Meet The Roaster: Espresso Workshop

Espresso Workshop was founded in 2007 with a mission of unlocking the flavour potential of specialty coffee, advocating the merits of unique flavour profiles and the advancement of premium single-origin coffee. 

Owner and Foundational Roaster, Andrew Smart, sat down with us to speak about his experience, business start-ups, innovations and all of the initiatives Espresso Workshop has taken in efforts to give back to the community. 

“I’m an Auckland local, raised in Pakuranga and have been living in Pt Chev since 2004."

When he went travelling overseas in his 20s he uncovered his passion for food and beverage. Upon returning to New Zealand he became determined to launch a soup and juice bar business called SUJU in Central Auckland. 

“I was spending my downtime hanging out in an espresso bar on Shortland Street, really enjoying, not only the product but the culture that came with it. It spawned my curiosity around the roasting part of the process.” 

He decided to wrap up his Juice business in 2005 and pursue a production assistant role at Allpress. Once his foot was in the door of the coffee industry that was it. He wanted to absorb all of the information he possibly could and see what else he was able to learn outside of regular hours. The initial appeal to this career path for Smart was the inspiration of the flavours and feelings that coffee has the ability to spark within people. 

It’s the feeling coffee gives you, it’s not just a tasty beverage, it’s a vibe, it’s nourishing, energetic and aspirational.”  

 For Smart, being the Owner and Foundational Roaster is incredibly enjoyable, satisfying and rewarding. 

“In running the business I get fewer chances to do it these days but… roasting coffee is what floats my boat!” 

He told us about the feeling of pride and satisfaction after a roasting shift and bagging up hundreds of bags of coffee, knowing that you have helped produce thousands of cups of joy every week. 

“… and of course, tasting the results of some of the most banging coffees you can find is a massive perk of the job.” 

The defining features of a great roast are straightforward for Smart. He said that it comes down to striking the perfect balance between sweetness, body and acidity. 

“Coffee can deliver more flavour by finding the right level of development, in my book, body and sweetness is essential, but a good level of acidity is required to allow the coffee’s amazing flavours to sing.” 

The coffee roasting process at Espresso Workshop is intertwined with sustainability as they understand its impacts on the global environment. Espresso Workshop strives to make their coffee process transparent and traceable, as they aim to ensure environmentally sustainable farming practices are followed by their suppliers. At the consumer end, Espresso Workshop also assures that they are using products that don’t cause further damage to the environment. 

“You’ll find that almost all of our café packaging is compostable, and, you’re the first to know, that we are a few months away from launching our 100% paper recyclable retail coffee bags.  No plastic bits to remove or stickers to tear off… just put the whole thing in your paper recycling.” 

As well as sustainability, giving back to the community is another significant aspect of Espresso Workshop. In the last year despite going through tough times, Espresso Workshop continued to support NZ locals in numerous ways including fundraising for Starship, donating coffee to the hospital and helping school fundraisers. On top of all this, Espresso Workshop also supported the Britomart Vax Van with a Free Coffee service in Takutai Square.  

“We love to connect with the community and strive to be an active part of Auckland’s societal fabric.”

Andrew had advice for anyone who wanted to pursue a career in roasting, “Well firstly… go for it!" 

"Be prepared to be a sponge for a few years, with every new coffee you roast there is a new understanding of the product, but it takes time.  There are so many factors in roasting that you need to be very observational, I think it suits people that are patient and strategic. There are very few education courses available to a roaster so most of it is learnt on the job and the best roasters will go to greater efforts to acquire more knowledge, you have to go searching for it!"

Espresso Workshop highlighted the importance of now more than ever, supporting local when you can. 

There are indeed a lot of brand options in New Zealand but there are not that many local, independent brands.  Many of the market leaders have offshore parent companies or don’t roast in regions that they service. To support local and support sustainability it would be amazing if cafes, other hospitality venues and the public would connect with their local roastery.  Be curious, ask who owns your coffee roasting company, and ask where the coffee is roasted.  We love to meet people that are interested in coffee… so come see us at our Roastery in Orakei Bay Village (4/228 Orakei Road, Auckland).”