The most rewarding thing about roasting is “of course the positive feedback from customers. We try to be original and lead the way with sustainable coffee, especially when it was less fashionable. It is nice to see that the appreciation is growing.” Said Joop Verbeek, Co-Owner and Head Roaster at IncaFe Organic Coffee.
Children don’t shy away from coffee in the Netherlands where Verbeek is originally from, he remembers drinking it from as young as three years old. He doesn't think there would be many days since he was a teenager in high school that he has not had a cup.
His brother in law took him to a coffee plantation where he grew up in Peru, and it was there he realised coffee was great to work with and wanted to take his ventures further than just a hot drink. After growing up in agriculture, he saw the possibilities coffee beans provided as an ideal form of organic agroforestry.
Verbeek and his wife Carmen first started roasting back in 1999, but moved to New Plymouth in 2000 for his engineering job. In 2003 the couple set up a small business, only to develop their current roastery in 2006.
“We did a whole lot of cupping in those early days. I have done a lot of cupping on plantations, with many different varieties that are subjected to different drying processes. It is amazing to see how coffees from the same area can taste so differently. It is quite a puzzle to get the flavour right and consistent, that is what makes roasting and running the business so fun.”
Sustainability is at the core of the IncaFe Organic Coffee brand and is part of why the business was started. Verbeek considers organic agriculture to be the way forward for the industry. “It is the best way to sequester carbon, mitigate climate change, clean up waterways, improve biodiversity, improve insect quantities, stop soil deprivation and produce healthier, better-tasting foods.”
“We have to change our thinking and the food system” by looking after the environment and rewarding others that do the same.
Verbeek wants to prove that if anything, he can produce high-quality, sustainable coffee at a good price point.
IncaFe won Organic Beverage of the Year at the 2021 Organic NZ Awards and was the Environmental Excellence Award Winner at the 2020 Excellence Business Awards.
His favourite coffee variety is one of the most prized in the world - Geisha coffee. As a soft brew, it teleports him to the beautiful plantation where it grows in Peru. After working closely with growers since 2006, Verbeek now tends to drink decaf as the days he can handle more than five cups a day are gone.
When seeking a great roast, Verbeek “always lets a black coffee get lukewarm or cold. Then if the coffee is still nice and balanced or richer in flavour, it was a good coffee from good beans.” He would love to visit the home of the coffee bean in Ethiopia and learn about the age-old ceremony where beans are roasted in a pan on an open fire.
Looking forward to the future, Verbeek cannot wait to get back to Peru as it has been almost three years since a visit to his growers pre-Covid. He has also had to put plans for IncaFe’s own plantation on hold but hopes to pick them back up when in Peru.
Verbeek has some final advice for anyone that wants to become a coffee roaster:
“Like with winemaking, by far the most important factor of flavour is the quality of the main ingredient, the green coffee. So our main focus is always on the quality of the green beans.”
“Most coffees have an optimum roast profile so once you have established that, it is all about making small tweaks to the profile to accommodate variances between batches of green coffee. I love that part, but can be tedious and is not for everybody.”
“The romance of cupping new coffees is only a small part of the job but it is certainly fun and challenging.”