Interview By Restaurant & Cafe Magazine
In 2009, Eighthirty opened its doors to the public in a little shop on Karangahape Rd. Owned and operated by Glenn Bell and Christy Tennent, both of whom are part owners of Eighthirty to this day. They began roasting small-batch coffee for a few years from the small shop until 2014 when they uncovered their new permanent location inside a beautiful heritage building on Anzac Ave. Eighthirty presently operates out of two sites and supplies coffee to over 60 cafes all around New Zealand.
We spoke to Sarah Norris, the Regional Accounts Manager at Eighthirty and she described all of the rewarding aspects of working at Eighthirty. She revealed how they work closely with their farmers to ensure the beans are sustainably sourced and that their suppliers are getting paid a living wage. There is a lot of hard work that goes into ensuring these practices are maintained but it's integral to the farmers and Eighthirty that a healthy and close relationship is kept. “This aspect is rewarding in itself as it keeps the ebbs and flows of the coffee-making process a regenerative and sustainable one," explained Norris.
Glenn Bell is the Founder and Strategist at Eighthirty. He revealed that his current favourite blend is The Colombian Campo Hermoso but said that each time Eighthirty receives a new single-origin it changes his mind. “That’s the great thing about coffee, there are so many flavours to explore, I get excited by a new flavour each time,” Bell said.
Bell indicated the defining features of a great roast differ from bean to bean. “A great roast is about bringing out the flavour of the bean, caramelising the sugars just right. Our Loring Roaster is unique in that it does both convection and conduction.” This allows Eighthirty to fine-tune the blend with minor tweaks to be able to bring out the best qualities of each blend and single origin.
Bell told us that the country he would most like to explore to learn more about coffee roasting would for sure be Colombia. “It's one of the best producers of coffee in the world. They're pushing the boundaries of where coffee is headed... and it's a beautiful country.”
As well as the incredible coffee they offer, Eighthirty additionally offers a unique learning and improvement experience through courses. Their Coffee School courses are available for anyone and everyone looking to hone their skills behind the machine. From basic barista training, home customers wanting to tackle the craft, full roasting and courses that teach someone how to roast their own beans, the extensive courses are designed to ensure everyone can find something they need.
One of the most paramount ideals from the outset of Eighthirty was ensuring that they were a coffee roaster that kept sustainable practices at its core. “It's imperative to us that our impact on this Earth is as light as possible,” added Norris. Their beans are sourced directly from coffee farmers where possible, but always with a focus on quality and consistency. Each crafted blend comes with an origin backstory so the customer knows exactly where their coffee beans are coming from.
Additionally, Eighthirty works closely with Sustainable Coastlines on important events and have recently become members of 1 percent For The Planet, which is a programme that ensures a commitment to donating 1 percent of their annual revenue to organisations that protect climate & environmental rights. Norris told us that this was a really important milestone for them as they care deeply about sustainable practices. “We're excited to be able to utilise this membership and help run events alongside our partnership with Sustainable Coastlines. We're also looking to grow our home base this year by introducing some new products, so watch this space.”
Glenn added valuable advice for those interested in becoming a coffee roaster voicing. “If you've got a passion for it, go for it. New Zealand is teeming with coffee culture, so be wary that the market is competitive here. If I got to start again I would head overseas. Some places are just beginning to find their coffee culture feet and would love to see our passion, knowledge and skill for roasting."
“It's been a tricky 2 years for the hospitality industry. I think now more than ever we need to continue our support for the smaller, local businesses in New Zealand. Our goal and ethos have always been to help out the smaller guys, keep it local, and put money back into our community pockets. We love that we're still kiwi owned and operated and we plan on keeping it that way for a long time.”