Union Hand-Roasted Coffee: Edita Chodarcevic 'Specialty is not being cool, it is more about the quality of the coffee'

Union Hand-Roasted Coffee:  Edita Chodarcevic 'Specialty is not being cool, it is more about the quality of the coffee'

Edita Chodarcevic, head of coffee education, at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, has many credentials.  She is a certified SCA trainer, an experienced coffee roaster and a world Barista Championship and Brewers Cup judge.

She explains how she never stops learning.

How did you get into the coffee industry?

Coffee began when I moved to London in 2010 from Lithuania. I had nothing to do with coffee before then. I was looking for a temporary job while I was thinking about what I want to do?

I got a job in a café that made coffee and got the basic training.  I had never made an espresso before in my life.  But coffee does this thing to you - when you start drinking, making it, you have questions and you need answers. I worked in quite a few specialty shops in London as a barista, including Federation Coffee in Brixton market, which had a small roaster and that is how I started roasting. I did some training at London School of Coffee in 2012 but I had enough of being front of house. I wanted to go and do something else and training seemed to be a growing path. I ended up joining Union as a trainer where I had the opportunity to do more barista training as well as sensory and roasting training, which was a better use of my skills.  

I train people how to roast.  Also, when Union gets a new coffee in, I profile it and work out the best way of roasting it.


What has been the biggest lesson of your career so far?

You should never stop learning and never think that you know everything. Learning enables you to try and have the courage to do new things. For me, coffee is that curiosity and that learning curve. If I ever thought that I knew everything about coffee then I would probably move on and do something else.


What are the challenge facing Union Hand-Roasted Coffee as a business?

There is this perception due to the size of the Union business and the fact that people say 'If you are in Waitrose you are not specialty anymore'. This partly comes from the confusing message about what specialty is. Specialty is not being cool. It is more about the quality of the coffee, the character and the message you are trying to bring. We have always been about ethical and sustainable sourcing and we don’t compromise on that. That is what still makes us specialsty despite being bigger than some other roasteries out there.

In the wider market, there is pressure not to put prices up and even to reduce the prices, but on the other hand there is this desire for better quality. I think there is a realisation that further down the chain the producers and the farmers also need to get a better quality of life and price for their product. The challenge is how to balance this.


Have you any predictions for the coffee market?

When we talk specialty, there is the trend of finding and developing unique coffees with different processing methods and varieties. You can see in coffee competitions that baristas are really pushing the limits of how coffee can taste. I think we are going to see more of that. Also, new products such as cold brew are still out there and are bridging that gap between soft drinks and coffee drinks.


You are involved in European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo Roaster Masterclass Live! What made you want to become involved?

This masterclass is a great way to show how we approach roasting and what we do. Also, it is about education, generally talking about roasting, and showing it to a broader audience. I think that education is a very important part of being a good roaster. To understand the process, the connection between roasting and what you get in the cup, and how you make it better, is really crucial.


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