KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — Big things are happening with Artisan Roast Coffee. After the successes of their Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) and Bangsar Village II cafés, the craft coffee specialists launched Artisan Roast HQ, their largest outlet yet in June this year. One of the reasons for more space was to accommodate a central coffee roasting area.
Due to overwhelming response from fans, that space was given over to tables for customers. Back to the drawing board then: a new space was found in d7 at Sentul East for the roastery, now simply called Artisan Roastery.
To fulfil the market’s growing demand for high quality coffee, Artisan Roastery will be employing a SmartRoast Merlin coffee roaster (which costs approximately RM450,000) by Californian-based manufacturer Loring. On hand to help the Artisan team along with what is touted as the greenest coffee roaster in the world is Michael de Renouard, an experienced roasting trainer from Denmark.
Having won the best filter coffee at the 2007 Nordic Barista Championship, de Renouard is no stranger to great brews. He shares, “I’ve been in Asia three times this year already. I’m pretty happy to be out here and see how the coffee industry progresses. Normally when I visit Asia, I consult on behalf of Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) and Loring.”
The affable and humble coffee professional claims that he only offers his customers some pointers: he believes the sharing of information and knowledge is essential to the overall growth of the industry.
“I’m just giving the Artisan team some additional input; you might call it tools to work with. I get new knowledge when I go to conferences and exchange ideas. I learn a lot from everybody. Also I learn a lot about people – whether they are flexible or not.”
This flexibility, or lack thereof, has become a potential obstacle to the coffee industry embracing innovation. de Renouard observes, “It is a conservative industry. Roasters haven’t basically changed since the 50s. The brand of coffee roaster I used to use in Copenhagen was about the same as the model that was introduced just seven years after World War II.”
This lack of innovation meant that Loring, as a small startup, had to innovate to avoid stagnating like their competition.
“Loring had to come up with something new as a new manufacturer. They were asked to build a smokeless roaster, and they discovered there was good coffee coming out of it. But they didn’t plan it that way.”
Built with Loring’s patented single-burner design, the SmartRoast Merlin used by Artisan Roastery not only produces smokeless roasting but also captures precise roast data, which allows specific roast profiles to be accurately recorded and reproduced time and time again.
“Instead of using an afterburner to burn off the gases that come out after roasting, the incinerator is used to roast the coffee as well, which is a much more efficient system. This then reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent, making this one of the most environmentally friendly roasters in the world.”
In addition, the high-speed cooling also prevents baking and helps lock in flavour. de Renouard explains, “This produces a different taste to the beans. Compared to what you get with other roasters, Loring-roasted coffee is cleaner and brighter with better high notes.”
The master coffee trainer warns that a great coffee roaster alone is not the entire story. “Yes, it takes good instruments to make good coffee. But what we also need is the access to decent green beans. Most coffee roasters who buy expensive equipment try and save money on beans. So it makes me happy to see that Artisan is working very hard to obtain really good green beans too.”
In fact, earlier in the year, the Artisan Roast team travelled to Brazil to source for a consistent supply of high-quality beans. de Renouard shares, “What they are doing is very important. If you think in terms of quality, from the entire chain from when you receive the green beans, roast, grind, and brew them, then you really need to maintain this really high level of quality all the way. If you fail at any stage, then you are wasting your hard earned beans.”
It’s clear that an expensive and technologically advanced coffee roaster alone isn’t enough. As the Artisan Roast team continues to build on their pioneer status in the local specialty coffee scene, they are wisely looking at every aspect of their chain to deliver better coffee to their customers.
As to whether they achieve this worthy goal, the proof is in the brew. Every cup counts.
This story was first published in Crave in the print edition of The Malay Mail on December 19, 2013