BeanScene talks to Merlo Coffee Trainer Ryan Howell about his journey in the coffee industry and how the roaster creates career opportunities beyond the roastery.
Ryan Howell is no stranger to the coffee scene. Having begun his coffee endeavours at the age of 15, Ryan has explored much of what the café industry has to offer, working at different coffee shops before his own family joined the profession.
“My parents opened their own coffee shop called Steel and Grind six years ago. I was helping dad fit out the shop and ended up getting in contact with Merlo. We really appreciated their advice and support, so my parents became wholesalers of theirs. When an opportunity came up to roast for them directly, I jumped on it,” says Merlo Coffee Trainer Ryan.
“I love that I can be a part of a company that fosters my passion for great coffee and service, facilitating growth in any area of interest.”
Ryan spent two years as part of Merlo Coffee’s roasting team, experimenting, finessing, and perfecting the ultimate roast profile and blend, then returned to his parent’s café to help manage the business.
“I went back to give mum and dad a hand. A few months later, Merlo reached out with another job opportunity to work for them as a coffee trainer. I was grateful for the experience and eager to keep my relationship with the team, so I agreed,” says Ryan.
“These opportunities come up so rarely, so I feel very lucky to have had so many roles at Merlo. They’ve always accommodated my willingness to learn and try new things, which has allowed me to grow my knowledge and experience in the coffee space.”
Ryan is currently working with wholesale partners as a coffee trainer, sharing his love and knowledge of coffee, coaching them in mastering the art of coffee excellence, and educating them on the importance of specialty coffee.
“I can work with trainees on-site in their café, remotely through an online training session, or at our training facility located in Fortitude Valley. We offer one-on-one or group sessions personalised to suit your requirements, level of expertise, and areas of interest,” Ryan says.
As part of his current role, Ryan is actively showcasing his skills and knowledge through organised regional events across Merlo Coffee’s wholesale network.
“Our customer-base it quite widespread, so we’ve hosted pop-up events from Coolum Beach to Burleigh Heads, right up to Rockhampton. We educate attendees on how we source coffee, where Merlo fits in the specialty market, and provide more information about quality coffee,” he says.
“I’ve always appreciated when people take the time to pass their knowledge on to me, so I find it really fulfilling to be able to do the same for others. It’s another accomplishment I’ve been able to achieve thanks to Merlo.”
To further enrich his knowledge of coffee, Ryan was given the opportunity to visit Papua New Guinea in June 2023 to experience the farmer’s point of view, and the quality aspects that go into harvesting and processing the coffee.
“As my first trip to origin, it was absolutely unreal. I didn’t know what to expect, but seeing the dedication that goes into growing coffee beans was extremely gratifying. I think origin trips are so important, especially for roasting companies that are far removed from the start of the coffee journey. It puts everything in perspective and reminds you how much works goes into creating the perfect bean,” Ryan says.
The coffee trainer visited the Chimbu Province and Eastern and Western Highlands, and the Kabiufa Riverside and Kenta mills.
“Consistency of quality is extremely important for Merlo, so seeing this firsthand and establishing relationships with our suppliers is critical in the supply chain process,” Ryan says.
Growing up around coffee and in the hospitality industry, Ryan understands the importance of good customer service and serving a high-quality cup of coffee. He is currently training to become a Q-Grader to round out his coffee expertise.
“I think the next realistic step for me is getting into green bean buying. Whether that’s the path I go down, or getting into Q-grading or exporting, I hope it’s with Merlo,” he says.
For more information, visit www.merlo.com.au
This article appears in the October 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.