For the first time, coffee is being commercially roasted in Cornwall. In an area where so many players in the hospitality industry are fiercely proud of showing that they can source all menu items from within their own county, this is a very significant move.
The company which has taken the bold step is Origin Coffee, from Constantine, a tiny village near Falmouth. The company has already made its name in supplying many of the region’s best-known restaurants, such as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Watergate bay, and many of the area’s best-known baristas – the 2008 British champion, Hugo Hercod of the Relish Deli in Wadebridge, used an Origin blend in his winning campaign.
Origin has now invested in its own small roastery and has begun to create speciality and gourmet coffees on what is known as the ‘seasonal’ basis. In the ‘seasonal’ theory, a roaster will actively seek out the best current crops from anywhere in the world at any time – if it is a rare coffee, it may only be available to caterers for a month or two, but that allows hoteliers and restaurateurs to promote it as a high-priced ‘special’.
“I always wanted to roast coffee in Cornwall,” says Origin’s managing director Tom Sobey. “Our better customers in the county are driving us forward on this. They don’t necessarily drive us to find any particular coffee, but they do trust us enough to come to us and say ‘I want something great… and I expect Origin to find it for me!’
“Seasonal coffees are very good for us because they force us to re-evaluate, keep looking, and keep coming up with something new.”
Origin’s own seasonal brand is In Season, described as ‘a malleable, seasonal blend of coffee for hardened drinkers’.
“The coffee in the bag will rotate to make sure we get the best of what’s in season,” explains Sobey. “When we find something in season that complements the make-up of the blend, it makes it into the bag and something out of season may be substituted until next year’s harvest.
“We are really excited about the evolving nature of the espresso – new coffees and changing seasons will introduce different and interesting flavours to the blend. Although coffee in the bags will change, the flavour in the cup will be consistent, and there will always be buttery, sweet flavours with a touch of fruit, an espresso which will be characterised by big, creamy body.”
Development of restaurant quality in the south-west is a pet project for Origin.
“Everybody says that restaurant coffee in general is no good. That’s not quite right – we work with a lot of restaurants, and I think it’s a big achievement for a company as small as ours to supply coffee used by something like four of the top ten in the last UK barista championships. We are already making great coffee available to restaurants.
“What I would like to do for the Cornwall Food and Drink Festival (Truro, 25-27 September) is to provide the Magnificent Seven, the seven leading chefs in Cornwall, with some very special coffees. I do believe that a key to the progress of speciality coffee is getting the attention of the chefs – if the coffee is on a chef’s menu, he’s putting his name to it, so he has to take an interest.
“To get chefs excited about coffee may be the first big step in the development of gourmet coffee in the UK.”.
By Ian Boughton