10 mins read

Over a Brew with… Roasting Plant

We sent some questions over to Genevieve Kappler – Director of Coffee at Roasting Plant and roasting technologist. What an Over a Brew we have for you here! 

When were you first introduced to specialty coffee and how has your career developed from when you first started? 

My journey in the coffee industry began back home in France, where I met a former ambassador of Guatemala starting a specialty coffee import company promoting small Guatemalan producers in France. She invited me to Guatemala where I learned the coffee trade there and later served as a judge for the first speciality coffee international competition “Cup of Excellence”. This really seeded my life-long passion for coffee. 

I moved to NYC where I became a specialty green buyer. This position gave me the opportunity to travel all around the world to champion coffee quality, build lasting relationships with growers, and promote activism to support ethical and environmental practices. I worked on a number of social projects building safe drinking water wells in Ethiopia. Safe water, environmental protection and sustainability were of particular importance to me then and still a big focus for me today, and for all of us at Roasting Plant Coffee.

 After many years in the industry, I developed a strong interest in roasting chemistry and started working as a coffee technologist for businesses of all scales worldwide. This involved tuning roasting equipment to their optimum capabilities, testing new technology, and designing roasting profiles on pretty much any roasting machine out there. 

 I’ve even worked with vintage roasters dating back to 1910! For the last 10 years, I’ve been working as a private technologist on the most advanced cutting-edge technologies in industrial roasting and with Roasting Plant’s state of the art Javabot(™) Coffee System, the most advanced in-store roasting and brewing system.

 In 2009, I stumbled upon Roasting Plant while walking the streets of New York City one beautiful spring morning. I stopped in, saw immediately how innovative the concept was. Roasting in micro-batches in-store, brewing every cup to order with consistency and excellent quality – the first scalable specialty concept in the world! – and after I understood what they were doing I immediately joined the team and never left! I’ve been working at Roasting Plant for over a decade now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue learning and growing in the industry. 

To date, I’ve had the chance to serve 63 companies in more than 25 countries, and I’m not stopping anytime soon. My passion for coffee and the amazing people from farm to cup is stronger than ever and my job is filled with  incredible adventures around the world – and I’m still learning more every single day! 

What were you doing before coffee? 

 Growing up in the heart of Bordeaux, it was only natural for me to begin my journey by studying wine. Though it may sound cliché, studying wine helped me to understand the complexities of taste and quality, much like in coffee. While I enjoyed learning about wine, I found myself falling in love with the science, trade, and, most importantly, the people in the coffee industry. From that moment on, my fate was sealed, and the rest is history!

To those who don’t know, can you describe what your job role entails and the challenges you often have to face being a roasting technologist? 

 As a coffee technologist, every day presents a new challenge with a different mission, which typically involves solving problems or tuning machines within a few short days. Understanding the entire context of the company is crucial, from the type of green used to the type of roasting tech, grinder, environment, temperature, that can impact every step of the production cycle. Factors such as the type of packaging machine used, the material of the packaging, and the quality controls in place are all interrelated, and it is the technologist’s responsibility to break down all the variables in a short period of time to design an action plan that achieves the desired results.

 In my position as a buyer for Roasting Plant, when sourcing coffee from origin, understanding the variables that can impact quality along the way is critical to mitigate any potential quality loss and ensure that our customers can enjoy extraordinary lots as if they were at the farm. Although the amount of travel involved might be seen as a challenge, I thrive on the excitement of being on the go and have learned to love living this way with a suitcase always at the ready.

 The most difficult aspect for me in producing countries is witnessing the vast gap between the quality of life we have in our countries and that of the vast majority of coffee smallholders. However, this serves as my wake-up call to keep working towards increasing specialty coffee awareness in consumers worldwide so that the gap can be narrowed little by little. 

 I’m focused on helping to build awareness about the incredible taste of specialty coffee! Specialty beans are simply the best. They are expertly produced by experienced farmers, with just-in-time hand harvesting, hand sorting of every bean and incredible care in washing, drying and shipping.  

 My hope is to see the majority of people living from coffee growing at the same level as wine producers. This is already happening, but too slowly, so let’s keep pushing to convert the 400 billion cups of coffee consumed every year into specialty cups. We can achieve that  together as an industry and with coffee lovers to close that gap faster! 

How important is sustainability in coffee and what are some of the steps you take at Roasting Plant to be environmentally conscious?

Our philosophy at Roasting Plant is centered around providing our customers with the most exceptional coffee beans available, produced ethically and sustainably. We strive to ensure that the farms we source from prioritise the well-being of the environment and their workers, while also delivering a consistently high-quality taste. 

Our goal is for our customers to fully experience the passion and care that went into producing each bean and to visualise the unique landscape in which it originated.

As part of our commitment to sustainability, we’ve developed the Javabot Coffee System, an all-electric and zero-emission in-store roaster. This innovative technology significantly reduces the amount of CO2 emissions compared to traditional gas-fired roasting factories. 

