Q&A Session 9: Michael and Nelson from Outghtred/Notch
Notch first landed on our radar over a year ago, whilst devouring one of the amazing sandwiches at Meat and Bread. We tried a bottle of their cold brew coffee and we were instantly hooked, even going so far as taking a couple of bottles to Hawaii with us! After a brief hiatus, Notch are back, with a complete coffee line and a bottled cold brew selection hitting the shops soon. We caught up with Michael Oughtred and Nelson Teskey, to chat about their new endeavors in the coffee world.
Who are you and where are you from?
(MO) My name is Michael Oughtred and I am one of the partners behind Notch Coffee. I was born and raised on the West Coast of British Columbia starting my coffee career after graduating university on Vancouver Island in 1997 and then moving to the lower mainland in 2001. I have now been involved in the coffee business for over 20 years and its constant evolution never ceases to amaze me.
(NT) My name is Nelson Teskey and I have been in coffee for almost half my life. I am currently the Director of Roasting and Quality Control at Oughtred Coffee and Tea. I graduated on salt spring island where I got my first job in coffee back in 2002 and have been in it ever since. Over the last 8 years I have really started to push education in coffee because I believe that’s how we will make our industry stronger for all involved. Michael constantly reminds me that “Mother Nature does all the hard work”, our job as roasters and baristas is to showcase what has already been given to us, and the only way we will get there is by working together.
(MO) Notch Coffee is a West Coast coffee company started by a collection of people who are passionate about sourcing and producing exceptional coffees. Originally founded as a cold brew coffee company in 2014, Notch Coffee has now morphed into a brand that represents more than just the best damn cold brew around. Our company now directly imports and craft roasts some of the finest coffees from around the world.
(NT) We also really enjoy collaborating with partner industries to create interesting and unique flavour profiles in an attempt to push the limits of coffee as we currently know it. One example would be our partnership with “Fuggles and Warlock” where we have created some amazing coffee beers that have been successfully selling all across North America and in Asia.
(MO) We are looking at a few different avenues in the very near future. We will soon launch an online store where we will roast and ship fresh beans to customers in countries without trade embargo’s against Canada ;). In fact, after receiving so many positive reviews like the one just posted on www.coffeereview.com, we have been approached by a few different subscription programs both in Canada and the US, looking to offer our coffees through their online platforms. These B to C relationships are really cool and allow us to share our coffees into households like never before.
(NT) However, as a West Coast brand we would be silly not to pursue partnerships with local coffee houses, where expert baristas can execute our coffee profiles with skill and precision. Not to say that we wouldn’t consider partners in other cities as well (bring it on), but as a small company, we will first focus in our own backyard to try and attract some retail partnerships who are open to offering coffees from multiple roasters.
Now, more importantly, where are we going to be able to buy your bottled cold brew?!
(MO) This may prove a little trickier for us to venture outside our local BC borders with our Ready to Drink (RTD) Bottles and Kegs. With the logistics involved in transporting cold brew coffee and our belief that freshness is critical to the products overall flavour, we will certainly rely on B to B relationships with local coffee shops, restaurants and others to support the Notch Coffee Brand. Our plan is to release our collection of RTD bottles and kegs (for those with Nitro taps) in late May with an interesting project involving growlers to be released shortly thereafter.
(NT) You will also find the Notch Brand connected to collaborations such as the previously mentioned Bean Me Up Espresso Stout (Fuggles & Warlock) currently available in liquor stores all across Canada. We are also excited to be working with a few new partners that we hope to announce more on later this month…
Tell us about what your process is for buying green beans (for example do you visit farms etc).
