Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week's Spotlight: Detour Coffee Roasters

For the week of December 5th - 11th, 2010 all main posts will be related to Detour Coffee.

On a recent visit to Detour Coffee Roasters, there was an opportunity to chat with owner Kaelin at their Burlington Roastery, experience a coffee cupping and talking about where coffee is headed in the GTA.

Not only were these guys (Kaelin and Geoff) passionate about single estate/single origin coffees, but they were also sporting staches for Movemeber. Many local barista were on that bandwagon, and it's great to see support for prostate cancer. If you didn't have a chance to donate, click here.


1) What is your company ethos?

Detour is first and foremost about quality; this translates to paying premiums through contracts. Sometimes it's exponentially above the fair-trade standards this make a big difference for farmers. Our commitment to excellence also keeps us always experimenting with our coffees both in brewing and roasting.  We are constantly in touch with other roasters over email, and also tuning into the forums and twitter for what people are up to.  This is an exciting time to be in coffee and I love the willingness to share and experiment from people like James Hoffman (2007 World Barista Champion.)

2) What regions do you currently work with, and where do you hope to expand?

We are big fans of Ethiopian coffees and cup and buy a lot of them. We often spot new coffees on offer from our importers and reserve a few bags even before they ship from origin.  This is the case with our current Pacamara from Finca La Montana in El Salvador, one of my current favourites.  I’ve contracted for some exciting microlots from Brazil which we should see in a few weeks and also for coffee from Burundi, an origin we haven’t featured before.  I’ve also got a lovely peaberry from Papua New Guinea on its way, another new origin for us.

3) How long does the process take from green bean to packaged product

The roasting process is pretty straight forward.  Our roaster takes about 30 minutes to come up to temperature once it is fired up.  We can put in about 20lbs of coffee at a time and finish roasting that batch in about 15 minutes.  You lose 20% in the roasting in the roasting process, so 20lbs becomes more like 16 lbs.  After the coffee cools in the cooling tray, it goes into a bucket and then to the packing area.  We package in compostable kraft paper bags.  I decided to go this route after visiting the West coast of the US.  There seemed to be a real coffee culture there, people were used to buying fresh beans weekly so no need to use foil, plus there seemed to be an environmental consciousness that came along with this.  We have been talking with a company about a high barrier kraft bag that is actually sealable but will compost.  They are still in development but this may be a good solution for us down the road.

4) Why Dundas, ON?

I’m actually from Toronto and moved out here 4 years ago.  I come from a film industry background (as do a bunch of coffee people, including The Rooster and Voulez Vous) and I came to Dundas on a few film shoots.  At first I looked at this town and couldn’t even figure out where the hell I was.  Dundas is a strange place because it is nestled in a valley created by the escarpment and separated from Hamilton by a large water body called Cootes Paradise and a conservation area.  But then I looked around and saw there was a Cumbrae’s butcher here, and a great cheese shop (Mickey McGuires), not to mention a Dundas institution, Piconnes grocery similar to Pusateris, but great family run business that carries great gourmet products, including Intelligentsia Coffee!  However, all these great businesses succeed, partially due to the influence of McMaster University.  All my neighbours are profs or docs at the hospital.  In the end we moved here for our kids.  I’ve got 3 girls and this is such a great place to raise a family.

Just before we moved out here I was thinking about starting an espresso bar in Toronto.  This was early days, Mercury had just opened but I had never worked in coffee and wasn’t sure about my ability to pull it off at the time.  So we moved out here and the idea stuck but I knew that an espresso bar only here might not work.  The whole time I had been roasting and  cupping and thought to myself “Toronto needs a good roaster to supply these new cafes”.  So off I went to study roasting at the SCAA and then I bought our Diedrich on eBay!

5) Where can we find your beans?

Dark Horse Espresso Bar always carries a good selection of our coffees. We've developed a single origin espresso for them which they’ve been using for about a year.  We are all in agreement that it’s time for a change and in a few weeks will be changing their blend up, probably this time to a multi origin one. 
You can also find our espresso at Bisogno  Espresso Bar, Cool Hand of a Girl, Zoots cafe, Haarlem Espresso Bar.

Aro.  We are all working hard to provide the same quality of coffee as the 49ths or Intelly’s that are out there.  It is a learning process and we are catching up quickly just like the coffee scene has.  Heck, Sammy Piccolo raved about our shot at the coffee and tea show booth we had so I think we are well on our way!


6)How did you develop your espresso blends (punch buggy).

I wanted to do something classic which to me meant using a Brazil base.  I’ve been using the same farm from the start, sometimes using Pulped natural or natural beans from the same farm or a combination of the two.  We’ve always had an Ethiopian in Punch Buggy and I love the way they add complexity, fruit, and brightness.  Recently we replaced our Sumatra with an El Salvador and in a few weeks we will move into a coffee from Panama which has a nice deep fruit note but with milk chocolate notes (think Cadbury fruit and nut). 

Check back later this week for our post on the coffee cupping experience and the story about the Diedrich Roaster.

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