Introducing… Tomas Keavney
- Name and Occupation
Tom Keavney – Training & Marketing
If I’m not roasting, I’m out and about catching up with the people we supply with coffee, running our Barista Skills Course. I like to share as much as I can about how we source our coffee, how we roast it, and how to make it taste delicious. You can also find me writing all sorts of stuff – whether that’s keeping the Rounton Coffee social media accounts up to date with what we’re getting up to, writing blogs for our website, or sending out our monthly newsletters.
Essentially, my job is to talk about coffee to anyone who will listen, and that suits me just fine!
- How did you get into coffee?
My life before coffee was spent as a chef – long days spent cooking meant that coffee was a necessity for me to keep on my toes, but it wasn’t long until I started appreciating coffee on another level, and exploring the diversity that it has to offer. With a speciality coffee shop (supplied by Rounton Coffee) just over the road from the restaurant I was working at, I quickly became a regular, and eventually, I jumped ship and started to work behind the coffee machine!
After that, I fell right down the rabbit hole, and was lucky enough to have a great relationship with the guys from Rounton Coffee (who would end up being my colleagues) – cupping coffees that would end up being used at the shop and learning about the different aspects of the coffee world. Naturally, I ended up wanting to be more and more involved, and here I am – part of the Rounton Coffee team!
- What is it that you like about coffee specifically?
To me, coffee represents the perfect balance of art and science – something that fits how my brain works. Before working in the food industry I studied psychology at university – the science and statistics side of it transfers to coffee more than you’d expect, and a huge amount of our roasting and quality control process is anchored in that scientific method. On the other hand, there’s so much creativity and art in crafting beautiful looking drinks, and in picking out suitable tasting notes for the coffees we roast.
- What is your favourite coffee origin, and why?
One of the things that really got me into coffee was drinking things that didn’t fit the traditional understanding of what coffee is meant to taste like – the most exciting ones to me are the ones that are tea-like and floral. If in doubt, I’ll always go for something African (usually a Kenyan). Having said that, whatever is in season is always going to taste freshest, and as the year goes on, I always get excited for whatever is landing!
- Washed or Natural, and why?
When I was first introduced to a boozy natural Ethiopian (Rocko Mountain), it blew my mind. I had no idea that there could be such crazy flavours in coffee, and knowing that a lot of that comes from the processing method made it even more interesting. Washed coffees have become my new favourite – the most delicate and complex coffees I’ve ever had have been washed, and I find myself drinking them most of the time.
Sometimes I’ll be tempted by a crazy tasting natural, but knowing that a clean washed coffee can taste so good, purely by the merit of the crop itself, never fails to amaze me.
- How do you drink yours?
I’ve always had a soft spot for a pourover – a simple plastic V60 dripper is a really affordable way to get into brewing coffee with great results. A lot of the appeal for me is in the brewing process – it can be quite meditative to take a few minutes to weigh everything out and try and replicate the same brew over and over again. Sometimes, brewing the coffee is just as important to me as drinking it!
- What is your proudest achievement in coffee?
My first experience of profiling a new coffee stands out as a milestone for me. Knowing the journey that the coffee had been on, from being imported from El Salvador, right back to the people at Los Pirineos harvesting and processing the crop – I was acutely aware that there was a lot of pressure to get the roast right!
As it turns out, Los Pirineos ended up being my favourite coffee from that season, and knowing that I had some input in those first roasts is great to look back on.
- If you were not working in coffee, what would you be doing?
I think it’d be a toss-up between cooking, and writing. There’s something very special about getting lost in the process of writing something – it’s as if the world around you just fades away… It’s hard to say, because I can’t really think of a better thing to do than what I’m doing right now!
Before my coffee days, I was probably most passionate about pizza – cooking it in wood-fired ovens, specifically. From the precision and time taken in making dough, to prepping ingredients, down to stoking the fire and sliding the pizza onto the stone: that last 90 seconds would make or break the hours that had gone before it. In a sense, it’s a bit like the last stage of making a coffee – getting that brew right can undo everything that came before it. Maybe I like the pressure!
- If you could change one thing in the coffee industry, what would that be?
I’d like to see a greater level of understanding become the norm regarding coffee. No matter who you are in the world, coffee is almost always available; integral to so many cultures, and yet people generally know very little about it.
I don’t think every coffee drinker necessarily needs to know about differences in processing methods and how to brew an awesome Aeropress, but I think as an industry, we owe it to coffee drinkers to make everything a little less daunting, and a little more accessible. A good start would be to have it more widely recognised that coffee is a fruit, and has the potential to be really sweet and complex. If you say “it’s a bit like wine”, maybe it’ll help put into context why people prefer Colombian coffees, just like people prefer wines from New Zealand; if you say “it’s a bit like apples”, maybe the idea of Bourbon vs Pacamara might be as easy to understand as Granny Smith vs Golden Delicious!
We know that people care about quality and provenance when we look at how people buy food and drink – I think talking more about coffee will help people apply those principles to how they buy it, with a focus on ethical, sustainable trade, and an appreciation of quality crops.
- What do you do away from coffee?
When I’m not talking about, brewing, or thinking about coffee, I’m probably cooking something. Food is a passion that never really leaves you once you’ve delved into it, and cooking at home is definitely more relaxing than in a busy restaurant! I love to set aside a nice chunk of time to get everything prepped, and then leisurely float around the kitchen for a couple of hours.
Aside from that, I try and get out into the middle of nowhere as much as possible. Growing up in the countryside means I’m happiest up a hill, preferably somewhere in the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales.