Q&A Session 1: Karen from U Roast It
In the first of our new Q&A Sessions with coffee folk in Vancouver, we chat to Karen, the founder of U-Roast-It-Coffee, a new Vancouver startup specialising in importing green coffee beans for home roasting, as well as all manner of brewing and roasting equipment. We caught up with Karen at 33 Acres Brewing for a 10 question session (and many beer waffles).
1) Who are you and where are you from?
I was born in Jamaica and came to Canada when I was 7. Coffee is part of my family history as my Grandfather, Keble Munn, was the owner of Mavis Bank Central Factory, a highly regarded producer of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. I grew up around the factory and the processing of coffee, from the farmers picking the beans to the final roasted product. It’s something you don’t appreciate as a kid but it’s something that I definitely appreciate now!
2) Tell us about U-Roast-It Coffee, what is your company all about?
I started U-Roast-It Coffee in April of this year because there was a need to have high quality, green coffee beans available for the do-it-yourself home roaster. Most people I spoke to were getting their beans from U.S. sources which adds greatly to the cost of the beans. I deliver for free in the Lower Mainland so the savings start there.
My motto is “Starting a Home Roasting Revolution, One Bean At A Time.” My reason for doing this is to bring home roasting to the masses and to show people (who currently drink a lot of coffee but don’t realize that you can roast at home) that it can be quick and easy to do. It doesn’t have to be a mysterious process that only coffee shops do… everyone can roast beans that taste great!
I also sell home roasters, brewers and reusable cups in addition to the green beans, for a complete experience.
3) How easy is it to get into home roasting?
You can start off very inexpensively (air popcorn popper) and work yourself up to a nice roasting machine (Behmor) if you really get in to it.
Home roasting is even easier now because there is a developer and designer, Ben McMahen who lives in Vancouver that developed a Home Roasting App called “Roast Buddy.” It’s a FREE app that’s available in the App Store or in Google Play and it helps the home roaster record stats and data from their roasts. It has a lot of great information that is useful for anyone starting to home roast.
4) What was your first home roast like?
It was actually a disaster because I didn’t know what I was doing at all! I used a stovetop popcorn popper and ended up roasting it too quickly at too high a temperature. Not only were the beans charred but my kitchen was FULL of smoke and the whole house smelled like burnt beans. Since then, I have been using the Nesco Professional Home Roaster and now a Behmor. These are way easier to use and the beans have been perfectly roasted since!
5) What new/upcoming product or coffee bean do you think people should know about?
There are many different countries and regions to get the beans from and I think the big thing now is to get the beans from small plantations. Discerning places like Vancouver like micro roasters and micro farmers and would rather support the little guy than the mass companies. It seems as though the more obscure the place the beans come from, the better!
Reusable coffee cups are the latest trend in coffee hardware. We are all wising up to the fact that most “to go” coffee cups from the cafes aren’t easily recyclable because of the lining. Consumers are demanding more from companies in terms of recycling and in return, the companies have responded. Stojo and KeepCup come to mind as two leaders in the reusable cup industry.
6) What’s your favorite coffee shop right now?
I actually don’t have a favourite. If they do pour over, that makes me happy!
7) Tell us about a cup of coffee you’ve had that blew your mind.
Honestly, I had a Guatemalan pour over at Astro Coffee in an area in Detroit know as Corktown and it blew my mind! It was the smoothest cup of coffee I ever had, hands down. The only downside was that the cup was too small and I couldn’t order a large!
8) If you could only have one coffee type for the rest of your life what would it be?
It would be Ethiopian! I love the taste of these beans. Jamaica Blue Mountain is great but my pocketbook wouldn’t allow for that to be the only coffee I drink for the rest of my life!
9) What is your favorite sweet snack to eat with coffee?
I love to eat Crunchy Sesame Snaps and handfuls of homemade granola with my coffee!
10) If you could pick one person dead or alive, real or fictional, to have coffee with, who would it be and why?
I would have to say, it would be my grandfather, Keble Munn. I didn’t appreciate his experiences and knowledge growing up and now I wish he was around so I could hear his stories and take his advice. He had so much knowledge being around coffee all of his life and I wish he could have imparted it on me. He cupped coffee and knew all about it’s flavours and nuances so sitting down with him for a cup of Blue Mountain would have been fantastic.