Daniel Pugh, the Head Roaster at Social Coffee Roasters, started his roasting journey while working in IT at the University of British Columbia. We caught up with Pugh to learn about Beyond Bread’s transition to roasting coffee and the surprising overlap between IT and roasting coffee. 

- How did Social Coffee Roasters begin?

Social Coffee Roasters began at Beyond Bread, an artisanal bakery here in Vancouver. Jim Tai, the owner, was initially sourcing coffee from both Canadian and international roasters to sell in the bakery. At a certain point, they became interested in providing the coffee themselves. They began roasting on a super small scale, just enough to sell in the store alongside the other roasters. Customers loved it, and they ended up selling more of Social’s coffee than other offerings. So, they decided to switch fully to in-house roasting. 

I began just roasting at home with a popcorn air popper. Then I got a 1-kilo roster that you use over a gas flame; I connected it to the vent in my kitchen. At a certain point, I was happy with the results but I wanted to see how far I could go. I decided to take courses in roasting, and four years ago I got my Q-grader certification. 

I met Jim through a friend of mine. I was working in IT management at the time, and still do in addition to roasting now. I got pretty interested in specialty coffee and I had been roasting at home for 6 years at this point. I was hosting cuppings for the staff at the University of British Columbia where I was working. A friend of mine frequented Beyond Bread and happened to mention to Jim the cuppings I hosted. He came to one and brought some coffee he had roasted. We were all really impressed with the coffee, and Jim and I decided to partner up after talking more. 

- What's the crossover between IT and roasting coffee?

Coffee and IT go together very well. In IT you spend long hours at your desk and you need a little energy boost, so you end up drinking a lot of coffee. When you’re drinking something that much, you end up getting interested in the taste of it. Initially, I was interested in brewing it to get different tastes, but that eventually led to roasting. Also, in IT, we’re very interested in data, so the whole idea of roasting curves, using data, sensory analysis, and a continuous improvement approach appealed to me. That might be why I can't get enough of roasting! 

- What is your green sourcing ethos?

We have similar values to what we have in the bakery. 

We try to make sure we are sourcing from producers and exporters with sustainable practices. For the coffee that we buy large quantities of (our espresso, decaf, and house blend) we make sure we buy all organic. Outside of that, we like to source coffees that are different with profiles that people aren't used to; like coffees from Ethiopia and Kenya. It’s also great when we can learn more about the producer and their practices at origin. Our end goal would be to build strong relationships with producers that share similar values to us, that way we can have them present from seed to cup. 

January 31, 2023 — Zara Snitman

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