Overall Winners Golden Bean 2020 – Blacklist Coffee Roasters.
Article by Rob Marlowe, Cafe Culture International.
In November, at the Golden Bean Competition and Conference 2020, the largest roasting competition of its kind, Blacklist Coffee Roasters were crowned overall champions after taking out Gold in the ‘Espresso Category’ with their ‘Ethiopian Koke PR11 CM Natural’.
They also won Silver with the same single origin in the ‘Pour-Over’ category, and last but not least, Bronze in the ‘Milk Based’ category with their blended roast ‘Pitch’.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting with the team at Blacklist Coffee Roasters from Perth WA.
We conducted the meeting over Zoom. The Blacklist team appeared on my screen, 3 dubious characters in black masks confronted me and I presumed that maybe I had been admitted to the wrong meeting.
Fortunately for me it was the right meeting, but due to a fast evolving situation in Western Australia with a positive COVID-19 case detected in a hotel quarantine worker, WA was in a hard 5-day lockdown.
I was introduced to Managing Director and Co-founder of Blacklist, Darren Woon, Roaster Michelle Ang and Htet Myint Aung (pronounced Tet) the Business Development Manager.
After relaying my heartfelt congratulations, we discussed the beginnings of Blacklist.
Darren explains he founded Blacklist Coffee Roasters in 2014, which was a great time to get into the business, in a relatively placid market, compared against today’s oversaturation.
“It was great times for us in the coffee industry and wholesale accounts grew organically. However as time went by and competition grew, we had to find our identity, our patch of grass. We wanted to position ourselves at the forefront of the specialty industry, paramount to this was consumer education. We wanted to bring in cutting edge, high end coffees’ and not just say “here it is”, but take the customer on the journey with us”, says Darren.
Darren also explains that one of his gripes about the coffee industry, back when he started Blacklist, was that he found the industry to be very self serving. High-end coffees were only being drunk by other baristas, catered for by the roaster or cafe.
“The consumer was being completely lost in the growth of the industry and we wanted to really take the customer on that journey with us, to experience those high-end coffees”.
Blacklist Coffee can be found at their Roastery Café on Welshpool Road, where they have a wide variety of delicious coffees, made with much care and love.
The Blacklist Concept Store
In 2019, they also opened the Blacklist Concept Store in Subiaco, offering a wide range of coffees, including a selection of rare and high-end single origins.
Htet explains they believe that high-quality coffee should be accessible and approachable and that is what this concept space is all about. In the interest of providing a complete brand offering to their customers, they offer a dine-in experience whereby customers are charged $12 per person and once seated, are invited to taste a range of blends and single origins.
The aim is to provide a space for coffee education and exploration where the customer can try coffees or brew methods unfamiliar to the average consumer. In addition to this unique concept, they have launched Blacklist Club, which allows for unlimited entry to this store.
Htet tells me they also retail a range of quality brew equipment sourced from all around the world, along with their freshly roasted coffee beans so you can bring this experience to your own home.
Talking to this group of successful, high functioning and creative team really had my coffee juices flowing and I wished to find out more about their inspirations.
Darren explains that they, like myself, enjoy the nicer things in life, like cheeses from around the world, craft beers, wagyu steaks and gourmet burgers etc.
Darren tells me “I’m a huge wine lover and everything I’ve learnt came from spending time at cellar doors, asking questions and tasting everything I could.
I don’t think these tasting operations always generated a profit, but I personally would not have developed my appreciation of fine wine without them. Expanding on that, I don’t think the wine industry would be as strong as it is without these places, because every industry ultimately depends on the consumer to dictate how the industry can or cannot develop.
I wanted Blacklist Coffee Roasters to be that for the coffee industry and if consumer habits changed to appreciate higher end coffees, it frees up the entire supply chain, from farm to cup, to be more creative and expressive in what we can do. That is our Concept Store in Subiaco. We created a space to showcase coffee differently.
More importantly, we created a space where everyone, including (and most importantly) coffee novices, can come in to taste different coffees and ask questions in a safe environment without fear of snobbery. We can’t take all the credit for it, but we’ve seen the fruits of this operation with consumers understanding and demanding high-end coffee, and the entire WA specialty coffee industry has grown from this change in behaviour”.
“In terms of where I’d like to see things go with coffee, I again look at those pre-mentioned craft industries. Consumers understand there is a scale. You can spend $2 or $20 on a can of beer and that’s ok. I’d like to see coffee drinkers break out of the $4 coffee mindset and realise it’s not just a standard beverage and that, just like craft beer, you really do get what you pay for.
You can pay $4 for a decent coffee but if you’re willing to pay a little more, there is a huge return in quality and flavour. The entire supply chain is tripping over itself trying to deliver amazing coffee experiences, but until consumer behaviour catches up, it’s not going to happen sustainably without someone in the chain bearing a loss to showcase what coffee could be. And the solution will always start with consumer education!”
It’s at this point in the interview I start to get a secret crush on Darren! But I still hadn’t heard from one of my 3-masked super hero’s on my screen.
Michelle introduces herself as the roaster of these wonderful, competition-winning entries, into the Golden Bean.
Even though Michelle has only been roasting for 12 months, her experience in the specialty coffee industry goes back to 2013. Michelle is a pivotal part of the Blacklist team!
Heavily involved in the whole process from sourcing green beans, roasting and heading the barista team at their Concept Store in Hay St, Subiaco. She sees the whole cycle, all the way through to the customer experience, watching how they like the coffees, getting feedback and taking this right back to sourcing green beans.
A vital part of their business!
My last question to my trio is “Where do you see the business heading in the next 5-years?”
Darren explains that they have just launched a Blacklist Roastery in Bali.
This has been slightly staggered by Covid, but is a huge step for them, as specialty coffee there is where Australia was 5-10 years ago and offers them an opportunity to do there what they did here; to be on the cutting edge of coffee roasting and education. Darren further explains he would like to contribute not just as a company, but as an industry.
The beauty of Bali is there are farms out there, allowing for farm to cup. Darren aspires to support local farmers on the ground, having a positive impact on the local communities! A hugely commendable attitude towards doing business, in any industry!
As if that wasn’t enough Blacklist have such conviction in what they have achieved in the Australian coffee industry, affirmed by an array of medal winning coffees, in several competition formats, that they have just launched an online store in Singapore where Darren has strong personal and professional ties.
This is likely to be the start of a much larger and exhilarating operation! The potential and ambition to what can be achieved is endlessly exciting and looking in from the outside, I have complete faith in these guys to kick their goals.
In conclusion to this interview, I say once again “a huge Congratulations to Blacklist Coffee! WA should be mightily proud of their sons and daughters and watch this space!”
For more information on Blacklist coffee visit their website.