for single estate vs blends, I believe in roasting each bean to its unique ‘Peak of Flavor’ roast profile then blending afterwards. I generally prefer the clean flavour of a great single estate but often a blend can add complexity.
Could you give some examples of your favourite gourmet food and coffee pairings?
We all know about coffee and chocolate, for me I prefer a nice panama from Ricardo Koyner of Duncan Kotowa Organic Farm with apple pie ala mode or better yet (since I love espresso and cappuccino) a French chocolate macaroon with a cappuccino.
Do you think the consumption of coffee has changed significantly in the last decade? From a US perspective, are consumers more discerning about the coffee they drink and where it comes from?
Statistics and trend say yes to both and we are finding that in our own cafes.
It started with Starbucks and we have to give them credit.
But as consumers became more educated and discerning we have seen the growth of the 3rd wave coffee shop with hand brewed coffee by the cup and everything fresh for the customer.
You seem to offer various educational courses through your company – would you say there is a trend in people wanting to learn more about home brewing? What about from a professional level – how has the industry changed, do you think there is an increased interest in coffee roasting as a profession?
Our training classes are geared toward the professional but I am always surprised at how many home roasters and coffeeholics we have signing up for our roasting and barista classes.
Besides coffee, what are your interests and hobbies?
For me, it’s motorcycles. I have a Harley Road King I ride on the street and a KTM 525 MXC I race offroad motocross and desert with. I also like fine wine and scotch.
What inspires you and keeps you passionate about coffee?
The people and the cup.
Who in the world would you most like to sit down and enjoy a brew with? And what particular brew would you choose?
Being a Christian, I would love to sit with Christ with a great natural processed Ethiopian (believed to be the original coffee). As I have become older, I’ve also realized how much I miss my Grandparents and never enjoyed a great cup of coffee with them.
They passed before I became involved with coffee and I don’t believe they ever enjoyed a great cup of coffee.
Can you offer any advice to budding coffee roasters? If you could give your younger self any tips what would they be?
Buy the best beans you can find, experiment, document, duplicate and enjoy.
Klatch has won many honors and awards, do any have special meanings?
For me there are several.
First and most important, Heather winning two United States Barista Championships and finishing 2nd at the World Barista Championships in Tokyo. This has meaning for several reasons. One being that Heather is my daughter and working with her has been fun. When she won her first, no one expected it, everyone assumed someone from Seattle or the Pacific Northwest would win. It was a shock to the coffee world in the US and her victory was a testament to what anyone with dedication and passion can accomplish. With her 2nd victory, I still remember the tears of joy on her face when they announced her as the winner. We were still a rather small company and my roasting department consisted of myself, a young barista I trained to roast, and a part time helper. After the US Championships, a company who’s barista was beaten by Heather hired the young man away from us, putting a big burden on us to even go to Tokyo much less have any time to practice. But Heather and I worked together for two months at nights and every weekend practicing and working on a really good espresso blend. In Tokyo that year Heather finished 2nd in the World and our espresso was awarded Best Espresso at the World Championships. It was a great accomplishment despite huge obstacles and means so much more for it.
The next moment was when we were honoured as ‘Roaster of the Year’ by Roast Magazine. After being named a finalist, we were in last place compared to others who had done more in the coffee industry. What was great about the honor is that the final judging was a coffee cupping and we won all categories with our coffee to come from behind to win. An honor for me and our roasting company.
Finally, just last week, our coffeehouse won the competition for America’s Best Coffeehouse. This meant a lot because it was a team competition where our coffee was prepared in a mock coffeehouse by our own baristas working together to prepare real drinks just like in our café. It combined all we do and was a real team victory for everyone who works for Klatch.
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