Taking a passion from a side-project to a full-time job will always involve a learning process, and that is what Matt Troughton’s journey with coffee has been. After upping sticks from Brisbane to New Zealand, Troughton became enraptured by the lives of baristas he saw while taking care of his newborn.
“I was a full time Dad and just drinking coffee in different cafes around Wellington and I was like
‘This is really cool, it'd be nice to stand behind a machine and make coffee all day.’”
Starting off with a few part-time shifts, Troughton was baptised in the time-honoured hospitality tradition of washing dishes and running coffees. Finding this more enjoyable than his previous career in IT, Troughton eventually progressed to working behind the espresso machine.
It was here that Troughton would fully commit to coffee. Understanding the nuances of brewing and connecting with an audience, Troughton entered competitions to take his coffee brewing to the next level. Peeling off the many layers of coffee, competitions further expanded the world associated with the brown bean for Troughton.
“When I first started competing it made me realise how little I knew about coffee. It's very easy to stand behind the machine and pull shots and steam milk but it needs to be more than that for a competition, so that's when you start getting more interested in varietals and processing methods, altitudes of farms, the different characteristics of different origins.”
Going down this rabbit hole of coffee knowledge and working with roasters once back in Queensland solidified Troughton’s depth of commitment to coffee, and with everything adding up in 2014, Troughton decided to take the next step and begin his own roasting company, Grace & Taylor, bringing in head barista at Devon Cafe Group Keith Klein in 2015. Taking control meant that Troughton and Klein could do things the way they wanted. Focusing on “sweet coffee, clean coffee and coffee that's got some sort of character,” according to Troughton, staking a claim in the crowded coffee market meant clearly defining what it is that Grace & Taylor would be but also what it would not.
“We knew that it was only going to appeal to a certain kind of market and that was fine; we're not trying to appeal to everyone. But it's what we enjoy drinking and thankfully other people seem to like it as well.”
Starting out as a guest roaster at other cafes and popping up at community events, the focus so far has been on small batch, transparently sourced coffee.
What this means for a smaller roaster such as Grace & Taylor is that they must be collaborative yet demanding of their green bean importers.
“We still are quite a small business and don't have the cash reserves to be able to go to origin and make deals with farmers. It's been a case of working closely with a number of green bean importers in Australia and making sure we share the same values.”
For Troughton these values coalesce around paying farmers an appropriate price for their coffee, particularly in light of the drops in the commodity price for coffee, in some cases going below the cost of production. In getting this product to consumers, while Troughton and Klein are uncompromising in the flavours they are searching for, they’re open to all ways of consuming the coffee. Now having a permanent café location on King Street in Newtown, Troughton and Keith have been able to connect directly to those who drink their coffee, and have come up with an unusual, yet familiar way of preparing their coffee.
“It took a few batches to get it right,” highlighted Klein, “but we got this one back and you open the jar and it smells like lemon cheesecake.”
Grace & Taylor have found a way to make instant specialty coffee, and sell it online and instore. Hoping this is just the first step into specialty coffee for some, Troughton notes that it’s a foolproof way to enjoy coffee.
“People know they just take a teaspoon out and pour some hot water and they're going to get some pretty decent tasting coffee.”
Always on the hunt for new ways to share these flavours with their customers, this Friday, Grace & Taylor will only serve filter coffee and we have the recipe. Give it a try or go in and see the magic happen for yourself.