Superlatives: Round Hill Roastery
Meet Tim, Eddie, Oli, and Ben — not an alternate version of the Beatles, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that. There's definitely something ‘Yellow Submarine-like’ about their branding and social media presence. And they’re just so English. They’re also the team behind Round Hill Roastery located in Bath, England, and the guest roaster for this month's Superlatives. You can read a little more about the coffee they roasted for us here.
In 2012 Eddie Twitchett, founder of Round Hill Roastery, was a rather enthusiastic home brewer dreaming of one day roasting coffee. While studying at catering school he ran a few sideline businesses (mainly baking and catering) and when moving on to university promoted music nights and campus events. Working in hospitality in Bath, he spent every break sampling coffee in one of the many great shops in the city.
When he graduated and moved home, coffee became more of a reality. “I enrolled in a roasting course and before I knew it I had ordered my first roaster. I learned the hard and fast way. Bath was and is a great place to live and work; it’s a relatively small city but has a really well-developed coffee scene, and the constant stream of tourists in the city means the coffee shops and cafes are always busy. The scene continues to thrive.”
Starting out in a small industrial building no bigger than a garage, Eddie was roasting and selling for the Bath Farmer's Market every week. Quickly, the business grew, and Round Hill gained its first wholesale partner.
“Round Hill is now a small team and we’ve moved to a larger roastery, but we keep that individual and personal feeling. We’re working more closely with the farmers we’ve built relationships with over the years, taking time to make visits to the farms to further our education and also to source new coffees.”
Oli Bradshaw took a more circuitous route towards coffee. As always it was the allure of coffee that had him hooked. “In 2001 a friend of mine introduced me to espresso on his La Pavoni hand lever machine, and yeah, I was hooked. From there I began messing about with various second-hand domestic machines and bags of Lavazza from the supermarket. Later I discovered a local roaster based in Winchester selling beans that were actually freshly roasted. He would sell them at the Saturday fruit and veg market in my hometown, packaging the beans by weight in little ziplock sandwich bags; he needed to work on his branding ...”
At the time Oli worked in the record industry as an account manager selling drum & bass vinyl to independent record stores around the UK. Sadly the MP3 was rapidly killing off physical records, so he decided to jump ship in pursuit of his weird coffee obsession.
“My first job in coffee was as a barista trainer / sales rep for a small family-run business flogging bags of Segafredo Zanetti and those little caramel flavour biscuits that sit on the side of your ‘Italian style’ espresso.”
Needing to inject a little excitement into his work life, he took it upon myself to approach Kees Van Der Westen to see if they could work together in the UK. After a trip to the Netherlands, a couple months later he was driving up and down the country proudly representing these incredible machines.
“It was now around 2010, and Kees had a new machine in the works (The Spirit) so we brought the prototype out to the WBC in London for the first time. I met Gwilym Davies and we got to chatting about lever machines. He had a new project in the works that required something a little special on the bar. Before you know it I was installing a shiny new Mirage Idrocompresso in to the latest Prufrock Coffee popup in West London. I really hit it off with Jeremy and Gwilym and that’s where they offered me the role as GM, in the recently opened flagship Prufrock Coffee on Leather Lane. I had great fun there.”
Later on in January 2013, the opportunity came up to work with his heroes at Square Mile Coffee Roasters after a meeting over a pint. The condensed form of the meeting was Gwilym firstly telling Oli to work for James Hoffman; James and Oli having a beer; then Oli suddenly working for Square Mile. James would recall it simply as taking Oli out for a beer and offering him a job, having asked for Gwilym’s blessing. Either way beer was involved.
“It was wonderful to work amongst such a talented team right in the heart of the London coffee scene. The years at Square Mile taught me a good many things but the countryside was calling so it was time to leave the big city. I found myself relocating to the countryside near Bath, where I met Eddie. He was looking to expand the team at Round Hill so before you know it once again I was in a pub with a pint discussing my future in coffee. And that brings me here.”
