Kirby and Sarah Koopman, Owners and Founders of Ransom Specialty Coffee Roasters, have established a business that specialises in customised coffees and barista training for cafés.
Kirby and Sarah Koopman are living their dream. Up at the crack of dawn, each day you’ll find the owners and founders of Ransom Specialty Coffee Roasters in their Cairns-based factory roasting, packaging, and preparing coffee for distribution to cafés in and around Queensland.
Before entering the world of roasting, Kirby and Sarah spent several years running their own café, which was losing money when they purchased it.
“One day, Kirby just came home and said he bought a café. I went from being a legal secretary, to mum, to café owner. It was pretty full on but incredibly rewarding,” Sarah says. “Every day is an adventure with Kirby.”
After establishing a loyal following and successful business, the couple turned the business around, producing a profit, and were at an impasse on which direction to take next.
“We began roasting just for our café. Within six weeks, coffee sales increased by 30 per cent. Within a year, it was 300 per cent, and just kept growing. We were still learning about roasting and our machine, but other cafés started asking if they could use our blends. We were torn between roasting and serving coffee. Out of the blue we were approached by a regular customer who wanted to buy our café. We took it as a sign and decided to dedicate our efforts to roasting full time,” Kirby says.
“Our start came when we gave a local café a bag of coffee to try. Its barista accidently put it in the grinder on a busy Saturday. The regulars commented on the coffee being exceptional that morning. The owner realised it was our coffee, not their usual brand. He called me and they switched straight away.”
Four years on, Kirby and Sarah roast under their Ransom Coffee banner. Designed for ease as a central point for all café needs, Kirby says Ransom Coffee offers customers everything from roasted coffee and machinery to teas, syrups, chocolate, and training.
“We aim to meet the needs of all cafés and restaurants in every way. At the end of the day, if they grow, we grow,” Kirby says.
“Our ethos is to produce high quality coffee that’s affordable and dedication to our existing clients. We roast top-grade beans using state-of-the-art technology delivering consistent, quality coffee that’s organic and fresh. If we supply our product to a particular venue, we won’t supply others in their area.”
Ransom Coffee also tailors exclusive blends for customers, ranging from simplistic to complex recipes. Its commercial blends include Amigo Coco, a certified organic coffee featuring a light milk chocolate tone with a delicate finish, and Latino Love Child, a mix of Central and South American beans with a smooth caramel flavour embedded with chocolate and white rum. Kirby calls the Naked Honey Badger – a four-bean blend with dark chocolate notes and sweet honey characteristics – a favourite, “excellent for short blacks and even in soy milk”.
Ransom Coffee’s signature blend is the Screaming Maasai, featuring African and Colombian beans, offering a rich cocoa taste with fruit notes and a mild yet exotic spice.
“The blends came from trial and error. When we first started roasting, we had ideas about what we wanted. We would play around with ratios to see what worked best and to find flavours that complemented each other,” Kirby says.
“The Screaming Maasai is our flagship coffee. It’s our most complex and by far our best seller. It works fabulously with milk but can be served as a long or short black.”
More than just a roastery, Ransom Coffee is enthusiastic about educating and enhancing the skills of baristas across the country. As a result, Ransom Coffee conducts a comprehensive training program. The course is designed not just for café start-ups, but for those wanting to hone their skills or learn a little more taking a holistic approach from pulling shots and texturing milk to customer service, storing coffee, and bad jokes.
“Good coffee isn’t hard to make if you follow a few core principles, then mix in a little experience. We show people the basics of espresso-based drinks and how to prepare them correctly. I sat down and wrote a manual that covers everything from getting the machine and grinder ready for the morning influx to finishing up later in the day. Our course combines a mix of practical and theory, so people don’t just learn the ‘hows’, but the ‘whys’ as well,” Kirby says.
“Our barista training gives people confidence. We don’t just show people how to make good coffee but explain why it needs to be done a certain way.”
Over time, as Kirby and Sarah focused on their roasting and listened to their clients’ needs, they began to witness Ransom Coffee evolve into a larger enterprise solely through word of mouth. Kirby says watching Ransom Coffee grow organically has been surreal. In its very early days, the roastery produced 20 kilograms per week. Four years, and a new roaster and warehouse later, they roast up to 40 times that.
“We initially just wanted to make and serve great coffee and have some fun too, but Ransom took on its own identity kept growing. It wasn’t just the coffee, but how we engage with our clients. We go out of our way to treat them all as we would want to be,” Kirby says.
“I always wanted to produce something. Not to make a fortune, but to be able to have a product we can proudly call our own that we’ve developed from scratch. It’s probably a little self-centred, but you need to follow your dreams.”
While Kirby concedes Ransom Coffee is a smaller boutique roastery, it’s starting to gain attention in other states.
“We’re a minor player in the world of roasting, but inside Queensland we’ve grown substantially. When we catch up with our clients, we enjoy talking to like-minded business owners. It’s a great source of information and ideas exchange,” Kirby says.
“Coffee has to be one of the most rewarding, amazing, and challenging industries to be a part of. I really do love it.”
This article appears in FULL in the August edition of BeanScene Magazine. Subscribe HERE.
For more information, visit www.ransomcoffee.com