Rounton Coffee: how the North Yorkshire firm is making a difference around the world

Coffee is big business, but a North Yorkshire company is working with farmers around the world to make a difference from scratch, writes Hannah Chapman.

The town of East Rounton is, at first sight, a quiet place, typical of the plains between Northallerton and Stokesley. He is perhaps best known for his ties to the Bell family, his most famous daughter being Gertrude Bell, the extraordinary writer, photographer, mountain climber, archaeologist, and linguist who helped found modern Iraq.

However, the days when the town welcomed enthusiastic travelers are not just a thing of the past, as for nearly ten years it has been home to Rounton Coffee Roasters, whose experts travel to every corner of Central and South America, Africa and the Far East for their beans.

Founder David Beattie established the roastery in 2013, in buildings belonging to the Bell estate, after leaving his engineering job on Teesside and travelling, befriending a group of coffee farmers in the Sumatran jungle.

Upon his return, Rounton Coffee began producing small-batch, roast-to-order specialty coffee for retail and commercial suppliers. He also sold his produce at farmers’ markets, and since customers and cafes were so interested in what he was doing, the company began inviting them to their barn headquarters to sample the different coffees and see how they were roasted.

Nine years later, the company now supplies its coffees to 200 outlets, sells direct to customers and has coffee shops in Middlesbrough and Norton, Stockton. It also has a shelf full of regional and national awards for the quality of its products.

David Burton, right, and David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

David Burton, right, and David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

The company is committed to working directly with farmers to ensure they benefit from their trade and has developed close links with a number of projects focused on sustainability and quality of life for farmers.

One of their suppliers is Agri Evolve Ltd, doing business as Rwenzori Coffee Co, based in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains in far western Uganda. Agri Evolve is a social enterprise that works with farmers in Uganda to achieve higher yields and better quality crops, so that farmers improve their productivity and increase income and profitability.

Coffee is the main cash crop in the area, and most people use the income to pay school fees, but the region has poor infrastructure, limited water supply and low tree cover.

Rounton Coffee pays a premium for every kilo of coffee purchased in support of Agri Evolve’s project to plant five million trees with its farmers by 2030, providing shade to improve the quality of the coffee produced, preventing soil erosion and sequestering crucial carbon. in the fight against climate change.

See also  NVIDIA-Powered Cartken Robots Begin Delivering Coffee and Food

Inside the roastery at Rounton Coffee

Inside the roastery at Rounton Coffee

The plan is already paying off: in the last five years, the quality of Rwenzoris coffee has improved considerably and farmers are receiving more than double what they used to receive for their coffee.

Back in Middlesbrough, a chance conversation with a Teesside University student whose parents run the Rwamatamu coffee washing station in Kibuye, in Rwanda’s western province, has led to another connection. The company sells green coffee directly to roasters, including Rounton, and is working to educate Rwandan farmers and launch a women’s cooperative.

This direct relationship with the people on the ground is key to Rounton Coffee, as its head coffee, David Burton, explains. “We enjoy what we do, we want to make a positive impact, and we want to have a little fun along the way,” he says. “Relationships are the most important thing to us in what we’re trying to accomplish.”

According to the British Coffee Association, approximately 98 million cups of coffee are drunk in the UK every day, with 210,000 jobs depending on the industry. In such a crowded market, and as people tighten their household budgets, will it be the mass-produced commercial brands that will benefit?

“We don’t hate big chains,” says David. “They have paved the way for the mass adoption of coffee. Now it’s about changing the mindset of consumers to demand more.”

In terms of coffee experts, David is among the best, having obtained the Q Arabica Grader accreditation from the Coffee Quality Institute in 2018, a process that involved 19 different evaluations.

He says ethics are crucial, and the company spends a lot of time visiting the farms and washing stations it deals with to make sure they’re doing business the right way. “We are a small piece in the puzzle that is trying to reduce the supply chain,” he adds.

The Tasting Table set up and ready to go at Rounton Coffee

The Tasting Table set up and ready to go at Rounton Coffee

ROUNTON also invites baristas to make sure they have the right skills to get the best possible flavor from products, as well as offering coffee tasting sessions, and I was lucky enough to get the full experience. I took my place out early, as he had always been a tea drinker, and warned David not to expect great things from my unrefined palette. I’ve always found coffee intimidating (like how do people know to order a pumpkin spice frappuccino), but it’s about time I got over my insecurities.

See also  This is why so many people visit the famous Pigeon Forge

We started with a couple of plain brews, one filtered, and I was surprised to be able to tell the difference between the smooth and slightly grittier textures of the two. Maybe my taste buds aren’t as basic as I always assumed.

After a tour of the roastery and its wonderful old farm buildings, we returned to the tasting table, with the first stage smelling the different aromas of the beans, specifically chosen to provide a wide range of options from countries such as Burundi and Uganda. . After they were ground and boiled water added (ideally coffee should be served at around 60C), it was time for another round of smells, with aromas ranging from citrus to earthy, to a couple who had the air silage badge. Having shown up displaying my tea drinker credentials, it felt very rude to describe specialty coffee as something that smelled like what my dad feeds his cattle, but as David explained, there’s an element of fermentation to processing that guy in particular, the embarrassment soon disappeared. . The next step was tasting time, with a method that requires all table manners to be left at the door, as sipping drinks from spoons provides the maximum opportunity for the full flavor experience.

The silage did taste like I imagine silage would, so it wouldn’t be my cup of choice, but the other lighter coffees ranged from some mild chocolate flavors to lighter lemon flavors and others that were distinctly tea flavored. . -how to feel My favorite was Cuzcachapa, a Salvadoran coffee that had a subtle hazelnut and nutty flavor. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

For a complete beginner, there was a lot of information to take in, but I walked out with the confidence to order a coffee at a coffee shop. Of the seven I’ve had so far, I’ve enjoyed five of them, a good hit rate. My coffee journey will continue, but the main lesson of the day, for someone who normally eats and drinks at my desk, while watching TV or looking at my phone, is how much better things can taste when you stop and focus. in that alone. Whether it’s a specialty coffee from the finest beans money can buy, a nice cup of tea, or just your morning porridge, maybe giving your taste buds your full attention really is the way to go.

Leave a Comment