It all began in late 2008 when Nick Clark, Matt Graylee and Richard Corney formed Flight Coffee after a stint of roasting in Richard’s parents’ double garage. Richard had been running a cafe in Hawkes Bay and getting more and more interested in roasting, so starting a roastery with his best buds had seemed like a no-brainer and a natural next step.

We recently caught up with Richard to discover more about Flight, our Roaster in Residence for December.

So, Richard, what coffee will we be drinking this month?
Finca Monteverde from Tolima, Colombia. It’s a natural processed Yellow Bourbon from one of the most isolated parts of the country.

 

a bag comes with every Linea Mini or GS3 sold in December

 

tasting notes
black: cocoa, lemon and milk chocolate

white: orange, chocolate, honeycomb

 

recommended recipe for espresso
18.5g in, 40g out 27 seconds.

 

 

What’s the meaning behind the name Flight?

The conversation went exactly like this:

Matt, “What should we call the company?”

Richard, “How about Flight Coffee, you know, it denotes room to move, no borders or boundaries and freedom?”

Matt, “Sounds good!”

 

Some people believe that you need to roast differently for filter and espresso. How does Flight Coffee approach this?

We let the coffee talk. It’s true in our opinion an ‘omni roast’ could suit a certain coffee but generally speaking our style of omni roast would suit a filter and an espresso/black coffee, possibly a milk beverage with a 1:2/3 ratio but nothing more (for milk). Certainly, for our espresso blends we have 3 distinct profiles. Bomber makes a beautiful all-round coffee for espresso and filter, B2 is similar but put a bit more punch in milk but would be the general ‘crowd pleaser’ for filter brews. Thunderbolt is hands down an espresso blend designed for milk and large coffee drinkers in mind.

 

 

Some filter roasts are actually surprisingly good for espresso. Do you have any coffee like this right now?

We determine the roast profile and brew method based on the coffee itself. All of the single origins we buy suit either espresso or filter.

 

People who drink Flight Coffee at home or at the office instead of at a café must be important to Flight. What does Flight offer them?

The home and (in some circumstances) office can be places of refuge, respite or comfort. Flight Coffee provides these two very important places of coffee consumption with an extensive range of blends or single origins to be enjoyed with any favourite or preferred brew method and in a way that ensures their demand, no matter how small, is directed in the most responsible manner we know how.

 

Recently we see you’ve been doing some events around the country using the Linea Mini. How’ve you found using the machine?

We’re big fans of them, they work off 10amp so it enables us to plug in anywhere. The team have been doing a few pop-ups around the northern part of NZ. It’s been a great way for us to work alongside some of our café customers and celebrate a few of their wins at the same time. Being able to pull up and have a pop-up while not getting in the way of the baristas is key, coupled with the high-quality espresso we’re able to pull, the same as what our customer is doing. Consistency is key.

 

 

There are some systemic problems with the traditional coffee value chain. What is Flight doing to address this and how does this affect coffee drinkers?

In 2013 Matt headed off to Colombia and planted the seeds for what became our green coffee production and export social enterprise, Raw Material. Raw Material is a company where 100% of profits are returned to coffee producers and in a way that guarantees maximum impact coffee purchasing. With production and development projects in Colombia, Timor-Leste, Burundi, Rwanda and Mexico Raw Material exists to enable economic freedom through coffee to the most marginalised coffee producers. Producers are paid stable and predictable prices and/or investments into community projects or assets that provide greater economic opportunity or utility for coffee communities.

Flight Coffee directs 95% of our demand through Raw Material value chains. This ensures we’re purchasing our green coffee in a way that has maximum impact on those who produce the coffee we roast. Ultimately, for coffee drinkers, this means for every cup they drink of Flight Coffee, they’re helping contribute to a growing upstream demand to maximise impact at origin and for coffee producing communities.

 

 

Do you feel there is a need to create more connection and understanding between coffee producers, roasters and the home barista? 

The answer isn’t necessarily as straight forward as yes or no.

One of the biggest challenges with our industry (across the entire coffee sector) is the general lack of understanding that consumers have when it comes to the coffee value chain. This is quite understandable, coffee value chains and the knowledge of stakeholders isn’t something we should expect general consumers to know too much about. It’s a complex system that has a lot of legacy elements associated with it.

I can’t speak for other roasters but generally speaking certifications the likes of Fairtrade and Rain Forest Alliance have done an incredible job in raising consumer awareness about the major issues facing small holder producers – one being that the prices which producers sell their coffee for is not in any way attached to their cost of production nor do they generally have a say at the price they sell their coffee for; it’s market driven. When the market is depressed due to environmental or economic variables, producers can be faced with selling their coffee at or below the cost of production. We wouldn’t expect our own primary industries to put up with such an unfair system so why do we tolerate it within coffee?

 

 

The internet has done wonders with bringing our worlds closer together, along with a growing conscious consumer base and the last 10 or so years has seen some great shifts in purchasing behaviour. From where we sit, roasters are the natural conduit to between our consumers/home baristas and it’s up to us to communicate the importance of the role they play in the value chain.

 

 

How important is innovation for Flight Coffee?

Innovation in the coffee industry has been one of the major drivers of quality, excellence and progression across the board. From technology, coffee roasters to espresso machines, coffee processing technology, coffee making gadgets and home brewing devices. Innovation is extremely important at Flight Coffee as we learn and invest in the most efficient and effective technologies to utilize and grow from.

It’s important our customers, both café operators and home users have access to the latest technology and innovations – any efficiency gains in tech, for example, is a gain on the bottom line for a café operator. Take the KB90 for example, the ergonomic design of the portafilter mechanism is an extremely important health and safety feature, especially so for high volume cafes and career baristas. Combatting issues with RSI and coffee making and doing it in a way that adds valuable seconds to the coffee making process is a big win for café operators wanting to keep great talent and also saves time across the coffee making process. When the cafes we supply are more efficient and  successful, we benefit directly from that.

 

Richard, you’re a head judge at the World Barista Championships. You must get to try some amazing coffee from all around the world, produced by arguable the world’s best competition baristas. What is the most memorable espresso coffee you have tasted and who made it?

I was fortunate enough to judge the 2016 WBC final and Head Judge the 2017 Semi Final… I have without doubt two memorable experiences. Berg Wu of Taiwan, winner of the 2016 WBC, his Panama Geisha on espresso was by far one of the most floral espresso coffees I’ve ever had. And Dale Harris, the winner of the 2017 WBC, he used an SL 27 from El Salvador, it was one of the most complex, texture driven espresso coffees I’ve ever had. It tasted like chocolate praline.

 

 

How does the insight and expertise of WBC influence what you do at Flight Coffee?

I’m so very fortunate to travel with the work I do at World Coffee Events. Meeting people from all over the world and learning from their experience in coffee and their interpretation of it has to be one of the most rewarding and grounding elements of the role. I use it as a sense check for Flight Coffee, learning and comparing what others do and what we do is a great benchmark to make sure we’re ahead of the curve.

 

If you could choose one coffee to drink right now from your range, what would it be and why?

Burundi Izuba Espresso, because it’s tasty because it’s delicious.

 

If you could give one bit of advice to someone making home espresso, what would it be?

Firstly, use Flight Coffee 😉  It’s like anything, quality of inputs = quality of outputs. I’d definitely recommend the La Marzocco Mini for home espresso use if you have the budget. They are by far the best home use machine on the market and very user friendly (they also work extremely well in low volume commercial environments). If you’re on a budget, you can’t go past the Breville home machines, I’m a huge fan and they perform remarkable well for a domestic product.