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common room roasters

 

                ed + jeremy

     The culture of coffee is exploding in the United States. Though born largely of big chains, the movement itself has grown in an opposite direction. Not to say the bigger players are struggling — they are not. But fueled by rising youth demand for artisanal experiences and influenced by European imports, the American coffee movement seems to be finally finding its own voice. The youth are flocking to cafes, where intellectual conversations and creative collaboration (and sometimes ping pong) are increasingly filling the spaces. Proprietary brews of lattes and flat whites are replacing Caramel Frappuccinos®. Beach House is replacing Bieber on the soundtrack. And it’s not just the Pacific Northwest, where the movement is chronicled to have begun. Grace Street and Filter Coffee are doing it in Washington D.C., La Colombe is doing it from Philadelphia, Blue Bottle from Oakland, Hungry Ghost from New York, and The Verve and Intelligentsia in LA, to name a few.

    8,000 miles away in Melbourne, Australia, the culture of coffee has been brewing for decades. Dotted with more coffee shops per capita than almost anywhere else in the world, the Aussies have crafted a lifestyle that revolves heavily around the drink. As local roasters, baristas, and connoisseurs move abroad, they are exporting with them their coffee sensibilities. America is no exception; the Australian-run Two Hands and Bluestone Lane cafes in New York are fine examples.

    Yet, deep in the heart of Southern California — in the coastal town of Newport Beach to be exact — there is no trace of such nuanced sensibility. Despite the ineffable sight of the sun setting through palm trees as you drive on the 1 Highway, Newport Beach’s coffee offering and design aesthetic is, well, lacking. Or at least, that’s how it has always been.

    But Newport is unique in its designation as a beach town, because alongside surfing culture it is also bursting with technological innovation and real estate development. 

    Jeremy Creighton saw the beauty and realized the potential for opportunity, and in 2014, he moved his design agency headquarters from Melbourne to Newport Beach.     

    They set up shop in a beautifully minimal space in an area that is a creative Newport hub. But Jeremy soon discovered that he had to drive almost 40 miles to find a decent flat white. So they bought a machine and started making their own coffee. It wasn’t long before Jeremy realized that there was an opportunity to introduce coffee raised in Melbourne to his newly adopted home in California. So he called up longtime friend Ed Moffatt, a successful roaster in Melbourne, and convinced him to move to California to start a roasting business in their agency’s warehouse garage. And like that, Common Room Roasters was born. 

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    Ed and Jeremy have combined their expertise, the latter in creative design and the former in coffee, to create a groundbreaking space in Newport Beach. For Moffat, the hero always had to be the coffee, and he’s succeeded in sourcing and roasting the best single origins – from Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Kenya, Brazil, and Guatemala – in the area. The space is also gorgeous, minimally designed with accents of copper and greenery complementing an industrial ambiance. They have dubbed their aesthetic ‘Scando-Industrial’. The main bar focuses on espresso-style coffee while the brew bar features the SP-9 brewer for Kalita Wave pour-overs and provides the space for the baristas to prepare Aeropress style brews. Moffat is obsessive about the details, from the minimal wood desk he sits at to the industrial lights hanging from the ceiling, to the individually crafted leather aprons the baristas don.

    We had the pleasure of sitting down with Ed over a cup of coffee (or a few) to talk about Common Room, the journey of single-origin coffee, and why he thinks the real heroes are the farmers.

Why the name Common Room?

    We wanted our space to be a place that can be shared by all. Much like the common room we all remember back in high school. A relaxed place for the students to gather and be themselves without too many rules. We also have shared our space with other businesses over the journey, so there’s always a feeling of collaboration and people coming together due to a common love of coffee.

Where does your coffee come from? 

    We source beans from all over the world. We try to seek out smaller farmers and co-operatives with transparent stories and supply chains, so our customers know they are experiencing coffee that has been grown with love and passion. 

Why are the heroes the farmers? 

    The coffee journey all starts with the farm. The growing techniques, the processing methods and the sorting. Regardless of how well it’s roasted by us, or extracted by our baristas, if the coffee is not loved from the start, it shows in the cup. Also coffee farming is hard work, very laborious and time consuming. The farmers should be recognized and rewarded for their amazing efforts. 

What is Scando-Industrial (theatre of coffee)? 

    We really wanted to combine Jeremy’s design background with the industrial vibe of our warehouse. We decided to use steel and glass so the customers can see how our roastery runs, and can feel part of the process. It’s this contrast between a slick Scandinavian inspired fit out, and the rugged structure of a warehouse. It’s very Melbourne.

 
‘It’s really exciting to see what is happening here in America. Like when the third wave hit in Australia and you had baristas beginning to weigh shots, customers are learning about where their coffee is coming from, home brewing kits are flying off the shelves, and new and exciting roasters are emerging all around.’
 
 
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What characterizes Australian coffee culture? 

    Australian coffee culture is defined by high quality, small batch production. Back in Oz we love to perfect things and keep them local and boutique. It’s this attitude that gives the customers a sense of locality and artisanal flavor. Our cup sizes are smaller, with a much larger emphasis on espresso. There’s a great café on every corner in Melbourne; the standard is really high. It’s one of the most dynamic coffee markets in the world. 

 
‘America is great at embracing new ideas and this is certainly happening here in California.’

What is the state of coffee culture in the United States? 

    It’s really exciting to see what is happening here in America. Like when the third wave hit in Australia and you had baristas beginning to weigh shots, customers are learning about where their coffee is coming from, home brewing kits are flying off the shelves, and new and exciting roasters are emerging all around. America is great at embracing new ideas and this is certainly happening here in California.  

What do you think of this off-putting idea that coffee is being coopted by hipsterism and becoming a harbinger of gentrification in American cities? 

    Coffee is about getting together. Roasting and being a good barista is a craft, and so the ‘anti-establishment’ youth are receptive to it early. Also, probably due to the expensive nature of the machinery required, the coffee roasteries and cafes are popping up in gentrified neighbourhoods and industrial areas. However, like in Australia, in time, you will see that good coffee will become bigger than any particular demographic or neighborhood. Specialty coffee is about quality at every stage of the process, regardless of your age or style. Just have a look at the wine movement, the knowledge surrounding it used to be for wine-buffs only, and now great wine, and the stories behind it, is readily available to most.

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