This Art Gallery Coffee Roastery Promotes Gender Equality and Free Art

FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

This Art Gallery Coffee Roastery Promotes Gender Equality and Free Art

Tia Maria teamed up with MUNCHIES for Coffee and Conversation, a series of conversations over coffee with the owners of some of London’s top coffee-serving establishments.
1e9a8710_credit_tom_griffiths_tomgphoto-co-uk

With the launch of the Tia Maria + Coffee Project and a selection of new, innovative serves that unite coffee culture with cocktail hour, Tia Maria is leading the way in coffee cocktails.

_To celebrate this, Tia Maria teamed up with MUNCHIES for Coffee and Conversation, a series of conversations over coffee with the owners of some of London's top coffee-serving establishments. We talk about all things Java: the industry, the cocktails, the science, and the steaming mugs of Joe at the heart of it all. _In this instalment, we find out why one of Britain's most important art institutions is roasting its own coffee.__

Advertisement

Around the back of London's Tate Britain, the gallery home to much of the country's art treasures, sits a shelter called a Nissen Hut. The prefab shelter was erected during the Second World War, when the surrounding buildings served as a military hospital. Inside the arched structure the Tate's head of coffee, Tom Haigh, roasts beans that are served by the cafes and restaurants in every Tate location across the country.

Given the Tate institution's position in the art world (four galleries throughout Britain, organiser of the highly publicised Turner Prize), we'll forgive you if you were unaware of their in-house roastery. Despite its relatively small profile, Coffee By Tate, as Haigh would tell us, has a not-so-small impact on the institution's continued success, as well as on the farms it sources its coffee from.

On a recent Saturday morning, we sat down with Haigh to discuss the role coffee plays in advancing Tate's mission to promote contemporary art and bring Britain's national collection of Turners, Constables, and company to the public, for free.

1e9a8595_credit_tom_griffiths_tomgphoto-co-uk

Can you start by telling me how you first got into coffee? Haigh: I probably got into coffee about six years ago. I'd spent a bit of time time in Australia, where I had my first sort-of-inspirational coffee. But it really clicked for me when I managed restaurants in Derbyshire. We did a couple of coffee trainings and I fell in love with it. Then I came down to London, where I was a barista for six months before getting a roastery assistant job at Climpson and Sons, where I went on to become the head roaster and then head of coffee. I was there for about four years. I moved to Tate in February of this year.

Advertisement

What's the history of the Tate roastery? The roastery is five-years-old. We historically worked with another coffee company, but it wasn't as transparent and sustainable as Tate would've liked. We used to contract out our catering at Tate until the late 70s, then we started to take back our catering sites. I work for Tate Catering, and with that we have this philosophy: For Tate By Tate. We started to look at producing artisanal products internally. We weighed up the benefits of creating our own in-house roastery, financially and with the traceability and sustainability that we look for, and we started to source and roast our own coffee from there.

We sell coffee to Tate. We generate profits under our own business model at the roastery then donate all profits back to the arts. Tate catering is profit driven and that helps keep the Tate free. The Switch House is our showcase for the coffee side of Tate. In Level 1 cafe you can find single origin filter and our gallery espresso. On Level 9 we've got a fine dining restaurant—we've got our best filter coffee on Level 9. Then we've got espresso bars throughout.

Tell me about the roastery space itself. We're in the back entrance of Tate Britain. This used to be a hospital and a prison. The roastery itself is inside a World War Two Nissen hut. It was designed to be put up really quickly and obviously it's lasted a fair few years. We used to roast down in Herne Hill where we had a little 12 kilo roaster. We started to expand in size so we bought our 25 kilo Probac and centralised it to this bunker.

Advertisement
1e9a8566_credit_tom_griffiths_tomgphoto-co-uk

What things do you look for when you're sourcing your beans? Quality is our main drive when it comes to sourcing coffee. I've also recently initiated a gender equality project. We're looking at sourcing our coffee equally between male and female producers because female farmers and producers aren't equally represented in the coffee industry. At the moment our single origin range is primarily female producers. We've got a woman called Yolanda Urrea Arita in Honduras, Maria Elena Vides in Guatemala, and our Kenyan coffee's from a female owned washing station in Kiriaini. We're also looking at how the role of women in producing countries is very different from origin to origin.

1e9a8631_credit_tom_griffiths_tomgphoto-co-uk

As in a wider cultural sense? Yeah. Cultural, social, political sensitivities around gender roles. I naively thought that we could just work with female producers, but it's not quite that easy, so we're looking at ways in which we can represent female producers within cultural understandings.

