Rosso Coffee Roasters Q&A with Cole Torode:
Cole Torode is the Partner and Director of Coffee at Calgary’s, Rosso Coffee Roasters, which was founded by his brother David Crosby. They’ve exploded with their growth and coffee accolades, recently opening their seventh location in Calgary. Torode also won the Canadian Barista Competition and placed fifth overall on the world stage. We chatted with Cole to hear their story.
At Rosso coffee, you seem to work a lot with the same farmers year in and year out. Why is that? Why is that important to your buying philosophy?
Working with the same farmers year in and year out allows us to build a strong relationship with them. It lets us learn how they work, how their system works, etc. Building a closer relationship gives them the assurance that even if they have a low year, we’ll be there for them again next year—and hope that it turns around. We give them the safety of knowing that they won’t need to sell their coffee for a fraction of the price on the commodity market.
What would you say is the ethos or vision behind what you guys are trying to do
We actually just turned 11 this year. We started the company in 2007, originally as a café. As time went on and we opened our third café, it kind of just made sense to start roasting—this was back in 2012. We started doing our research, and actually went down to Arkansas to do our Q-grader course. We’re still roasting on our same Probat 12 roaster we bought back in 2012. We went on trips to Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Colombia, as well as some other underserved places that produce top-tier-quality coffee. One of which was Rwanda, and we’ve been doing some interesting processing experiments with the same farm we visited on our first trip there. I think you can say our goal is to bridge the gap on consumer education with the hardships of producing coffee. We want to shift a more economic value towards the beginning of the chain, in order to help with the lifestyle and livelihood of the people we’re working with.
Why would you say that you’ve focused so heavily on competing?
I just love to torture myself. I’m just kidding, I think after the first competition I realized how much knowledge that I was able to extract from it. You have to go up there and present a coffee and get them to understand what I’m saying. On top of that, I have to really get to know the approach, you know? How can I get the coffee to taste the way I’m describing it. I also want to lead by example at Rosso. When I started practicing, I started paying more attention to detail, and I think this brings a kind of a “monkey see, monkey do” to the company.
How did it feel to win the 2018 Canadian Barista Championships?
Well I went in with high hopes, but by the time I actually did it I really thought I missed it. I was genuinely surprised, and then barely had time to prepare before worlds—I think we left about 20 days later for Amsterdam. After that it was a scramble to find some new coffee, and arrange everything for the competition. Again, that was another real surprised to be announced as a finalist in Amsterdam.
What would you say your future goals and plans are for Rosso
A near-term goal for us is to get a bigger roaster. That’s just simple growth of the business. On top of that, we want to put more focus on the relationships with the people we’re buying from, and parallel this with the bigger roaster—bigger order/bigger yield. In a realistic world, farms like Buena Vista produce a pyramid of coffee. About 10% of the coffee is the top-tier stuff that he makes a premium on. We’re trying to figure out how we can raise the bottom level, so they can create more quality coffee. This is one of our future goals that I think would help us and them as well, by lifting the overall quality and committing more to the “mind-blowing” coffees.