A Coffee With.. Ross [Campbell and Syme]
Perched in the Laptop area of Campbell and Syme’s North London café, I got a chance to catch up with Ross (arguably the nicest person in coffee). I first met Ross when I exhibited at the South West coffee festival in 2017. We worked with C&S at Cup North and then got chatting over a beer in Birmingham earlier this year. So here are the more coffee things we hadn’t covered when in the brewery.
How did you get into coffee?
By walking into a new coffee shop in Watford (my home town). I always drank black coffee but had my first cup of this (what turned out to be hasbean) filter, I was encapsulated. From becoming a regular on my way to work, I ended up as a barista. The following a short sabbatical as an electrician have ended up here at Campbell and Syme. I have been involved here for the last 4 years and love it.
I love the ethos when Joe started, trying to provide great speciality coffee in a comfortable environment, how do you ensure this no-ego coffee is continued?
Hard work, commitment and passion. For us hospitality and good customer service is imperative, even if we weren’t serving coffee. In terms of the no-ego coffee, this derives from wanting to give the best customer experience for all our customers wholesale and in the shop. All whilst maintaining a great standard of quality of coffee.
You have quite a few tattoos, I have a couple, when are we getting matching? Have you got any coffee related ones?
I have one on my thigh, which isn’t finished just yet. It was started by an Italian guy who has now left the UK and I haven’t heard from him. Definitely up for getting more though, maybe matching.
Where do you think the industry is evolving?
I guess I have 3 answers to this:
1st point would be that the big companies just takeover. Smaller roasters either get bought out or just fail.
2nd point would be saturation of the market. There is a concern that there is a lot of roasters at the moment and perhaps no space for micro roasters.
3rd point would be that the industry stays much the same. Small roasters are able to flourish as specialty coffee becomes more prevalent. While larger companies still have their place within the market.
The other thing to note that the above is just based on the UK. We have to understand that things could change at origin with farmers not willing to farm coffee as there are more profitable revenue streams. Climate change could increase or decrease the coffee belt. We just don’t know what will happen internationally. One thing for sure is that the farming side of the industry has it a lot harder than us.
Obviously, you are the latte art master. I have seen you compete in some pretty serious throw-downs since knowing you! When are you opening your latte art school?
You joke, but this is something that we are looking into at the moment actually. We are going to start running some classes here. It is a lot of fun. I am by no means the only one here at C&S that is in the latte art game, Ben and Antonio are also pretty good. The nice thing about latte art is that nice looking milk has zero effect on the way the coffee tastes, just a bit of fun.
We currently offer home brewing courses (link to home brew course) and home barista (link to site) but we will be offering latte art training soon so keep your eyes peeled.
Best coffee you have ever tasted?
I am always chasing that first coffee experience, because it was so much better than other coffees I have tasted. Hard to say really though as I get to drink great coffee all the time, it was that first cup that blew my mind.
I guess if pushed, I tried a Peruvian for espresso which I really enjoyed. This actually resulted in me slightly adapting our roasting profile.
For Cupping it was when I was at origin in Nicaragua – there was a really high scoring cupping and I just remember thinking it was amazing.
There was the Sitio that we are on out last run at the moment. That blew all our minds. A Brazilian that tastes like a Kenyan.
Favourite brew method?
Always going to be the V60. The cleaness of the cup, and I think the routine of it. The ritual of getting up on my days off, brewing a v60 and watching sky sports news, one of my favourite things.
Favourite region of coffee?
Ethiopian Sidamo, the clarity, acidity is always great and complexity is really good.
Fred and Ginger, they serve our beans but they are my local and their customer service is amazing.
Second to that was a café I visited just the once in Klaipeda, Lithuania called Kavos Architektai (Coffee architect). It was just such a lovely place where the staff were really friendly. It is a shame I haven’t been back.
What is next for Campbell & Syme?
Growth, keep growing and keep maintaining good relationships and organic. We want to push on with education. We want to help build careers, and train people from whatever level they start. I like to think I am living proof that you can have a career in coffee, and we want to help other people achieve that!