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Intensely inspired by a sense of taste and smell, April was drawn into the enriching world of coffee roasting and specialty blending. Not everyone is fortunate enough to work their passion into a vocation. But from bean to brew, her hard work and a talent for flavours and aromas equipped April to head to the source as a professional buyer, journeying to coffee farms from Java to Brazil.

Intensely inspired by a sense of taste and smell, April was drawn into the
enriching world of coffee roasting and specialty blending. Not everyone is
fortunate enough to work their passion into a vocation. But from bean to brew,
her hard work and a talent for flavours and aromas equipped April to head to the
source as a professional buyer, journeying to coffee farms from Java to Brazil.

How did you begin along the path to becoming
a roaster?

I worked in cafes all through university. My first
job was washing dishes. From there, I started to
learn about coffee. There’d be all these smells
coming from the kitchen and I’d ask the chefs
lots of questions. Later, I was working in the field
that I’d studied, but it wasn’t really my thing. The
coffee seller across the road wasn’t a proper
café, but they had a machine and if you poked
your head in, they’d make you a coffee. I asked
them for a job and a month later, started working
in despatch. For a few years, I packed orders and
did the café deliveries, but I was always asking
questions about roasting. Eventually I learnt the
craft from their head roaster, the owner of the
company.


So, a combination of curiosity and initiative
was what helped you progress?

They could see how into it I was, so they were
willing to teach me. When they were cupping –
which is the process of coffee tasting – I’d get
involved however I could, as well as doing my
own research. If there were public cuppings
and events, I’d learn from different roasteries
and see what was going on in the Melbourne
coffee scene. That was the time when expensive,
specialty coffees were big, and in some places
certain farmers were treated like rock stars.

Would you say roasting is an exact science?
Being a good coffee roaster is knowing what you’re
roasting. The differences in taste, how you apply heat,
and the duration of the roast – how all those things
transfer to the coffee cup is what most interests me. At
a smaller roaster, you might watch for colour changes
and smell for different stages of the roast. But with big
batches at a production roastery, like this 60-kilo one,
you have to be very precise to get consistency. We use a
computer and probes to tell the temperature. So not as
romantic as smelling beans! When you’re first learning,
there are training tools called smell vials – like little
numbered perfume bottles – that help you pick up the
aromas that appear in coffee. Aroma is the first stage of
the cupping process, rated with a score sheet and notes,
just like wine.


You’ve also worked as a buyer, travelling overseas
to source beans?

It was a career highlight. That’s where all the training,
and things like the smell vials, comes into play. Your
nose really has to be honed to pick up defects. It was
an amazing experience to build relationships and have
that connection with the coffee producers. For them it’s,
‘oh, you’re the one buying our beans’ – not just once,
but year after year. And for me, it’s seeing the farmers
who’ve put in such hard work. It’s their life. Now the
buying is centralised and done by the head of roasting,
so I feel very lucky to have done this. The travel’s not
something I could do having kids.

Would you say roasting is an exact science?
Being a good coffee roaster is knowing what you’re roasting. The differences in taste, how you apply heat, and the duration of the roast – how all those things transfer to the coffee cup is what most interests me. At a smaller roaster, you might watch for colour changes and smell for different stages of the roast. But with big batches at a production roastery, like this 60-kilo one, you have to be very precise to get consistency. We use a computer and probes to tell the temperature. So not as romantic as smelling beans! When you’re first learning, there are training tools called smell vials – like little numbered perfume bottles – that help you pick up the aromas that appear in coffee. Aroma is the first stage of the cupping process, rated with a score sheet and notes, just like wine.


You’ve also worked as a buyer, travelling overseas
to source beans?

It was a career highlight. That’s where all the training, and things like the smell vials, comes into play. Your nose really has to be honed to pick up defects. It was an amazing experience to build relationships and have that connection with the coffee producers. For them it’s, ‘oh, you’re the one buying our beans’ – not just once, but year after year. And for me, it’s seeing the farmers who’ve put in such hard work. It’s their life. Now the buying is centralised and done by the head of roasting, so I feel very lucky to have done this. The travel’s not something I could do having kids.

What was one of your most memorable experiences from that time?
The hospitality over there is like nothing else. I remember sitting down
in Columbia to a real home-style meal with a bunch of coffee farmers.
Although I couldn’t speak Spanish, I’d do my best. I became friends
with a producer’s son who came to Melbourne as a seller, and then
stayed at their family home on the farm in Guatemala. At 8 o’clock the
generator would go off and everyone would go to bed. The morning
sun would rise over a huge volcano with smoke coming out of it.


On days off, what’s your personal coffee ritual and favourite way
to spend time?

When I’m not working, I’ll have a press coffee in the morning and
maybe one more before 12pm. I’d say our home grinder is the most
used and valued appliance in the house! Gardening is my other big
passion, and I also love swimming in the ocean, putting my head
beneath the water. It’s like a different world under there.

What was one of your most memorable experiences from that time?
The hospitality over there is like nothing else. I remember sitting down in Columbia to a real home-style meal with a bunch of coffee farmers. Although I couldn’t speak Spanish, I’d do my best. I became friends with a producer’s son who came to Melbourne as a seller, and then stayed at their family home on the farm in Guatemala. At 8 o’clock the generator would go off and everyone would go to bed. The morning sun would rise over a huge volcano with smoke coming out of it.


On days off, what’s your personal coffee ritual and favourite way
to spend time?

When I’m not working, I’ll have a press coffee in the morning and maybe one more before 12pm. I’d say our home grinder is the most used and valued appliance in the house! Gardening is my other big passion, and I also love swimming in the ocean, putting my head beneath the water. It’s like a different world under there.

We’d like to raise a cup to April for kindly sharing her years of coffee
craft with us. During the conversation, April had her Endura boots
on. “I do love them. They’re so comfy and so cool. You can tell they’re
really good quality.” Perfect for work, and great for gardening too.

We’d like to raise a cup to April for kindly sharing her years of coffee craft with us. During the conversation, April had her Endura boots on. “I do love them. They’re so comfy and so cool. You can tell they’re really good quality.” Perfect for work, and great for gardening too.

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February 9, 2024

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