Do you create these relationships with farms by travelling there and literally seeking them out yourself? In an ideal world that would be the case. I find that if you spend a week in a country looking for producers you're never going to find the top quality producers. So we work with exporters based at the origin [of the coffee] and develop relationships with farmers through them. They introduce us to the producers, we taste the coffee, and we agree a price with the producers. Then we use the exporter for logistics and support. In Colombia we're working with an amazing company called Caravela. They provide extensive agronomical support for farmers because we pay a premium for the coffee to Caravela. With that premium the farmers get extra support to up their quality year in year out.

Advertisement

Why are people in the UK more conscious of the coffee they're drinking and more willing to pay a higher price for it—perhaps more so than other food products? The specialty coffee industry has exploded in the past couple of years. With that comes huge amounts of education, both on the roasting and the consumer side, and people are beginning to demand a bit more transparency in the product. With quality comes price. Coffee is a ritual, it's a drug, it's part of everyone's culture, and once you start drinking good coffee—I guess it's like wine—it's hard not to continue.

1e9a8705_credit_tom_griffiths_tomgphoto-co-uk

Do some people have a similar approach to coffee as, say, a sommelier would to wine? Absolutely. I'm a Q Grader, it's a bit like the sommelier exam but for coffee. We can assess a coffee and attribute a score to it, which often dictates its price. You can break down a cup of coffee into many different attributes. We analyse fragrance, aroma, flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body and balance. We give a score to each of those different attributes in a cup, which gives an overall score. It's really important when we're sourcing coffee and analysing coffee with our roasting techniques.

Speaking of roasting techniques, I was wondering if you could talk me through what "profiling" is? A roasting profile—let's start with the bean itself. Each and every coffee that you source has a slightly different structure—be it a potential flavour, bean size, moisture content, density, all these things have an effect on the roast—so to realise the best flavour in each coffee you need to treat it slightly differently, in regards to heat and time. A roast profile is basically a graph which shows you the increase in temperature on your coffee beans over a given amount of time. This is influenced by how much heat you have in the drum, how much coffee you put into the roaster, and how you introduce that heat during the roast. Our philosophy here is to try and do justice to the coffee without influencing it with any roasting flavour.

Advertisement
1e9a8698_credit_tom_griffiths_tomgphoto-co-uk

So it doesn't have an overtly charred taste. Exactly. The coffee we source is such high quality that you want to taste the flavours that have been brought out by the farmers, rather than hiding the flavours with the roasting process.

At Tate, do you only serve single origins, or do you do blends as well? We do blends. Probably 90 percent of what we do is our gallery espresso. At the moment this is a blend of two different El Salvador coffees, so in essence it is a single origin but we use two different farmers with different flavour profiles to add complexity to that blend. Because espresso is such a short drink, and quite intense, it's more accessible if you create harmony with two different flavour profile coffees.

Given your experience on the production side of coffee, have you come across cold-brewed kegged coffee, which seems to be used more and more in coffee cocktails? For this year's London Coffee Festival I did our take on a gin and tonic, with a Papua New Guinea coffee. We called it a P&G. We made cold brewed Papua New Guinea filter coffee, and carbonated it in a keg. Then we added gin, thyme syrup, and tonic.

We're at Tate Britain. There's a Turner Prize exhibition featuring Project for a Door by Anthea Hamilton, a giant golden arse inspired by an idea for a doorway to a building. So, if you had a coffee shop with a huge butt for a door, what would you call it? I think the bunker is probably the right dimensions for that actually. What would I call it? Let's start with the interior. I guess … very dark, maybe like velvet red wallpaper. I don't know what I'd call it. The Back Passage? The Back Door? I'm thinking of some sort of coffee pun that might go with it. Rearside Coffee?

Advertisement

That's pretty good. Rearside coffee? There is this coffee called civet coffee, and it's processed through a cat-like animal called an Asian pam civet. Bear with me here…it's one of the most expensive coffees in the world—it's called Kopi Luwak—we don't source it here because it's quite cruel.

Is that where the civet poos out the bean? Yeah. The civet eats the coffee cherry, and it's processed with the enzymes in their stomach. So I guess it would be in keeping with the door to maybe just serve this poo coffee.

But then again it's kind of the foie gras of the coffee world Exactly. it would be quite controversial.

1e9a8731_credit_tom_griffiths_tomgphoto-co-uk

That's understandable. Thanks Tom.

This article is from Coffee and Conversation, click here to read more.

All photos by Tom Griffiths.