Roasting Plant ships green coffee beans from the farm to their retail stores, eliminating the extensive transportation and packaging associated with centralised roasting utilised by the majority of larger coffee companies. With Javabot,we roast our beans on-site right in each cafe. It’s environmentally-friendly and also ensures the freshest possible just-roasted coffee for coffee lovers, which truly delivers on taste and quality.

 Have you seen a change in the way people drink coffee over the last 5 years? If so, what’s the difference and why do you think specialty coffee has become so popular?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people found themselves with more time at home, leading to an increase in awareness, knowledge, and passion for specialty coffee. This surge can be attributed to the efforts of coffee shops, enthusiasts creating podcasts and educational YouTube videos, and subscription services providing exposure to a diverse range of coffee origins, processing methods, and varieties. 

 As a result, consumers have access to a curated selection that allows them to fine-tune their palates and appreciate the nuances of specialty coffee. This is an exciting time for the industry, and it’s just the beginning. One of the exciting things coming is that we can expect to see incredible new technologies for roasting, brewing, and storing coffee in the near future.

 On that note, technological advancements aren’t just happening in the coffee shops but also at origin. Every time I visit coffee farms, I am amazed by the fast-paced technification happening in the field. 

 Chemists and food scientists are getting involved in coffee processing, working with farms to develop and control the outcome to cater to specific tastes that buyers are custom ordering directly from the farms. This is becoming the norm, whereas just a few years ago, it was very difficult. 

 Importers are modifying their models to facilitate these direct relationships between specialty roasters and farms, allowing for greater control over the quality and taste of the coffee.

Tell us about some of the farms you’ve visited and what makes a ‘good’ farm for the ultimate coffee bean.

 The key to a successful coffee farm starts with passion and fairness. The landowner must have a love for coffee growing, but coffee also needs to be profitable to support the high costs of production. 

 While commodity coffee C market levels may not be enough to cover these costs, it’s crucial for smallholder farmers to make a profit to support their families. Therefore, it’s essential to look for farms and coops that understand their cost of production to determine the right price level to sustain their activities.

 Another crucial factor is the terroir. The climate, sun exposure, and micro terroir all play a significant role in the coffee’s taste and quality. A healthy-looking farm with trees that show no deficiencies will produce healthy cherries, which is the start of producing high-quality coffee. The right varieties adapted to the land and resistant to diseases are also crucial in shaping the underlying taste of coffee.

 Proper farming practices which are sustainable are essential, with priority given to the environment and the workers. The cleanliness of the mill and drying area is critical, and the ability to store green coffee beans properly is equally important. In addition, it’s crucial to have a water treatment system on site for farms that use the fully washed method, as the high organic material content in the used water can harm aquatic life.

 To summarise, a good coffee farm that produces top-quality coffee will have sustainable farming practices, use the right varieties, adequate processing methods, and quality control systems. It’s also essential to be respectful of the environment and the people employed on the farm. 

 Some of the favourite farms include Finca La Joya in Antigua Guatemala, Clifton Mount in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Café Granja La Esperanza in Colombia, and Fazenda Via Boa in Campos das Vertentes, which achieved carbon neutrality and is certified by Grön.

If someone was on the hunt for the perfect coffee, what would you say are the aspects/characteristics to look out for?

I always recommend starting with freshly just-roasted coffee, within a week of roasting, for the fullest aromatic experience, the best flavour characteristics, and maximum smoothness! 

It’s largely about personal preference too – for consumers to choose the right coffee, they must first ask themselves about the structure they like – at Roasting Plant we break them down into the following three general categories:

From there, customers can narrow down based on flavour notes, whether they like their coffee to be more nutty, caramelly or chocolatey for example.

In store, customers can also mix up to four single origins to create their own personal just-roasted blend, so their coffee experience is exactly how they like it best.

How do you guys maintain such good quality coffee whilst having multiple stores over the world?

Roasting Plant invented a patented system called the Javabot Coffee System, which to me is the ultimate system to fully control quality and freshness. It delivers freshly roasted artisan quality coffee by the cup in less than a minute! 

 This incredible machine allows me to roast coffee in Roasting Plant cafes around the world with incredible precision, automatically adjusting to ambient conditions to reach the exact colour and taste I’ve prescribed! 

 This amazing specialty coffee is  micro-batch roasted so that every custom cup of coffee is just-roasted, fresh and full of flavour, tailored to each single origin from London to NYC to San Francisco!

 What’s your go-to coffee shop order?

I have a unique coffee preference that some might find amusing. I like my latte deconstructed with 1/3 whole milk and 2/3 oat milk, and I prefer to take my espresso separately and the steamed milk on the side. To add a touch of personality, I choose a different ceramic espresso cup every day based on my mood and style, which always brightens my day. 

When it comes to choosing the origin of my coffee, it often depends on my recent experiences and mood. If I recently visited Peru, for example, the memories of the friendships made while sorting the beans influence my decision and make each sip more enjoyable. Other times, I may choose coffee from Guatemala or Colombia. 

Choosing a favourite is difficult as flavour is only one aspect that makes coffee enjoyable. And that’s why the just-roasted process is so important! 


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