Roasting Plant are a unique team of roasters with an equally unique claim to fame: they are the only coffee retailer to roast in every store. This particular badge of honour comes about in part thanks to the innovation of founder Mike Caswell and his inventions, so we spoke to him about his work and the story of Roasting Plant.
How did you get started in the coffee business?
Caswell started working for Coffee Connection when he was just out of college. After an early career in engineering and management consultancy, he was recruited into Starbucks after they bought CC on the basis of his experience in coffee and at CC in particular.
What sparked your interest in coffee roasting?
Understanding the value of fresh.
What is the very first cup of coffee you ever remember drinking?
Mike remembers a Kenya AA drip coffee from the Coffee Connection in Boston MA, a very early 3rd wave business “way ahead of the 3rd wave” which was eventually bought by Starbucks. He worked for them as a shift supervisor.
It made origin coffee really mean something to me.
What does your roasting set up look like and how has it changed over the years?
Initially purchasing a Sivitz roaster that was used in their first NYC store, Roasting Plant went about doing their research and discovering what they were looking from in a roaster, which led them to develop their own tech; what would become the V1. Javabot.
What is your favourite brewing method and do you drink a lot of coffee at home?
Mike extols the virtues of the very automated coffee machines because of the flexibility and variety that can be achieved with them.
…and yes, I drink a lot at home (4 ish cups a day). First thing I do every day!
Which coffee origin is your favourite and why?
Ethiopian Harrar because I am a sucker for the strong blueberry flavours.
What roaster do you use, where do you roast, how often?
Roasting Plant use their own patented system, Javabot, which is a fluid bed roaster using heated air over ceramics, giving an incredibly even roast. They roast every day, in every store, in micro-batches so that they can get the freshest cup out to their customers.
Is there a story behind your roaster’s name?
Javabot was developed in my garage in South Florida, where I used my grandmas old Electrolux hoover to play around with how to move beans using air and tubes.
What is your favourite aspect of roasting coffee?
How great just-roasted coffee smells!
What distinguishes your approach to sourcing and roasting coffee from other roasters?
Roasting Plant’s Coffee Master, Genvieve Kappler, is the mastermind behind their sourcing. She has an amazing palette, having been a sommelier in a previous life, meaning she is able to pick out distinct flavour profiles when cupping with farmers at-origin.
She travels the world to find the best micro-lots and ensure that the farms they are using have a great, sustainable message or a community value that they relate to.
The two origins Roasting Plant supply to Blue Coffee Box are both women’s cooperatives that give back to their community and we think this is a great chance to support something wonderful.
What gear or gadget is at the top of your coffee wish list?
I wish that we had a Javabot teeny – essentially a home version of Javabot where you could roast 125g at a time and choose whatever bean you wanted!
Do you have a favourite coffee mug? If so, tell us about it.
Mike’s favourite is the traditional American diner mug; heavy porcelain mugs; thick rimmed and feel good in the hand.
Have you read any great books about coffee roasting?
The SCA coffee freshness handbook is a good seminal read, the Swiss scientists really get into the whys around the great taste of fresh roasted coffee.
Tell us a little about your cafés?
Roasting Plant have 2 cafés in London, with a 3rd opening at the end of July 2021, as well as 5 in the US.
What does the future look like for you? Where do you see your company at in the future?
Caswell and his team are excited to be opening a 3rd store in Selfridge’s food hall at the end of July, and shop 4 & 5 before the end of 2021 in the UK.
Our future is all about becoming the world’s first choice in just-roasted coffee, and we plan to scale across the UK, US and beyond!
What advice would you give new roasters who are just starting out their careers in coffee?
Don’t be closed off to new information about coffee, things are changing, and technology is allowing us to bring amazing specialty origins to the masses, quicker than ever before, as close to the roasting as possible.
What is your favourite thing to do when you are not roasting coffee?
Mike likes to ride his bicycle, go skiing and hiking “and I can do all of it because the automation of Javabot means that I don’t have to watch the roast process, it does it all for me! It pays closer attention than I can!”
When traveling, do you visit other coffee shops and hassle them about their methods or do you relax and take it all in?
I relax and take it all in.