Name and Occupation
David Beattie – Founder of Rounton Coffee
These days, my time is spent working more with people, projects and driving the business forward.
How did you get into coffee?
I’ve always enjoyed coffee but would only ever drink instant – I simply didn’t know any better. I would buy an occasional bag of ground coffee from the supermarket and think that I was being posh! Whilst supermarket coffee was better, it never really ignited anything in me, so there I was stuck… in a kind of coffee limbo.
It was only really when I quit my job to travel did things change for me. I got a train from my hometown of Middlesbrough and travelled across Europe, Russia and Asia. It was Sumatra that I will remember as being the place that had the biggest impact on me, and in turn, set me off on my coffee career.
I saw coffee being roasted, on a simple tabletop roaster. Watching that drum turn, with the coffee sloshing around, and the aromas that came from it as they first cracked, I just couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen anything like this before. Batch after batch, I sat and watched, transfixed… It was at this point that I decided that I had a role to play in coffee – I just didn’t know then what it was going to be.
Once I was able to drag myself away from the roaster, I was recommended to go visit a local coffee farm where I ended up staying for a few days. It was here that I was able to see the sharp end of the coffee trade. It was the most important element of the coffee supply chain yet at the same time, it was the most vulnerable.
I wanted to try and change things in the limited capacity that I had, and this is where the whole idea of Rounton Coffee came along.
What is it that you like about coffee specifically?
Ok, so firstly, of course, I like the coffee, I love how coffees can taste and I love the complexities of flavour, so let’s just get that out there…
However, what I really find fascinating, and what I really love, is the coffee production process. I’ve worked in the chemical and industrial gasses industry for most of my adult working life and it is just one big well-understood process. For example, you take feedstock A, you then mix it with B, react it over X it to make C, and then distil it to make D, E and F (sort of)…
Coffee is no different – it is a process, but just covers much more distance, passes through so many more hands, impacts so many more people, and creates a much more desired product.
Coffee processes completely affect how that coffee in your cup tastes, factors such as altitude, climate, humidity, coffee varietal, compost, soil, how ripe the coffee was when picked, how and where it was dried (and for how long), how was it sorted. Then, how it is stored, transported, roasted, then to the barista who has the final say… This is just a quick summary! There are so many other things not mentioned here that need to be controlled.
So, getting to understand this process, learning more and more, being able to improve what we do, being able to drink beautiful coffees, being able to contribute and focus on quality sustainably and to have total enjoyment whilst we do it… What is there not to love?
What is your favourite coffee origin, and why?
It’s got to be somewhere in Africa, so let’s narrow it down from there. Coffees from Africa are arguably the most complex the world has to offer. Let’s narrow it down to Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Kenyan coffees are remarkable and so distinguishable for their acidity, and their complexity in the cup. However, the Rwandan washed coffees for me produce a clean, balanced and fruity complex coffee. But thinking about it, it’s the Ethiopian washed coffees that steal the show for me, with such a superior depth of flavour, and complexities in the cup; Ethiopia is simply in a league of its own.
Washed or Natural, and why?
My opinion on this has changed over time, and this is simply because I understand what I want as a coffee much more than I have before.
When my journey into coffee began some years ago, I was blown away by natural coffees, I had never tasted anything like this before and was surprised that a coffee could produce such funky flavours, blueberry, tangerine, strawberry ice-cream. This was a revelation to me, so I only looked for the funkiest natural coffees.
Over time though, my palette has changed somewhat, I no longer go for those funky flavours, and instead prefer washed coffees from high altitude coffees farms where the climate has much more of an impact on the bean.
Coffees grown at high altitude are subjected to much more severe weather swings, and consequently, the beans become much denser. This density gives the bean a much more complex range of flavours that seem to improve as they cool. These coffees for me are those that I look for.
How do you drink yours?
Ok, so my answer is never simple, as I prefer different drinks for different times, as different times call for different drinks. So then the question takes a turn, as the question morphs into, what is your preference i.e. what is your favourite part of the day to drink coffee… So then it also becomes a question about time, as my favourite part of the day is the part where I seemingly have some!
Hopefully you still follow!
The question then reads to me: what’s your favourite time of day/brew method, when I have the most amount of time to enjoy the beverage that I prepare…
Is it you, or is it me? Am I overcomplicating things here? This is not like me…
So then my favourite drink is one that I have in my own time at home, with my family and friends around me or on a chilled-out Sunday morning. Those mornings when all you want is a coffee accompanied by a good newspaper (that never gets read), something that is going to help kickstart your day.
For me, the Mokka pot is that drink that I love to prepare each morning I am able, as I love the tradition, I love the mechanics of it all, and I love the smooth, creamy and rich “espresso” that it produces. I often top up with a little water and a dash of milk – don’t mind if I do.
Out and about, I really enjoy the Aeropress when I am camping, the convenience of the bulk brew where I can get it, and a flat white please to take out.
Basically… I like ’em all, just different coffees at different times of the day…
Was that a politicians answer?
What is your proudest achievement in coffee?
I rarely look back, and if I did, I don’t suppose I would say that there is any singular thing that I could identify that I have done as an individual which I could attribute to myself that would represent an achievement in coffee. I think collectively, as a team of coffee enthusiasts, all wanting to do the right thing for everybody in this supply chain, then we have come so far. I am happy because of the people that are around me – the people who live and breathe coffee as I do. I am especially happy because each of our team of skilled individuals is motivated for all the same reasons that motive myself.
I suppose then that I can be proud that I had a part in bringing this team together however, I only propagated the coffee plant, now the plant has a life of its own!
If you were not working in coffee, what would you be doing?
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my time now. Coffee really does consume you as much as you consume it. Once you’re in coffee, you are never getting out! That being said… if I hadn’t have happened upon coffee, then the natural answer would be that I would have been doing what I was doing before I started, working in the Gas Industry in some way shape or form… but when I resigned from this to travel, I think ultimately it was because I wanted to create something myself rather than work hard for somebody else, where I just felt empty and unfulfilled.
I would certainly have created my own business still, with the same principles we operate in today with Rounton Coffee, but perhaps it may have been chocolate, gin or beer.. a few of the wonderful things that have come to life recently.
If you could change one thing in the coffee industry, what would that be?
I would make dialling in a grinder part of the national curriculum.
What do you do away from coffee?
There is a life outside of coffee?
I have a beautiful family that I love spending time with, my son is growing so fast and I don’t want to miss any of it, he is such a legend! Other than that, then, of course, travel is top of the list, along with football and trying to keep fit!