This question came up in a conversation with the fine folks at the Roaster’s Pack. After I said my fundamental goal in roasting is developing sweetness, Suneal asked “why?”
It is a useful question because I can also leverage it to discuss the new email format (fancy right) [Blog note: since these questions first appear in email, this likely is a tad confusing…] and get a little sentimental. This April will mark my three-year anniversary as Head Roaster at Cut. It remains an extraordinarily challenging yet exceptionally fun job. I stress difficulty because as James Hoffman explains, “on a good day [roasting] feels like chasing a dropped piece of paper in the wind” while “on a bad day, it feels both impossible and unknowable.” I shudder to think of all those past batches that came up short or did not live up their potential. However, I sleep soundly at night with the knowledge that I continue to learn the chemistry and science of roasting and through experimentation and experience continue to improve my craft.
So why sweet? Well, the result of my ten thousand plus batches is understanding that roasting for proper development means a sweet cup. There is nuance to sweetness. It can simultaneously reveal whole ranges of fruits, berries, citrus, or cocoa, which is pretty incredible. Sweetness speaks to where it is from – the terroir of place. It alludes to the farmer, the soil, a coffee’s varietal, the growing season, and its processing. When sweetness lacks, coffee is one-dimensional. Roast too dark and it is just bitter; roast too light and it is just sour. Bake a coffee and you get a hollow sip.
This is why I borrow the Philadelphia 76ers unofficial slogan of “trust the process”. Since 2013, many things have changed here at Cut. One quick example: our email [er … blog?] formatting! More seriously, we now work so many amazing farmers and cooperatives that I can leverage research and experience to achieve sweet tasting roasts. Meaning all of our wonderful partner cafes and coffee shops, can open that window to origin. Hence, I said tough but also said it is real fun. Apologies for any and all lackluster cups during my tenure but please trust the process, we have many sweet days ahead.