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The New Chapter

The New Chapter

Time flies. Catalyst has gone into the 2nd year and 4 more months has past. Until now, we have been serving coffees from local roasters on our espresso bar starting from Red Rabbit, Altezano Brothers to Ozone. Serving different coffees from different roasters were exciting and we learnt a lot from it, however, it is time for us to step up and start roasting on our own.

Roasting has always been on our priority list from day 1. There are a few reasons behind the thought but the main one reflects back to our mission statement “Pursuing craftsmanship & innovation whilst creating accessibility to specialty coffee.” No doubt all the roasters we worked with supplied us with great coffees but we want the freedom to choose and explore from all the accessible green coffees (unroasted coffees) out there. Finding the green coffee that suits our style takes some effort, so it was a bonus that Xin used to roast at her old work in Singapore and the roasting part didn’t have to become a whole new skill to learn.

We have cupped many coffees over the past few months to decide on which origin we want to serve. Our experience have really helped us decide on the coffee we chose. Then we did some experiments on the new Stronghold roaster which uses new technology with halogen as the heat source. We cupped batch after batch to understand how the roaster works and how the coffee we chose would react to the changes in the roasting profile. Finally we have come to find a roast that we like and we have just roasted our first batch to serve on our espresso bar. This will be available next week so stay tuned on our Instagram and Facebook post! Currently, we are experimenting on coffee bags to see the difference in flavour from different materials used for the bag. Design is almost locked in.

Catalyst is ready to move onto the next chapter.

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World Barista Championship

World Barista Championship

Catalyst Coffee wouldn’t have happened if the World Barista Championship didn’t exist, because this is where Xin and myself, Hanna, met.

Just like bartenders and sommeliers, baristas also have competitions. The World Barista Championship (WBC) is the current premier barista competition, with the winners of each national barista championship (or an otherwise appointed competitor) competing for the world title. Competitors prepare and serve 12 coffee beverages in 15 mins - four espresso, four milk beverage, and four signature beverage (no alcohol allowed) for four sensory judges. There are three rounds of judging, preliminary round, semi-finals and finals round, featuring the top six competitors.

Competitors are required to explain why, what and how of their routine while they prepare and serve coffee on stage. Flavour notes for each beverage categories are essential otherwise no marks (zero) will be gained. Marks are based on the accuracy of the flavour notes, knowledge, professionalism, hygiene, technique and creativity etc.

No matter how much competitors are prepared, anything can still go wrong. Competitors’ performances are streamed live online, so risk management and ability to work under pressure becomes important. 0.5 points difference can separate them from becoming the world champion to a second place, which could be just one small movement what they do - or not do, like not wiping the table when the competitor has made a few drops of water, few coffee grinds around the grinder that needed to be cleaned or holding the coffee cup too close to the rim where judges drink from while serving.

WBC takes place each year at different hosting countries. This year has just past in Seoul, South Korea, during the Cafe Show (November 9-12) and our New Zealand champion, Dove Chen, the owner of Grey Street Kitchen in Hamilton, has represented us beautifully.

We got in touch with Dove after he came back home and asked him some questions of his journey to the WBC.

What did it take for you to win the national title?
It’s a team effort. I was so lucky that I have a great team supporting me leading up to the nationals. They are my coaches David Huang, Sam Low, and my roaster Scott Pepler. We spent a lot of late nights to refine my concepts and routine. Also my cousin Alex assisted me with my practice, and all my staff worked extra shifts and extra hard to cover me so that I could focus on the preparation. I couldn’t do it without them.

What did you gain from the WBC?
It was such an amazing opportunity to compete and represent New Zealand in the WBC. I’ve gained a lot of experience so that I could re-evaluate myself. I think the most important part of this trip is networking, I made so many friends from all over the world.

What was the best experience in Korea? (not coffee related)
The best experience has to be Korean BBQ. We literally just walked into any BBQ restaurants without recommendation, they were all damn good. It’s even more fun when the staff don’t speak English. It’s kinda adventurous, we eat whatever the wait staff put on the table. But everything was so delicious.

WBC is something very special for competing baristas. Meeting new people with same passion from around the world is rewarding and exciting, however, competition itself is a serious business and can only have one champion each year. Many different thoughts and emotions go through our mind in such a density that is almost impossible to process during the event period. We learn so much from these experience and makes us want to compete again because we know we can be better next time.

Watching Dove compete was definitely stimulating. We will be back in the game as Team Catalyst when the time comes.


