KEEPING THE WEST AWAKE?Aaron Page from Bean West with his coffee roasting machine.?Pics: Conor McKeown
When the daily grind’s a passion
FOR any new parent sleepless nights can take their toll, and copious amounts of coffee can be a lifeline. For Englishman and father of two Aaron Page, who moved from New Zealand to Westport three years ago with his partner Caitriona, coffee is not just a ‘pick me up’: It’s his life.
The owner of Bean West Coffee Roasters – the only coffee roaster in Co Mayo – Aaron prides himself on his quality blends.
The idea to set up his own coffee roasting business was in the back of Aaron’s mind for some time. After moving hemisphere and welcoming his son, Ethan, into the world 18 months ago, Aaron’s dream became a reality last July. With the arrival of little Isabella just four weeks ago, the coffee aficionado is busy juggling fatherhood and the demands of his new business – fueled by a modest four cups of coffee a day.
Aaron’s love affair with coffee began at the tender age of 15, when he and his friends would go to a local café most weekends for coffee. During his college years in England, he worked as a barista, and took up the job again when he moved to New Zealand in 2004. It was while he was down under that he gained insider knowledge of the art of roasting coffee beans from a master roaster.
“It’s quite a secretive thing. Every roaster has their certain way of doing things. I was very lucky,” he explained.
At present, Aaron imports the coffee beans from a merchant in Europe, who sources the three kinds of beans used in his blends: One from Africa, one from Central America and one from Indonesia. He hopes to eventually attend coffee-bean auctions himself to source the beans.
Ideally the passionate roaster would like to be supplying cafés and restaurants around the county with his blends for both serving, and for retail to their customers. He is already well on his way, and is supplying his main ‘Arabica Supremo’ blend – which he describes as ‘smooth, full flavoured, full bodied, but not in your face’ – to Market 57, Westport; Centra at the Quay, Westport; Gala, Louisburgh; Café Rua, Castlebar; Kelly’s, Newport and Foxford Woollen Mills.
Aaron roasts his combinations of beans in his new roaster, which he bought in Turkey, to create different blends, which can be specifically tailored to a customer’s preference.
By combining varying combinations of just his three types of Arabica beans, Aaron can create up to 25 different blends, and a myriad of flavours depending on how he roasts them, even professing that flavours such as mango, lemon and papaya can be created with the right roasting technique.
“For each client, I want to make their own blend. They’d be the only ones in the world that would have it … I can put together endless blends that would suit their taste.” Just recently, he created a breakfast coffee called ‘Misty Reek’ exclusively for the Knockranny House Hotel. Aaron prides himself on the freshness of his product, and every morning, he delivers a batch of the roasted, ground beans to the hotel.
Bean West Coffee Roasters’ packets state that the coffee is sustainably farmed and ethically sourced. As people are used to hearing about ‘fairtrade’ Aaron explained that fairtrade was once ‘worth going for’, as it ensured farmers got a fair price for their beans as opposed to being bought up by large companies. However, now, the farmers themselves attend the coffee-bean auctions.
“Most coffee beans are produced by small farmers and they all go to the auctions in those countries and are all getting the same price because it’s all on quality. There’s different grading systems in each country and I’d be buying the best bean from each. So if a farmer has produced not as good a bean, they’d get not as good a price.”
On the sustainability of his beans, Aaron explained that his beans come from farms that have been family-run for up to 30 years, meaning no rainforests or lands are being cleared for new crops.
The perfect cup
Despite his vast knowledge of the complexities of coffee creation – from the correct temperature to roast at to the best technique for grinding beans to ‘latte art’ – Aaron’s favourite way to enjoy his product is simple: A double espresso.
In his barista days in New Zealand, Aaron could drink 12 or more cups of coffee a day. While he’s now averaging at just four cups a day, he must still taste every batch of beans he roasts, using both an espresso machine and plunger. (Aaron is a champion of the humble coffee plunger. According to him it ‘gets the best out of the bean’.)
In fact, for Aaron, everything short of how the planets are aligned affects how a cup of coffee will taste. This is why his perfectionism has extended to the specially sourced packaging he uses, which ensures the beans breathe, adding to the quality of the taste. Each packet also proudly carries the date on which the batch was roasted.
Looking to the future, Aaron is looking forward to working on different blends for clients, and possibly creating an evening coffee for Knockcranny House Hotel. He is also hoping to organise a ‘coffee-tasting experience’, with blends created to suit all sorts of foods, even desserts.
Like every new business owner starting out, late nights and early mornings will increasingly become the norm for Aaron, but something tells me he has just the thing to keep him going.