Coffee and interview with Dumo Mathema
We first met Dumo Mathema working as a barista at several London coffeeshops and then as a roaster of distinction for several companies. His roasting for The Roastery Department has unleashed his highly individual, superb roasting style (and fashion sense) on a wider audience...
LBC: How did you first get into coffee?
Dumo: My introduction to coffee was the mocha. From the first sip… the drink, the process, the product and the flavour intrigued me.
So what is The Roastery Department and how is it connected to Dept of Coffee?
The Roastery Department is the roastery behind all the coffee on offer at Department of Coffee. It’s a sister company to Department of Coffee and Social Affairs.
What was your journey to Roastery Department?
Wow, this goes back to 2007 where I started working for a commodity grade roastery here in London: I was pretty much left to my own devices and decided to see where this could take me. Between reading as much as I could find and asking people a multitude of questions I then began experimenting with blending. From there I started creating blends for the long-standing customers that were willing and brave enough to try my concoctions. After four and a bit years I decided to do a barista training course with Mr Jeremy Challender, a specialty coffee veteran, and 2011 was the beginning of my specialty coffee journey. On this quest to learn as much as I could I proceeded to work for numerous specialty coffee shops/roasteries across London, to whom I am greatly thankful. I learnt a lot and of course learning is very much a life long process.
2014 saw me joining the specialty coffee company Campbell & Syme as head roaster and co/owner. Then in 2015 an opportunity came up to partner with Department of Coffee & Social Affairs to set up a joint venture - The Roastery Department, of which I am head roaster and also co/owner.
When you roast you always seem to be able to extract something a little different from green beans that someone else does. How is this?
Haha……. I honestly don’t know. For me roasting is about finding your identity/philosophy as a roaster and staying true to that.
So what is your roasting philosophy?
The bean already is. We as roasters just have to unlock what’s inside the bean. For me coffee is very much a passion and is not just a platform to learn/explore and enjoy, but also a vehicle that allows you to give back. I love being a part of showcasing the diversity of coffee. Hopefully this comes through in the coffees I roast.
What have been some of your favourite roasts?
Wow, there’s been so many! The Ethiopian natural Rocko Mountain of 2014 when I was with Campbell & Syme. The Turkish delight flavour and purple/red fruit notes were unbelievable.
We remember that one very clearly, the most Turkish Delight we have tasted in a coffee.
Currently, it would have to be an experimental microlot from Guatemala. It was the first time this particular farm attempted the natural process, something quite rare for this region. There were only eight bags available and I was fortunate enough to get all eight. For me this is an amazing coffee, lots of stewed stone fruit and berries with delicate hints of pear, mango, pineapple and jackfruit. On the finish you’re left with toffee/ crumble notes and rich Belgian chocolate. This is currently my favourite coffee for filter!
Any plans for direct trade?
Most definitely! I’m a big believer in the “relationship coffee” model. It not only allows you to give back but also allows you, the roaster, to work closely with the coffee traders and farmers to constantly strive for excellence.
Which roasters do you most respect/enjoy drinking?
Joe at Campbell & Syme is always doing amazing things, kindred spirits for sure; the guys over at Attendant too. A good friend gave me a bag of some Kenyan Muthika AA by Crux Coffee Roasters. This is an amazing coffee, I had it through v60. If I’m honest there’s so many roasters out there now doing really good things.
The partnership with Gentlemen Baristas and Master Foxx?
I’ve known the ‘Gent’s a few years now and when Henry had his son we thought it was the perfect opportunity to introduce a new blend. So I put on my creative hat and thus the “Master Foxx” espresso was born.
Master Foxx is always a favourite of ours at the Gentlemen Baristas. WE also got to try Bulleit coffee there, tell us about that!
The concept for this came about one evening, well over a year ago, at the Gentlemen Baristas’ Union Street Coffee shop. The Gent’s, Tim Etherington-Judge (another good friend and global brand ambassador for Bulleit) and myself were quite possibly drinking bourbon. We got talking about how amazing it would be to choose a coffee that had tasting notes that would pair well with the Bourbon. We then thought let’s take it a step further and age the green beans in the barrels and see what happens to flavour. After months of development the results were released at the Coffee Festival. For the espresso I used a honey process El Salvador and for filter I used a washed Colombian.
Any plans coming soon we should know about?
Haha, there’s always plans Phil (chuckle) One will involve a Bourbon barrel that has had Central American rum aged in it for 13 years. And the others… well let’s just say we will be pushing boundaries within specialty coffee.
I remember your musical interests. Are you still drumming?
Sadly not like I used to be, but planning on doing more this year for sure.
Photo by Kevin Oh