World Barista Championship
https://worldbaristachampionship.org

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Building Relationships

Building Relationships

Here’s a conversation which happens at Catalyst Coffee quite often.

Customer: Hello, can I try one of your filters that is less bitter?
Us: Sure thing, that gives you with all of our filter offering options because our filters aren’t bitter as they’re light roasted.
Customer: Oh, that’s great. So where do you source your beans and why did you choose them?

Catalyst Coffee brings in international roaster's coffee on the filter bar and retail. One of the many joys about running this business is we’ve managed to convert some customers who are used to drinking trim milk into organic whole milk and mocha drinkers into filter lovers. The more filter lovers we encounter, the more we get asked the same question, so we thought it’s a good opportunity to write about how we decide on who we work with.

No matter if it’s an espresso or a filter, when we brew, the beverage needs to be flavourful with some fruit notes and also sweet and clean. Luckily, both of us have similar palates in coffee and it wasn’t difficult to build up Catalyst’s flavour style. There are many different ideas and thoughts behind roasting specialty coffee, but to fall into our style, it needs to be roasted reasonably light which is the first condition on choosing the roasters we wish to work with.

We also care about where our products come from and how they have been handled. We aim to bring out the coffee’s full potential but if the potential is low at the time it reaches us, there aren’t much we can do to make it taste better. From the farmers to the roasters to the baristas. Each step takes out some potential of the original flavour depending on how carefully the process has been taken, so every process requires experience and knowledge. There is no reversing once the potential has been taken, that’s how it will be passed onto the next person in the chain. All we can do is to try and take out less.

Now you must understand why we care about the information all the way back to the farm. This information helps us to decide on the purchase. It means every time when we purchase different coffees, we need same depth of information. This is a lot of work for the farmers and roasters, but being transparent in the information and consistently providing us with details helps with sustainability in business.

One thing we’d like you to remember is that we take relationships seriously. We choose who we work with very carefully because we like working with like-minded professionals that are quality driven. Once we team up, we wish to think of them as part of our family, because we respect and admire their dedication towards pushing their own boundaries for even higher stand in coffee.

Then comes the reality. The boring part. Yes, the shipping cost. Countries like America and Canada can be very expensive and slow. Particularly, slow doesn’t work for delivering coffees. Every time we consider international shipping, it reminds us how geographically isolated and small New Zealand is that makes everything harder and expensive when bring in coffees from overseas. We must say there were a few roasters we wanted to work with but had to give up because of this reason.

After going through all these conditions, we are honoured to be able to work with the following international roasters.

Market Lane Coffee (Melbourne, Australia)
Tim Wendelboe (Oslo, Norway)
Onibus Coffee (Tokyo, Japan)
The Barn Coffee Roasters (Berlin, Germany)

We feature each roasters for a month and put them on rotation. There will be two coffees of the same roaster available both on the brew bar and on retail. Subscriptions are also available from our website.

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Making Specialty Coffee Accessible

Making Specialty Coffee Accessible

One of the things we wanted to do since day one was running workshops. Our mission is to make specialty coffee accessible to all so we keep our pricing as wallet-friendly as possible. However, we believe price is not the only way to meet our goal. Education takes a huge part in this. Given the opportunity to have that hands on information on specialty coffee is like watching House of Cards on Netflix. Political drama is not usually at the top of the list to watch for me, but once I stepped in, there was no turning back. I thought it was interesting and changed the way how I view politics, no matter the story is fiction. Opening doors to a new world doesn't take much. Watching a programme or participating in a workshop, it takes only a small chance to change perception. So today, I’m going to write about our Coffee Brewing Workshop and how participants reacted during the course.

Our Coffee Brewing Workshop is an introductory class for home brewers and anyone interested in learning the basic theory of brewing. We have completed two sessions so far, both full house, and were well accepted by the participants. We keep the maximum number of participants up to four people to allow us to be able to focus on each person. Theory covers from ‘coffee is a cherry seed of a coffee tree’ and all the process that happens along the way till it becomes that delicious amber coloured drink. Then, practical with breaking up the class into teams of two and brew, brew, brew.

The purpose of this workshop is to get people to understand what a good tasting filter coffee is like, so they can set a goal when they brew by themselves. We brew together till we achieve some tasty stuff, but during this process, we learn something called over-extract and under-extract which are commonly used examples of bad tasting coffees. The best moment is watching them grimace with their own creation, then, putting on the serious thinking face to make a better brew.

