2013. This was the year when my wife Cecilia and I made the crazy decision to get into the world of speciality coffee. The choice was not an obvious one, with us both having had successful careers as horticultural scientists, working in the field of post-harvest fresh fruit technology. In the lead up to this life altering change of profession we had made the decision to both quit our jobs, sell our Auckland home and move to Peru (Cecilia's birth country) in search for something different. We had in mind setting up an orchard where we could apply our expertise but were given the opportunity to attend an introductory course on understanding specialty coffee.
I had always liked coffee and thought this would be a fantastic way to get to drink plenty and maybe learn something along the way.
The course opened our eyes to the world of specialty coffee, its flavours, aromas and complexity.
I had always been a flat white type coffee drinker with an aversion to black coffee as my experience of black coffee was limited to drinking black instant coffee during my tramping trips. Drinking black instant was a wholly unpleasant experience which I had considered a necessary evil to enable me to function in the morning after a typically epic tramping day. So back at the course when the instructor informed us we would be tasting black coffees of various profiles I wasn't impressed. However, I can still remember vividly the first black specialty coffee I drank at that course. It blew me away. It had a bright fruitiness to it with zingy acidity and was sweet and light and nothing like black instant.
I never knew black coffee could taste like this!
After that first day of the course Cecilia and myself were both buzzing (too much caffeine?) and came to the conclusion that this specialty coffee deal would be worth investigating as an option for our future business direction.
The rest, or so they say, is history.
We spent the next year up-skilling ourselves in the areas of specialty coffee production, evaluation (coffee cupping), roasting and blending. We made connections with a small group of specialty coffee growers in the north of Peru (who grew the coffee we tasted during that first coffee course) and using our science background started developing systems for the harvest, processing, transport and roasting to ensure the unique flavours and aromas were maximised in the cup.
From there we moved back to NZ and set up Three Llamas Gourmet Coffee. Six years on we have continued to strengthen our bonds with our Peru, showcasing our grower's Specialty Peruvian coffee with innovative single origin blends roasted right here in Woodend, North Canterbury.
Author: Richard Jackman