200 Degrees Mike Steele: 'It is still like every day is a school day'
How did you get into coffee?
I went off to university, had a part time job in a café and thought I was settled with my future career. I graduated in forensic computing but after four years realised it was not what I wanted to do. I carried on with the part-time café job, which turned into a full time job and really got into my coffee. I ended up moving to Brighton as there was not much of coffee scene in Leicester. I got a job in a café, that also roasted its own coffee, and it took one shift in with the roaster and I was sold.
Luckily, when I decided to move back to the Midlands, I stumbled across 200 Degrees when looking for a job. This was five years ago before they had any cafes and they were still a really small roaster. I dropped them an email saying I wanted to get into roasting. I was thinking I could come on board as an apprentice but within six weeks I was jumping behind the roaster doing everything.
What has been the biggest lesson in your career so far?
A lot of what I have done roasting wise has been self taught with trial and error. Everytime I thought I had conquered something, something else has cropped up for me to overcome. I can never stand still. Even five years into roasting, it is still like every day is a school day. Though you may use the same farm year-on-year and harvest after harvest, coffee is a natural product and it is going to be different. You may have roasted this coffee before and have an idea but it is still going to need subtle tweeks year-on-year in order to get the best out of that type of crop.
What challenges is 200 Degrees facing as a roastery?
We place ourselves in the middle between the big chains and the small niche independents. We are that doorway to specialty coffee, bringing in customers that are not quite ready to step into a niche independent.
The challenge is to subtly educate people so they realise that getting good coffee isn’t hard and understanding what you are drinking doesn’t have to be scary.
What is happening in the coffee market?
More people are taking an interest in what they are drinking. There is no such flavour as coffee as coffee tastes of other things, much in the same way as wine. You don’t really describe something as 'tasting like wine' because wine doesn’t have a flavour. People are paying more attention to that and that is where companies like ourselves can help bring that forward. We can introduce them to flavour notes, brew methods - whether it is in the barista school or behind the counter. It is bringing people to experience coffee in a different way than they have before.
You are involved in European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo Roastery Masterclass Live! What made you want to become involved?
It is a bit out of my comfort zone. For roasters it is not something we do as we are not the front of house baristas and public facing. We are very much back of house, out of the way and as long as the coffee is tasting good we are happy. This is putting myself out there.
- Sponsors of Roastery Masterclass Live! include: Diedrich Roasters LLC, Machine sponsor; Olam Specialty Coffee, Green Bean sponsor; Brita, Water sponsor; Cropster, software sponsor; Coffee Bay, equipment sponsor
- Olam Specialty Coffee is also exhibiting at European Coffee, Tea and Soft Drinks Expo on stand R15 where they will be hosting exciting cupping sessions.
- Brita will be exhibiting on stand A15 in addition to co-sponsoring the Barista Masterclass Live!.
- Cropster are also exhibiting on stand P5.
- Coffee Bay is also exhibiting at European Coffee, Tea and Soft Drinks Expo on stand F26.
- Stephen Leighton, founder of Hasbean Coffee, will be co-hosting the Barista and Roastery Masterclasses.
- 200 Degrees co-founder Tom Vincent is a member of the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo's Steering Panel.
- For more information on European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo, contact Sukhvir Hayre on +44 (0) 203 668 9809 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and check out stand and sponsorship options.
- Visitor registration is now open for the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo. For FREE fast-track entry click here.
- Roastery Masterclass Live! will take place at the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expobeing held at London’s Olympia on 21 to 22 May 2019.