A Q&A With Our Head Roaster
We caught up with Paul Newbold, our Head Roaster at Ozone Coffee - he is the craftsman of our coffee, taking green coffee beans from our incredible farm partners and meticulously roasting them to create our signature flavour profiles. With over 25 years of dedicated service, Paul's journey with Ozone began as a customer at our New Plymouth cafe. Today, he stands at the helm, ensuring that each sip is perfection.
1. Can you describe your role as the Head Coffee Roaster at Ozone and how you got into the coffee industry?
As the Head Roaster, I lead the coffee programme in Aotearoa. I'm part of a talented team that contributes to the procurement of our green coffee selection for NZ, executes the Quality Control programme, and is responsible for production roasting and R&D. My friends Jamie and Karen started what was then 'Ozone Coffee Company’ in 1998. I used to go out to the shop in Fitzroy that opened on Saturday mornings only. I obviously showed a heap of interest because, in June 1999, they offered me a job managing the roasting, wholesale ops, and the small espresso bar we operated out of.
2. What factors are most important to you when roasting coffee beans?
So many factors... all the factors! Obviously, green coffee quality is key, so we continue to work with an amazing group of producers that we have partnered with for many years now, sourcing coffee that is harvested and processed to exact standards, translating to quality in the cup. Precise processing is so key to how a coffee holds up, and the producers we work with are over this! This year, the coffee team has focused on further development of our quality control programme along with getting amongst the weeds on roast profiles. Data collection is key for this; we employ software to gather information on any roast or R&D (research and development) work we do on a coffee or blend and can use the data alongside sensory information we gain from cupping the coffees to make sure we are approaching each coffee the best we can, working with the green coffee's inherent flavours and characteristics... which means tasty coffee in your mug!
3. Tell us about your most recent trips to coffee farms. Where did you go, and what were your primary objectives during these visits?
My recent trip was to the renowned coffee-growing state of Minas Gerais in Brazil, just as the harvest was finishing up. This meant I was able to taste a lot of coffees and make notes on the quality of our shipments headed our way now. I visited Fazenda Nova Aliança in the Monte Santo de Minas area, where we have been purchasing coffee from the Mello family for 9 harvests now. Some of the Ozone fam had visited in 2022, post-pandemic, but this was my first trip back to Nova Aliança and connecting with the Mello family since 2019. It was special to visit the farm and family again and check in with how the farm has navigated the last 3 challenging years. I also spent time with Bourbon Specialty, visiting farms they work with around the city of Pocos de Caldas. Along with the farm visits, we had 2 days cupping with the Bourbon to calibrate with their quality team and gain exposure to the producers they work alongside and the range of coffees they have available to purchase.
4. During your farm visits, what specific criteria do you use to evaluate the quality of coffee beans and the practices of the coffee producers?
As mentioned, we cup a lot of coffees during our origin trips. The coffees are always super fresh, and it's always beneficial to taste the potential in what will be landing in 2-3 months' time at the roastery. At Ozone, we work with a framework that aligns with our B-Corp certification. While we are at the origin, we listen, observe, and note down answers to how a producer is performing environmentally and transparency around their social responsibility to their team. We work with some highly innovative coffee producers who share our values, so we are always observing agricultural innovations and social initiatives that inspire us on our sustainability journey too.
5. Our customers are increasingly interested in the origin of our coffee. Can you share some unique stories or experiences from your most recent trip that highlight the relationships we have with our coffee producers?
It was so valuable to visit the family at Fazenda Nova Aliança this harvest. The family are the ultimate coffee hosts; we always receive the warmest welcome, and the lunches and coffees are always delicious. But it is their passion for the environment and to grow and provide us with this, though they are truly inspiring and energising to be around. Since I was there last visit, they have invested and carried our projects such as improving soil health with mulching and underplanting, which in return aids in reducing water use. They have completed a solar energy project that powers the coffee processing through the busy harvest time... that's just to name a few. We had a special moment at Nova Aliança this year, sharing with each other the immense value of the business relationship, but also the friendship that exists after 9 years of commitment to each other—producing great coffee for us to then roast with care. It is really rewarding to work with producers that inspire us to be better too.
6. How do you stay updated on the latest industry trends and developments in coffee roasting techniques and sustainable sourcing? Are there any emerging practices or regions that you find particularly exciting?
I keep in touch in a myriad of ways. In amongst a heap of reading and sifting through socials, critically thinking about and discussing our approach to our coffees and roast profiles and collaborating with the NZ and UK teams is the main way I keep in touch…plus a stack of cupping coffees from as many origins and markets we can. Bolivia is still an exciting origin for me as we have only worked with Bolivian coffee for 3 years. It possesses all the natural attributes to produce incredible varietals of coffee and each harvest we continue to learn and develop a sense of understanding for the coffees Bolivia have to offer. Furthermore, our collective coffee team's ongoing exploration of various coffees from Peru adds another layer of excitement to our journey.
7. What advice do you have for consumers who want to make more sustainable and ethical coffee choices when they shop for coffee?
That's a challenge for all of us when we are making decisions on any purchase, right? Seeking out coffees that have a transparent story told about them with quality information that flows easily to you, the consumer. At Ozone, we always endeavour to obtain as much quality information as we can about a coffee producer or producer group, their values, and, of course, data about the coffees themselves. Then our goal is to tell each coffee's story so people have confidence we are sourcing responsibly and sustainably and also with quality in mind. Looking for a mark such as B-Corp is a great shout too, with any product we choose or consume. They're companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and make a long-term promise to balance profit and purpose."