What does over 20 years of coffee experience look like?
Fulfilling, if you ask Ross Bright.
“I’ve been in the hospitality industry for over 35 years,” recounts Ross, who’s originally from Perth, Western Australia.
“I started my coffee journey roasting with Dome Australia in the late ‘90s, and did my so-called ‘apprenticeship in coffee roasting 100% Arabica coffee’ with them. I was extremely lucky, as in those days they brought in Arabica beans from literally all over the world.”
So you can just imagine the kind of coffee Ross has worked with.
“We would typically have at least 40 origins on the floor, which even today is almost unheard of in any roastery – the likes of Jamaica Blue Mountain, Hawaii Kona, Indian Red Cherry, Sumatra Lintong, Guatemalan Maragogipe, Kenya AA, Zaire, Tanzania, Congo, Yirgacheffe, Brazil Cerrado” and more, “way before anyone had ever heard of these coffees,” he declares.
“Dome really did have the world’s finest selection of coffee in those days. We were even roasting for Harrods in the UK, as they had a selection of Australian roasted coffee.”
But Ross wanted more. “What stuck with me was the Dome radio jingle at the time of the green coffee buyer travelling the world buying beans,” he states.
“I knew that was what I wanted to do from then on. Coffee found me, and I found coffee.”
Ross arrived in Singapore in 2001, roasted and quality-controlled for Spinelli Coffee Company – and has since “started a new path in his coffee journey” when he set up Bright Coffee Company in Singapore early this year. It’s where he gets to share his love of fresh roasts, and single origins and blends, with other coffee lovers and enthusiasts.
Bright Coffee Company roasts coffee daily and delivers them all over Singapore. They will also supply a wide range of other coffee products in their upcoming website.
Can you understand why there’s nothing Ross wouldn’t do for coffee? 😊 “There’s nothing coffee hasn’t done for me.” And it shows. ↓
“Coffee empowers people, even more so when it’s fresh”
Ross Bright, founder of Bright Coffee Company, Singapore
• Guatemala Antigua
• Ethiopian naturals and washed
• Arabica coffee that’s freshly roasted
Do you get special or even weird requests?
Ross: “As a roaster, I can tailor-roast to any specific requirements. I do have some customers from Scandinavia who love very, very light roasted coffee. They ask, I do – it’s that simple. It’s not weird, just cultural. It’s challenging to provide something they specifically order.
“When you have been roasting this long and you have your own roaster, it’s quite easy to be flexible. That’s easy for me to say. This industry has a very long learning process; it’s not something you can pick up overnight.
“Social media has since changed the dynamics of this business – now a glossy webpage, a copy and a past storyline without substance can get you talked about somewhere. It is like the blind leading the blind.
“This is not a drop ship business (unless you don't own your own roaster – and there’s no point in having a roaster if you don’t have a roaster). Honestly, some of the stuff I read on websites is hilarious, as they don’t even know they are marketing something that is incorrect. Worse still, people believe it.”
What comes to mind when you hear the word “unique” in coffee?
“Unique coffee, for me, is something that is hard to source and even harder to bring in. A great example was some Venezuelan from the Orinoco River region. It is so soft and smooth, you could almost taste the flowers, yet now it’s almost impossible to get due to the situation there.”
Where’s the farthest your love for coffee has taken you?
“The farthest in terms of actual kilometres was the various trips from Singapore to Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and back (about 25 hours flying time each way, plus stopovers). The flights are horrendous, the jetlag unspeakable, but the experience life-changing and memorable.
“There was one trip flying into San Jose in Costa Rica where we had the worst weather I have ever experienced on a plane – so bad we could not land and got diverted to Panama to refuel and wait for the storm to pass. We arrived some five hours later. But I must say I had the best coffee on any airline I have flown, Mexicana Airways. They used 100% Arabica in economy, something all airlines should aspire to.
“Costa Rica is amazing – the Arenal Volcano, the birds, the flowers, the animals, the coffee, the country. You really do need to go there.”
We asked if there’s anything you wouldn’t do for coffee. How about anything you’d be more than glad to do?
“Doing it now, as running your own roastery is more than rewarding – you know, getting messages from a real customer, as an example. ‘Twice now during the Circuit Breaker, I realised I have just had a very pleasant half hour – and both times I was drinking your products.’ What more can you say? I keep you in quality products and do my best to meet your expectations, if not exceed them.”
