NZSCA celebrates the ladies who roast

ladies who roast

Roasting is no longer a boy’s club, and the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association recognises the women paving the way.

Back in 2016, the hashtag #ShesTheRoaster was born, highlighting women in coffee who are setting examples for others trying to advance in the industry. More recently, a throw away comment of “there aren’t many female roasters in New Zealand” had us thinking: “How many ladies are out there roasting?”

Emma McDougall is the Communications and Administration Co-ordinator of the NZSCA.

We asked the community to point us in the direction of any female roasters they knew, and we were introduced to many amazing women.

The number surprised us. There are at least 30 women roasting, one company had six, operating one-kilogram sample roasters through to behemoth 240-kilogram models.

This potentially represents 10 to 15 per cent of the coffee companies in our small land. With these ladies forging a path though, we hope this number will swell. More interesting was who inspired them, how they got where they were, and any obstacles they had overcome.

Their answers were encouraging and creative. They all have similarities in who introduced them to coffee, how they approach roasting, and many are passionate sustainability advocates. 

The machines that the roasters use varied as did the number that each company seemed to have. “Get to know your roaster like it’s your best friend,” advises Alla Heta from John Burton.

Most of our roasters singled out Ethiopia as their favourite origin to roast and drink. The way they brewed their coffees mirrored the many ways they roast, but was always with consistency.

We also asked their tips and hacks for smooth roasting. Anna McGregor from Coffee Lab in Auckland says, “manual log each roast as well recording everything for referencing. Agtron analyses the bean and ground of every roast. Roast single-origin and get as many different ones as you can, taste the way you want to brew, cup before you buy, never stop learning, and ask questions whenever you can.”

As for Betsy Tipping from Rush Coffee in Wellsford, advises “pay attention to details. Consistency is key – and so is regular cupping. Don’t be afraid to tweak blends and experiment with new roast profiles to ensure you are providing the most consistently delicious product possible.” 

Betsy Tipping of Rush Coffee in front of her roaster, “Roasty McRoastface”.

An eclectic bunch who brew in every which way possible, each roaster looked at the broader picture of the industry as a whole, rather than concentrating on their own cooling tray. As Jessica Macdonald from The Roasting Department in Auckland says, “changing people’s mindsets [is key]. If you can pay $18 for a wine that’s literally poured into a glass you can pay more for the coffee that’s freshly prepared for you.”

Many of them could single out a person who remained influential to their roasting career. But many more cited a multitude of people, proving that it takes more than a village. Kylie Norton of Vanguard in Dunedin says, “it’s a tie between my current employer Jason Moore/Mr Miyagi and my former employer Mark Dundon/The Dude – both out there speaking the truth and always looking to do right by the coffee farmers.”

Our pages lit up with positive praise and encouragement from the companies who became involved looked into this question, creating a boost in a time when we could all use it most. The stories of “Our People” caused a spike in the range of our followers. We loved that companies were championing their roasters by sharing to their customers too.

The roasters suggested that connecting with each other via an online support network would be a great asset and tool. From this insight, we are looking forward to creating events with them to grow their skills and give back to the next generation. They all have “that thirst for knowledge” as Sally Quantock from Ebony Coffee Roasters in Palmerston North says. 

This article is a snap shot of some of the many stories. We hope you are heartened by the strength and skill of the ladies who roast in New Zealand. We invite you to brew a special coffee, head to our website and, read all about their moments in roasting.

This article appears in the August 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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