Orkney is famous for its food and drink.
Over the years the focus has very much been on the 'food' side of things - things like our beef, shellfish, cheese and and ice cream. But, more recently, the 'drink' aspect has really been coming to the fore. We now have two world-famous distilleries, two award-winning breweries and three artisan gin producers.
Now coffee is the latest tipple to be tackled by local producers, with the launch of the Orkney Roastery.
Sara Tait and Euan Smith have been working hard in the background over the past few months, sourcing and roasting high quality coffee beans from around the world to make the perfect blends for the Roastery's new Aria brand of coffees.
Coffee has been a shared passion of theirs for a number of years. 'I used to work as Operations Director with the Edinburgh Tea and Coffee Company,' said Euan. 'I've also worked closely with the catering industry locally and felt there was a real opportunity for a micro-roastery here. The aim is to supply a premium product for people to enjoy, not just in Orkney but further afield too. Anyone who has tasted freshly roasted coffee, produced with real care and attention for the beans, will know how special it can be.'
Creating the perfect cuppa is no easy process. It's the same as producing beer, wine or whisky. There is a lot of trial and error, a lot of testing and a lot of patience required. Sara and Euan invested in a special 10kg Toper gas roaster, which has been customised to have exact control and recording capabilities to match their roasting processes.
Beans from around the world, including places like Colombia and Kenya, are sourced and then Sara and Euan get to work. They figure our the best way to treat and roast the green beans to maximise the flavour, a process which involves testing various beans in a sample roaster, then 'cupping' them to taste test each one. This helps them understand the characteristics of each roast, and is a very exact process.
'Our production runs will be very small, probably around 8-10kg at a time,' said Sara. 'This means we can really fine tune things and focus on what really works. Our ethos is all about producing coffee that folk will enjoy. It’s handcrafted and we genuinely care about the process, which lets the beans shine.'
The Orkney Roastery will be offering whole bean coffee along with cafetiere, filter and espresso grinds. There are also plans to develop special blends, including espressos with real variety. The main brand is named 'Aria', after a coffee loving character in Johann Sebastian Bach’s comic opera, The Coffee Cantata. The musical theme continues with the Roastery's first Colombian coffee named Bolero, and its first espresso called Overture.
The brand will be available in local shops and it's hoped cafes, restaurants and hotels will take on stock as well. Sara also wants to attract new people to the delights of drinking coffee. 'There are lots of people interested in fresh coffee, but I'd love to reach instant coffee drinkers too so they can taste the difference. Hopefully catering establishments in Orkney will take the chance to commission their own special blends and roasts too. There's plenty of options and lots of work to do, that's for sure!'
So, another unique local company creating an original, hand crafted product in the beverage sector. Maybe it's time to change the name of the group to Orkney Drink and Food.
Visit the Orkney Food and Drink website for more details on our talented island producers.
The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.