Sydney’s Paramount Coffee Project blew me away, so naturally I was pretty keen to check out one of the parent companies behind it. Occupying a converted terrace house in one of Surry Hills’ leafy streets lies the Reuben Hills roastery and café. It’s the brainchild of Russell Beard and was opened back in 2013 with one clear purpose in mind – to celebrate the coffee farmer.
The space itself has quite an industrial fit-out with contemporary lighting and lots of concrete. It feels open and airy which is quite an achievement for anyone that knows just how narrow Sydney terraces can be. The café utilises the whole ground floor and pumps out a food menu that is anything but ordinary. Inspired by Russell’s origin trips through Central and South America this is not your regular ‘poached eggs on toast’ affair. Think dishes like “Really fucking great fried chicken” and “Huevos divorciados” (a tostada with soft fried eggs, salsa, charro bean and smoked tetilla). So that’s brekkie sorted but what about the coffee?
For the Reuben Hills team, specialty coffee means more than just beans and roasters. To these guys it’s all about building relationships with coffee farmers and fostering these to improve the product. I chatted with wholesale manager and roaster Reece Cooper who gave me the low down. Their greens are sourced directly from origin, so they get to meet farmers face to face and see exactly how the beans are being processed. 95% of the coffees come from Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia and Kenya. It’s one thing to find the greens but the Reuben Hills roasters place great emphasis on providing cupping feedback to farmers so they can tailor their practices and improve subsequent crops year after year. By directly involving themselves in the entire process, the guys from Reuben Hills also gain a deeper understanding of just how precious specialty coffee really is. They roast once a week on both a Probat UG22 and a Giesen W6 and it’s immediately apparent that a lot of love and care goes into each and every roast. As Reece says, “respect the green, represent the green and celebrate the farmer”.
The notion of ‘farmer celebration’ goes much deeper than simply doing an exceptional job on the roaster. Public cuppings are held in the roastery every Saturday morning and whilst they’re free to attend, donations are often collected which go directly to funding farm-based projects back in origin. Currently Reuben Hills is putting the money towards one of their Colombian farmers who’s keen to build some raised drying beds to lay his coffees on. It’s a win-win for everyone. Russell was also recently involved in bringing Technoserve out to Australia on a collaboration trip. They’re a non-profit organization that does a lot of work helping to educate and support farmers in coffee-rich countries like Ethiopia.
Coffee extraction comes courtesy of a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine along with EK 43 and Mazzer Robur grinders. There’s also rotating filter offerings up for grabs. Right now the guys are eagerly awaiting the 2015 fresh crop of Ethiopian coffees currently en-route to Australia. Expect them to hit the shelves within the next month, expect them to be awesome.
Reuben Hills, worth celebrating.