A Coffee With.. Will [Field Operative at Hasbean Coffee]
Let me set the scene for you. Two filters and one delightful espresso down, we are sat in two very comfy arm chairs in what I can only describe as the coolest office I have ever been in. A fully decked out coffee bar, beer fridge, table tennis and even a drum kit (although I was warned not to get Stephen going on it). Will is the field operative for London and the South at Hasbean and following our tour of the roastery we had the chance to find out a little more about him.
How did you get into coffee?
Originally didn’t like coffee. I met a girl who said she really liked coffee and so of course I said I loved it and we should go for a coffee (like the dumb 20 year old I was). I started on mochas and it went from there. Soon I wanted my own coffee machine but I didn’t know a lot about them so did a lot of reading online and became a little obsessed with the engineering behind it and so wanted to also build my own.
When I graduated uni I was out of work for a little while and couldn’t afford to buy a machine outright, so I ended up spending my fortnightly dole money on parts for a coffee machine. I am pretty sure that is what the money is for?!
At this period of time I was stuck in the paradox that is, you can’t have a job without experience and you can’t get the experience without a job. So I set up my own.
In 2013 I set up my own coffee shop. This is when I met Stephen and Dale who were really helpful in the process and now here I am.
Biggest lesson of running a shop.
I think the first thing was that I didn’t know how hard I could work. Up until the end of uni you think you are working hard, but you aren’t really. When I opened the shop I was working half 6 in the morning until 6 Monday to Saturday and spent Sunday doing the admin. It was a slight change in pace.
Secondly I found that running a coffee shop it is easy to try and please everyone. I did my best to stick to what I believed and found a solid group of regulars that bought into that idea. The risk when you do try and please everyone is that you end up with a mediocre product that isn’t really good for anyone.
I still think that the biggest thing for me is ‘be nice to people’. If you are nice to people things tend to work out in the end.
My parents are pretty ‘traditional’ (stubborn) what are your parent’s view on speciality coffee?
They grew up in a time when the coffee quality was non-existent let alone the idea of speciality coffee. That being said they have been very supportive since I started the shop. They came with me through the whole learning process about coffee, the industry and process as a whole. They make pourover at home and search for good coffee shops wherever they go.
Where do you think the industry is evolving?
I would like to say working with farmers more. Unfortunately, I feel a large amount of effort is going more towards development of brewing equipment and less focus on the support of farms. Its easy to see why, as for the majority, the things that are ‘bar end’ are much more controllable than what goes on half way round the world. I think the focus should be on (as it already is for many) on sourcing quality beans, building relationships with farms and paying more for good quality before developing gadgets.
I also think there is a lot to be said about water. I know Maxwell (Colonna) is doing a lot of good things in this side of the industry and I am excited for things to come. At the end of the day, most of your cup of coffee consists of water so it really is something we should care about more.
Also I hope the industry makes a move slightly away from the overly light roast that has become popular, particularly Scandinavian roasters. Not that I don’t think it has it’s place, but would prefer for coffee to be a little more developed.
Speciality coffee has come a long way, with Macdonalds even mocking speciality coffee. I know Stephen and Hasbean make a big effort in the educational side of the beans, what do you think still need to be done?
I think the main responsibility (still) lies with us as a roaster to pass on information to our customers, be it home users or coffee shops. One Thing Steve has done from the very beginning has provided abundant information about each region, farm and everyone involved. The Hasbean ethos has always been about transparency ‘from farm to cup’ and if that information is going to reach the person drinking it then its on us to pass that on.
I have spoken to people about the concern of farmer’s children being reluctant to take on the business, I have seen Hasbean are frequently visiting farms, how is it on the ground?
The concern is very real. It is very present in the South American countries where farmers not making enough money could make the jump from coffee to coca. While many remain below the poverty line growing coca, it still presents a chance to better support their families than other crops. But, this is being recognised and things are being done to try and reverse those effects.
Obviously, you are lucky to have a world barista champion within the company, how often is this mentioned on a daily basis?
When I found out he won I was really excited (and a little emotional), but I was surprised that there wasn’t more hype about it in this country. In Asia (where he is currently) it is a really big thing but things are a little different here. But, even though he was the world barista champion, he is still down to earth Dale who always offers a helping hand, still cleans the staff loos and is there if you need him.
Favourite brew method?
Kalita wave. We used it in the shop, it is super repeatable. I tend to just chuck the water in and let it do its thing. Although working here I do embrace the Chemex.
Favourite region of coffee?
Kenya, they are having an issue with leaf rust and diseases so prices are going up, but easily Kenyan.
Full Court Press, I learnt a lot working there and I still think it is doing things that a lot of customers don’t see. Testing water every week, testing the extraction of every coffee they make. Things that people don’t see.
What is next for Hasbean?
More delicious coffees, with the merger (with Ozone) it gives Stephen the chance to go source more coffees and strengthen the relationships we already have.
And more wholesale customers so I can keep my job.