For Ben Kelloway his coffee journey also started in university, with a part time job at Starbucks during his last year, to help fund his studies. Two years later and forever being covered in syrups and marker pen, he decided to move to New Zealand to work and travel. Once again he found himself in the thick of skinny lattes, together with cold wind and hip music in the cool capital of Wellington. On his return to the UK, he was taken in by Society Café in Bath, where his eyes were opened to the world of ‘specialty coffee’.
“A lot of training from my peers and my own reading and learning (I read Barista Hustle A LOT) inspired me to keep trying new ways to experiment with coffee. This is when a roasting job became available at Round Hill. I um’d and ah’d about applying as I didn’t think I had enough experience, but bit the bullet and here we are. Now I enjoy nothing more than blasting out some house or techno and getting into the zen of coffee roasting.”
Tim Gane had many different jobs in many different industries trying to find a career. “Around a year ago I was in my shed restoring an old bicycle enjoying a local coffee, and I thought to myself, ‘the coffee industry seems like a cool industry to be involved in.’ ”
A few weeks later on a very rare occasion of checking Twitter, Tim saw Round Hill advertising a job. “I applied and thought I should do a bit of research so put ‘coffee’ into a Google search. I stumbled upon ‘A Film About Coffee’ and from there I couldn’t stop talking about coffee, wanting to know more! My eagerness and passion persuaded Eddie to take me on, and a strong learning curve later, here I am roasting coffee everyday for great customers big and small.”
Their philosophy at Round Hill is to keep it simple and keep it fun. For examples you need only look at their Instagram page. Highlights would include the arrival of the Kenyans, with an honourable mention to side-street selling of Cascara.
Not to mention a collaboration early on with Todd Terje. “I was inspired by the music video to Inspector Norse, a tune which I used to smash out to around three people at our really unsuccessful club nights back at uni,” says Eddie. “The video was all about this small town guy cooking up his own Inspector Norse Special drug. To be fair roasting coffee is no chemical mind altering drug, but I identified with the idea of being on your own all the time and raving out on your own in a small town. Also I felt like the flavour of the coffee really matched the vibe of the record.”
“Looking back the Inspector Norse special espresso was a Konga region coffee, and I seem to recall Matt using this EP during his WBC routine back in the day. Long story short I emailed Todd and he responded saying, ‘I’ve had a lot of requests for this record but this is by far the strangest!’ I took it to the extreme: the coffee was sourced through Nordic Approach, I had a Norwegian artist do the stamp design, and each order came with a mix tape.” If you’re curious — and I’m sure you are — you can check out the end result here.
As a roaster starting off in this industry with no experience, Eddie and the team approach roasting as a consumer would. “For me it has to be approachable, affordable and colourful,” Eddie says. Their approach to sourcing is equally simple, focusing on finding the best green they can while supporting the farmers and farms they love, buying and roasting what makes them happy.
“Direct trade is of course an extremely positive way of working, and it’s a goal for us to work towards being truly direct. However currently as a small roastery it would be unsustainable for all parties,” says Eddie. Instead Round Hill use a small range of speciality import companies. “We chose to work this way, buying through companies who each focus on different producing countries.” Round Hill Roastery has been buying from these companies for almost five years now, and each harvest they like to revisit the farms and co-ops they’ve bought from before. Because of this close relationship with the farms, invitations to visit and learn are becoming more common. “Personally, I like working with import companies,” Eddie continues. “Round Hill Roastery is small company and our purchases are quite low. Working this way allows us to select the lots we want while giving the producers a chance to sell more of their harvests. When sourcing we’re focused on buying ahead of shipment, so we’re always tasting what’s being harvested — not what’s already here.”
How Round Hill Roastery came to be named revolves around a local but little known landmark on the outskirts of Bath, named Kelston Round Hill. The hill separates the cities of Bath and Bristol and is part of the Cotswold Way, a historic and stunning walk through what is arguably the stereotype of the English countryside. “I grew up living right by this hill, my childhood was spent up in the woods and farms surrounding it,” says Eddie. “I still do today! In fact you can see Kelston Round Hill from my bedroom window. When I was setting up the roastery I would take walks up on Round Hill to get a break from the planning and forecasting. To be honest there were no other options for names: it had to be Round Hill Roastery, it’s a place and a name I will never tire of saying.”
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