(MO)To be fair, this process goes back over 40 years for me (42 to be exact). My father got started in the coffee business back in the early 1970’s when he happened to fall in love with a woman from Brazil (to whom he is still married to today). As a family, we regularly travelled back to visit my mother’s family and started visiting Brazilian coffee farms in the late 1970’s. It was here where our father helped nurture an appreciation for the farming side of the coffee business and all the hard working people that made it happen. By the early 1990’s, we had started to develop strong friendships/relationships with many quality coffee farmers in both Central and South America, just around the time the coffee industry started to embrace quality coffee. However, it wasn’t until the new millennium, when direct trade and the logistics surrounding it, allowed for movement of coffee through these more direct channels and relationships. Since 1999, we have visited origin a minimum of twice per year and will continue to do so every year moving forward. This connection with our farming and milling partners helps ensure that the communities we purchase our coffees from, are continuing to invest their time, hard work and dedication back into the production of quality coffee and the people who help produce it.
Are there any emerging roasting technologies/beans that you’re excited about at the moment?
(NT) As for roasting technologies the one that amazes me the most is Cropster. They are always pushing the envelope with new innovative way to track your roast as well as closing to loop between farm and roaster. Their new cupping app is awesome. As for beans to be excited about that’s a hard question to answer because there is so many great coffees it’s hard to pick one. But I will say our next set of Notch coffees have me more excited than the first.
Tell us about what makes your espresso blend so good
NT) It is like a rainbow; find the right balance of acidity, body, sweetness, flavour and of course aftertaste and you will often find a coffee with great appeal and beauty. However, not everyone likes the same flavour or texture, that is why we offer variety of single origins and blends so to hopefully appeal to many different preferences.
(MO) Totally agree, trying to find the perfect balance in a coffee is what we look for on the cupping table. Mother Nature does such and amazing job of producing a wide range of different flavour and texture characteristics in coffee and it is our goal to help unlock the potential of a given coffee bean and allow its natural flavour to be expressed.
You’re carbon neutral – tell us why you decided to go down that route and what steps along that route are you proud of?
(MO) Our passion and commitment to sustainability has always been a major part of the fabric and decision making at our company for as long as I can remember. Perhaps growing up on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the early 1970’s with “hippy” parents played a large role in the development of this culture for us, where the natural beauty of our surrounding environment always seemed to resonate with everything that we did. This culture was seemingly further developed on our early trips to origin, where we witnessed remarkable ingenuity being used by our farming and milling partners to create solutions when little or no money was available to purchase things like chemicals for pest control or fertilization. Anyone can commit to being carbon neutral, it is a mindset and it can be achieved by simply paying for offsets from a company like Offsetters (our partner). However, we took the stance that we wanted to be more responsible and we started by measuring our total company footprint in 2007. Quickly we realized that with simple adjustments to our procedures and patterns, we could affect major change. Today, we have successfully reduced our companies total footprint by over 52%, pretty cool 😉
What coffee shops in Vancouver do you think people should be aware of right now?
(NT) As for coffee shops, the main ones I would have to say are Nemesis, Kahve and Agro, every time I have visited their locations I have always been meet with a great consistent cup.
(MO) That is a tough one as there are quite a few roaster/retailers that have certainly shown a tremendous commitment to quality over the last few years. For me, 49th Parallel has long shown a commitment to quality execution that I can appreciate. I also like the passion shown by the Giannakos family (and staff) at their Revolver location.
If you could pick one person dead or alive, real or fictional, to have coffee with, who would it be and why?
(NT) As for person to have coffee with dead or alive I would have to say Tesla. Maybe it’s because as I write this I am sitting in Vienna at a cafe he would visit. To sit here and realize that he would be here having a coffee and coming up with his ideas and thoughts is just mind blowing.
(MO) I would have to say my father. He was the person that not only introduced me to coffee but also encouraged me to follow my passion and pursue quality without limits.
Thanks to Michael and Nelson for taking the time to talk to us today. If you want to learn more about Notch then you can visit their website, follow them on Instagram or check out their Facebook page. On a personal note, I’ve tried all three of their new roasts and they’re fantastic. I’m really excited to try their cold brew when it’s out soon too!