We love our coffee.
You love our coffee (presumably, because you keep coming back!).
And we love Bristol-Based Extract Coffee Roasters because they supply us the coffee!
And, we love them because they stand for all the things that we believe in too: respect for the land, investing in our communities and quality products that are always striving to be even better.
So, we had a one to one with Dan Lacey to find out more about the thought, work and craft that goes into each cup of the stuff we love.
First, let me ask you… what does coffee mean to you?
It might be a morning ritual – an anchor that sets everything in motion for the rest of the day. Or it could be the taste and memory of the first date you ever had with the now mother of your children. It could be a midday coffee, marking a well-wasted day of a hangover, forging the friendships of a lifetime. It could also mean the difference between a pass and a fail when you submit that essay 1.5 minutes before your midnight deadline.
Coffee isn’t just a commodity. It’s interwoven into our everyday lives and the things that matter to us. So, where it comes from and how it’s made matters to us, very much.
We know that organic matters. That’s why we source all of our ingredients organically wherever possible. But, we also know that an organic certification isn’t the be-all and end-all.
It’s about respecting the land. Extract Coffee Roasters is deeply engaged in building and sustaining relationships with their farmers. This means visiting the farms and seeing just how much love and care goes into enriching the local eco-system, keeping the soil happy and producing top quality beans.
These farmers see themselves as custodians of the land. It’s not about working the soil for every ounce of coffee it can produce… but working in relationship with it. Just like relationships between people, this involves respect, and caring for its needs because it’s important to us.
Some of these farms may not have organic certifications. Largely, because the entrance and auditing costs to be part of organic certification is high. But, what’s clear is that the same permaculture principles are still embedded in their practice: on-site composting and wormeries, using permaculture and natural deterrents instead of chemical pesticides and maintaining astute awareness of the wider eco-system of which the farm is part. Ultimately, this consciousness underpins the high quality of the beans produced.
Organic certifications are important. In the ethical minefield that is the supermarket, it makes it possible for consumers to select products that align with their values. But we want you to know that there’s a bigger story here, and we want to support our true custodians, regardless of whether or not they can stamp their products with that logo.
As well as nurturing the soil, it’s also about valuing and empowering people. Whatever coffee means to you, we believe it’s a powerful medium for community. Indeed, being a part of the Stroud community is a key reason we open our doors each morning!
Extract Coffee Roasters are in a unique position in that they are in direct contact with farmers, cooperatives, retailers and consumers; they don’t take this position lightly. At every stage, they are a deeply engaged in connecting these dots to make sure that we not only get quality beans, but that we are a part of a bigger community that matters.
A key player in the coffee supply chain is the cooperatives, such as the Peruvian Sol and Café. They collect, sort and mill the coffee beans before they get to Bristol for roasting. It looks something like this:
Cooperatives are fuelled by multiple (1000+) small farms of about 300 trees each, who often also grow other crops and produce. This means that the soil in which the coffee is grown is rich in bio-diversity, which when managed properly can create an eco-system that symbiotically works to serve the coffee, the crops and the surrounding wild-life.
In return, cooperatives are able to provide these small businesses with tools, educational programmes, resources and opportunities for collaboration. For example, Sol and Café give each one of their farmers a pulper (when the red fruit is picked, it needs to be ‘pulped’ - the soft outer skin removed to avoid uncontrolled rot during the succeeding fermentation process).
Through the cooperatives, farmers are also able to share ideas for tackling shared challenges, such as scaling their businesses without compromising on soil quality and best practice. Cooperatives like Sol and Café also have a dedicated agronomist serving each of the farmers (to me and you, that’s someone who reviews new research findings and advises farmers on how to implement these developments to solve agricultural problems such as plant diseases and eco-system imbalances). This means that small businesses can have access to the latest developments that would otherwise only be available to large agricultural corporations.
Additionally, Extract Coffee Roasters select only about 50 smallholders who are producing beans of exceptional quality, and pay a premium to the farm - a fair trade for the highest possible coffee quality!
THE GREEN THING
When I asked Dan about what steps they have taken to minimise their carbon footprint, he reeled off a seemingly endless and impressive list of things that leaves no need for literary embellishment, so here it is:
- Their coffee roasters take the term ‘up-cycled’ to a whole new level. ‘Betty’, a 60kg Probat roaster was born in 1955 and has been restored to full operation, many times. This means that a hunk of machinery destined for scrap has been given a new lease of life, mitigating a big chunk of waste. As well, it’s been restored so that it’s just as, if not more, energy efficient than any new kit! There’s also Bertha, Barry and James… all vintage, all beautiful, all energy-efficient.
- Extract Coffee Roasters is home to the first thermal oxidiser in the coffee industry! SCIENCE BOMB (why does this always happen in these blogs?): it destroys volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) which are by-products of the roasting process. Essentially, it removes pollutants from the air, which means less pollution for Bristol. Very polite neighbours, indeed!
- Grain Pro Lining – Extract Coffee pays a premium to transport their coffee beans in these linings to minimise all waste. A sack of coffee beans weighs in at 50-70kgs, by no means a negligible waste.
- 90% of the energy used in roasting is green energy.
- The whole roastery is lit with LED fixtures (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful!) They are in the process of converting their vehicles to hybrid/electric engines, and they have a charging station on site.
- Coffee ground waste goes directly to Bristol-based Bio Bee (GenEco). It’s a truck, that collects food waste, which it uses to run the truck. And to produce sustainable energy for homes. Pretty cool, eh?
Just 3 months of recycling our waste with Bio Bee is equivalent to taking a car off the road for 6 months. So, 1 year of recycling = 2 years of not using your car. Also in 3 months, enough energy was generated through waste to poach 24,000 eggs! That’s many many Sunday Brunches for you Stroud lot!
- They have a new training facility in Sustainable Bankside, London, which they BUILT out of recycled and reclaimed materials. This is all part of fostering a community by making artisanal coffee accessible to all. It isn’t posh. It’s just delicious, and everyone deserves to know about it. I’m at 1,147 words, so I’ll tell you about this another time… (Thank you for reading this far, by the way!)
So there we have it. Where your coffee comes from, and just some of the reasons we love Extract Coffee Roasters. Coffee made with love, every step of the way to your morning cup. Enjoy!