As you can see in the faces at the top, the participants were actively learning while enjoying, but they didn't start the class in this face. Most of our participants were not from the coffee industry, so putting themselves in the world of specialty coffee was almost a challenge at the beginning. This reminds us the distance we still have between consumers and the specialty coffee industry, and this is why running these workshops are so important.

Bringing complete strangers together and learn. This process makes many nervous faces turn into laughing and talking faces. We believe this is one of the magical things that specialty coffee gives us. Hopefully, more people realise the beauty and the quality of specialty coffee through our workshops.

If you're interested in our next Coffee Brewing Workshop, it is held on Oct 19. Details are in the link.
https://catalystcoffee.co.nz/collections/workshops

By the way, if you still haven't seen the House of Cards, you're missing out on something. Just saying! ;-p

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Beginnings

Beginnings

Pursuing craftsmanship & innovation whilst creating accessibility to specialty coffee.”
- Mission statement, Catalyst Coffee


It’s been 7 months since we opened our doors to Catalyst Coffee, marked on September 1st, and we sincerely like to thank you all who has supported us along the way. We’ve managed to build really good relationships with our customers, and humbly, the numbers are still growing. Sometimes we call our shop ‘community centre’ as we’ve become such good friends with them, and it’s so comfortable for everyone that it feels like we’re chatting in our lounge room.

This year, so far, had been quite a journey to us. Started from, literally, demolishing the place to even be able to build our shop, we covered ourselves in dust and paint for two whole months. We were builders and painters more than baristas, but looking back now, this was a really good learning process to building foundation in our trust. We came across many problems however, managed to get through laughing most of the time, because we knew we wouldn’t have got through if we didn’t have each other. We were extremely lucky to even just have this best business partner, but our luck didn’t stop there. We had different strengths to cover each other’s weaknesses. Thinking of how we met back in 2014, and how the space for Catalyst Coffee came available after lease of 32 years by a lady’s fashion shop, we can say, by fate, pieces were starting to come together.

February 1st was the big day. On the espresso bar, we had the natural Ethiopian, Ninety Plus Maker Series Hanna Teramoto, the best coffee ever to showcase ourselves. We work with local roasters for our espresso coffees, and kindly, Red Rabbit Coffee Co., just ten minutes drive from us, roasted the coffee amazingly. Since then, we have run seven other coffees as below.

Red Rabbit
- Finca Florencia, Hondurus
- El Socorro, Guatemala
- Tiamana, Colombia
- Nyarusiza, Rwanda
- Guji Gigesa, Ethiopia
- Guareque, Colombia
- Chelelektu, Ethiopia

To the contrary, filter bar was more crazy as we’re constantly running two coffees at a time, and working with four international roasters in rotation each month.

Catalyst Coffee + Red Rabbit
- Ninety Plus Maker Series Hanna Teramoto

Onibus Coffee
- Santa Barbara, Honduras
- Rusizi, Rwanda
- La Libertad, Guatemala
- Gikirima, Kenya
- Chelelektu, Ethiopia
- Nyakabuye, Rwanda
- Huila, Colombia
- El Divino, Colombia

Market Lane Coffee 
- Airuma, Brazil
- Finca Bellavista, Colombia
- Sao Judas, Brazil
- La Loma, Colombia
- Santa Isabel, Guatemala
- El Aguila, El Salvador
- Kiambui, Kenya

Tim Wendelboe
- Finca Tamana, Colombia
- Chorongi Nyeri, Kenya
- Hunkute Sidama, Ethiopia
- Kapsokisio, Kenya
- El Puente, Hondurus
- Kagumioni, Kenya

The Barn
- Nano Challa, Ethiopia
- Santa Rosa 1900, Costa Rica
- El Durazno, Guatemala

25 coffees on the filter bar in 7 months is almost insane, but even on the espresso bar, it is more than one coffee per month on average. This is pretty satisfying for us because going back to our mission statement, we want to make specialty coffee more accessible to our customers.

Catalyst [kat-l-ist]
Noun
1. Chemistry. a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
2. Something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
3. A person or thing that precipitates an event or change.

We interpret this word as “the beginning of change”. We were able to meet and become good friends with our customers because we started Catalyst, our first time customers experiencing specialty coffee because we started Catalyst, and having the honour to work with our suppliers who are the specialists in what they do because we started Catalyst. We will keep changing and evolving, because we are Catalyst.

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