To kick off 2021, our Roaster in Residence this January is Common Ground out of Dunedin. They’re a humble bunch with subtle, low-key vibes, preferring to champion real people and let their coffee do the talking for them.
Their coffee is definitely something worth talking about too. They focus on small batch roasting so that they can make sure that they give time and energy to support their customers and to allow them to take care while creating amazing specialty coffee for us to enjoy.
We caught up with Nick and Logan from the roastery to find out more.
What espresso coffee will we be drinking this month?
We’re featuring a honey processed Colombian produced by Luis Anibal Calderon. Honeys are a favourite of ours as we find their flavour profiles to be a good bridge between specialty and everyday coffee drinkers.
What are the tasting notes?
dark berry, prune, cocoa and caramel
What’s the recommended espresso recipe?
19g in, 45g out in 27secs
How did you guys get started roasting?
I set up Common Ground to supply my own cafes as they were getting pretty high in volumes.
Pete Sefo who had worked with me for a few years came in and essentially trained himself to roast in a warehouse I had. Over the last few years the volumes have grown organically, we just kept our heads down and focused on trying to do a damn good job and other café owners started hitting us up for supply. This has become our ideology in the roastery, we don’t do sales or print t-shirts or run marketing or have signage. We focus on quality and service and having smiles on our faces.
The name Common Ground was thought of by people spending time with a great man, not long before he sadly left us. It is nothing tricky, it’s a reference to wanting to work with people who share our values.
Tell us about Coffee for Kindness.
I strongly believe that if you are a profitable business within a community you should give back to that community, so Coffee for Kindness is one of our community gig’s.
Coffee is sold through primary schools with 30% of the sales going directly to the school (this both helps the school and encourages them to push the project) and 70% to a local charity. We donate all of the coffee and time so every dollar spent by parents on the coffee rolls through. Each school produces many thousands annually.
What is damn cool is that the senior class, as part of their curriculum, research and decide the charity to receive the money at the end of the school year. This, I hope, opens some insight to young minds about charities around them and the basic awareness of sharing and caring.
We ran this for the first time last year and will grow the schools this year.
What’s the Dunedin coffee scene like?
On of the unique things about the coffee world in Dunedin is that it is dominated by owner operators. Through this, as a visitor or frequenter of a local café you get a heightened experience of the really good elements of café hospitality… engagement, culture, care and quality.
Some of the greatest cafes in this city are produced on pretty small build budgets… the energy goes into the process and into the product. This I admire.
Where’s a cool spot to have a coffee before heading off for a surf in Dunedin?
I can only answer this in one way… any place serving Common Ground.
What is your go to coffee on a hot summer day?
Piccolo in the morning (all year) and cold drip on ice in the afty.
The photos you share on your Instagram are mostly of cafés. What was behind the decision to focus on championing others instead of promoting yourselves?
This flows back to how we work as a business, we don’t feel strongly about shouting out about ourselves or being a ‘brand world’ so we mainly share shots of the people we are stoked to supply coffee to.
Is there a new café that we should check out – something that you might describe as a hidden gem?
Wee Tart in Wanaka has just opened… a damn good offering by Mel Norman who was our first wholesale customer with KiKi Beware in Dunedin seven years ago. It’s down a lane that opens into a courtyard that is stunningly beautiful, Mel has a unique style and is brave and non-conforming. It’s a real goodie.
We love the illustrations on your website, Instagram and in your roastery. What’s your process when you work with illustration artists? How do you collaborate?
I love visual arts, many of my good buddies are professional artists and alongside them I have tried to support young emerging artists through the years.
I generally give a two paragraph description of who we are and what our values are and see what the creative mind of the illustrator produces. Its super important not to meddle in this process.
One of our absolute favourites is the illustration of the finger pushing the sailboat. What’s the story behind this image?
I really like that illustration also. We try to periodically rotate the works but that one sticks.
The finger pushes a simple sailboat through a sinking city. My take is that it represents a process that is done with care and in a humble way in a modern world where such things can be easily lost.
Lots of offices are beginning to invest in coffee machines for their employees. What can Common Ground do to support this sort of setup?
We are lucky to supply a bunch of offices around New Zealand.
Locally in Dunedin we supply many that run espresso machines, we deliver their coffee for free in reusable tins, can get them hardware, service their gear and give training to their good people.
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