Vernon Omeri, Common Good Coffee’s roaster, initially trained as a primary school teacher. After six years of teaching in New Zealand, he taught in China and helped with a café project there.
“I got the bug to learn more about coffee, so upon our return, I started learning about and running cafés in Wellington. I returned to China to set up another café and then was invited back to roast in Christchurch,” said Omeri.
It was the personable nature of the job that attracted Omeri to the industry.
“You get to build on the stories people share and as you get to know them while giving each person something they love. It’s great to love on people in a myriad of ways, make new friends and listen to humanity living life.”
To this day, Omeri’s favourite part of the job is delivering something people appreciate adding a little joy to their ‘daily grind’.
Omeri’s journey in coffee roasting began with a DIY set-up.
“Much of the learning in roasting has been a very manual, hands-on approach,” he said.
“Checking on time, temperature and colour by eye, tasting and trialling each type of bean to what customers would get in the cup and trying to maintain consistency.”
This practical experience allowed Omeri to pass one of the most difficult coffee exams in the world - the Coffee Quality Insitute’s Q Grade exam.
“It’s an insane array of cupping, grading and aroma and acid distinction tests. A very difficult bunch of tactile coffee exams."
Eventually, Common Good went the digital route like many others, but Omeri said the taste in the cup is still ‘King’.
Common Good coffee has always been organic and is FairTrade as well.
“It is important that we stand with those on whom the whole industry relies. This means ensuring support that covers a sustainable lifestyle so that they are not worrying how their children will go to school.
“We’re in the throws of developing our new range of sustainable packaging that’s not full of greenwashed statements. With $5/kg of coffee sold going towards community development in the majority world, we are also making a serious contribution towards a sustainable future for us all.”
However, Omeri said the current challenge is finding sustainable packaging and takeaway cups.
Climate change is a looming shadow, with snap frosts and floods damaging crops threatening to drive coffee prices and COVID-19 has affected the industry in many other ways, forcing retailers to rethink their strategies.
“Coffee roasting has an intrinsic connection to the hospitality industry. So when cafes are closed, roasters suffer.
“Obviously, there are plenty of coffee drinkers at home - that’s been a growing market for most roasters, I imagine. Roasters will be careful to spread their sales channels to reduce exposure to any particular buyer type. This is a good business strategy, but COVID has meant implementing this strategy and not just talking about it.”