Which coffee do you often reach for at the moment?
“The coffee that is closest, freshest and fastest, as I need to get others theirs. My needs are secondary to those of my customers. But I do love Guatemala Antigua and Ethiopians.”
And which one you haven't had in a while, that you'd like to sip again?
“I am hoping to get some coffee from Yemen. Unfortunately, the almost invisible war there does not allow for easy sourcing and shipping.”
Do you have favourite roasts?
“Favourite roasts for favourite specific beans, yes. No one roast profile suits all beans; it’s a sixth sense you get after roasting literally hundreds of thousands of kilograms of coffee by hand.
“I actually like most styles of roast levels: Cinnamon, City to Full City. Not really into the darker ones after that, as they obscure the real flavours and aromas. A lot depends on the altitude the coffee beans’ were grown, the soil conditions, moisture content, processing method… all go into the decision of where they would be best suited in blends, and which roast level would be best. Of course, the client always has the last say even if it's not what I would do. I leave it to them, but I’m always happy to suggest.”
What about unforgettable coffee experiences?
“Getting up with the workers, going out to the fields to pick coffee with them in Brazil and Costa Rica. As I speak Spanish and Portuguese, I was able to work and chat alongside them, getting to know their stories, both truth and myths.”
Which blends do you often find yourself recommending to people?
“You won’t know what you like until you try it. Blends are a mixture of tastes, so to really get to know the taste you like, its best to start with single origins. Each origin has its own unique characteristics – so before recommending blends, I prefer to let you get to know the coffee one-on-one first.
“People experience blended products all the time without knowing it – chocolate, wine, even milk. I can offer single estate, single origin coffees which are unadulterated, where you get the real taste of that estate or origin, and not someone else’s creation. I can of course build a blend to suit your profile and your taste, though it’s best to remember that not everyone likes what you like. It’s a case of leaving it to people who know what they are doing to blend or recommend for you. After all, this is what we do.”
Any coffee do's and don'ts?
“Do give me what I ask for and don’t tell me what I want. Do store coffee in a cool, dark, dry place, and don’t store in the freezer. Don’t drink stale coffee.
“Do try decaf. Many in the industry rag decaf drinkers sometimes to the point of harassment, but they are in fact more educated than the average drinker and love coffee as well. It’s a value-added product. So I say yes to decaf and supply the same.”
Pre-Circuit Breaker, where would we find you when you feel the need for good coffee?
“As I just started this roastery in February, you would find me drinking coffee next to my roaster. This has been all time-consuming for me the past six months. So it’s coffee at the roastery.”
Post-Circuit Breaker, where are you dreaming of going for your next coffee fix, or to find your next good roast?
“I don't see myself getting out. Too much to do, am roasting daily so good roasts are in front of me, so great coffee is but an arm’s length away.”
How has coffee helped you throughout the pandemic, or tough times?
“Coffee is my passion. Passion helps; understanding customers helps more. Responsiveness is even more important. Currently, I am not the one stuck at home – I trust I bring great-smelling, great-tasting, freshly roasted coffee to your door. I get to have a quick chat with people who are stuck at home, ask a few questions, share some details. Being classed as an essential worker, delivering such and educating about coffee, it does not get any more rewarding than that. With me you get the real coffee deal, not the sanitised, outsourced version.”
In what ways would you like coffee, and your roasts and blends, to lift people up?
“Coffee empowers people, even more so when it’s fresh. Stale coffee is, well, just that: Stale. The fresh aroma is uplifting and inspires people to do great things. We help people do the things they need to do. When they don’t get things done, it all stops. I help keep things moving – ‘grease the wheels’, so to speak.
“We provide the means for them to enjoy quality. The roast, beans, service and delivery, this is what lifts them up; a phone call, WhatsApp or email conversation if they would like more or would just like to say thank you, or have a quick escape from the norm. I can say in the last 45 days that I have fielded thousands of messages at all hours. No issue, just the job at hand.
“Yes, we are open 24/7 during this period, but I am asleep for six of those so don't expect a reply at 2am… unless I forget to turn my phone on Silent.” 🙂
What are your tips for us to experiment with coffee?
“When you first start drinking coffee, it’s good to experiment. Variety is the spice of life, and in coffee there is plenty of variety.”