Q&A with Alex Castellani of Subtext Coffee:
Subtext Coffee was launched earlier this year by Alex Castellani, Co-Owner of Boxcar Social. Those cafes in Toronto carry the reputation of pushing the envelope of specialty coffee and providing an exceptional sensory experience.
Being the new kids on the block in coffee roasting, we wanted to chat with Alex to learn about what they’re attempting to do with Subtext and his experience so far with roasting coffee.
What would you say is the ethos of Subtext?
Coffee is labour and agriculture. The byproduct is a barely explored bounty of diversity in expression.
Like many of our respected colleagues, we believe in purposefully transcending coffee’s commodified, homogenizing and exploitative colonial past.
We believe some steps in this direction are the proactive equitable treatment of producers, redefining market value, transparency in sourcing and a larger approach to evaluating the sustainability of our projects.
In trying to make transparent so many aspects of where a coffee came from—of what work was done by hands not our own—we end up roasting lighter. We care that our coffee is sweet, expressive, flavourful and balanced, so we obsessively profile to achieve both goals.
How do you guys decide which coffees to source
Seasonality, regional typicity and innovation drive our buying practices.
We seek coffee that can tell its own story through an expressive profile. Sometimes, that means we seek the paragon of a washed Ethiopian landrace from Gedeb. Other times, we're showcasing the delicious but anomalous fringe expression of an anaerobically processed coffee from the West Valley in Costa Rica. Which is all to say we embrace divergence, diversity, difference and place.
How are you finding it all so far?!
Difficult and invigorating.
Coming from our sister company at Boxcar Social, our team spent the last six years working with the most inspiring, innovative and quality-driven roasters around the world, which is to say that the bar is set high. You can be cerebrally ready for how difficult doing something to such a high standard is, but your emotional patience isn't always commensurate.
Nevertheless, we have spent our first six months rapidly learning, theorizing, testing and innovating. We're happy with what we've been able to accomplish, but like always, homeostasis is discomfort—believing in your project and values, but never being too content towards complacency.