Cameron Heath is the Director of Coffee Operations for Revelator Coffee Co., based out of Birmingham, AL. Revelator is one of the fastest growing coffee companies in the South and Cameron is the dude over there! Check out what he has to say, this was a fun one!
Tell us where you’re from, your roasting company and how many kids you have.
I’m originally from Raleigh, NC but relocated to Birmingham, AL about three years ago to work for Revelator Coffee Company. I don’t have any kids. . .wait. . .what have you heard?
What got you into the specialty coffee world? Was it the culture? Was it a memorable cup of coffee?
My dive into specialty coffee was out of sheer need. Got canned from my previous employer and after a couple of months I figured I should find a job (I ran out of money). After finding a gig at a roastery in Raleigh I quickly moved to roasting. That’s where my love for the culture and the memorable cups come into play.
Tell me about your first or most memorable experience with specialty coffee. (If not above)
My most memorable experience was roasting at Stockton Graham about five years ago and the power went out. Man, what a time to be alive. I remember the head roaster and I over steaming buckets of partially roasted coffee constantly stirring to make sure they don’t start smoldering.
If two dinosaurs could ride a bicycle, how many pancakes can you fit in the doghouse?
When you are looking to add new coffees to your lineup, what are you looking for? And what are you NOT looking for?
I think everyone has the same standard when it comes to sourcing. Sweet, clean and expressive of place. So as long as it’s unique and has the sweetness to back it up, a coffee will catch my eye. What I’m not looking for? Something polarizing, I love coffees that have wild flavor notes like a really clean Sumatra or a pacamara from Nicaragua. These coffees usually have pretty savory notes that I don’t expect everyone to love.
As a roaster, what are you simply trying to accomplish with each coffee you get?
My goal is trying to modulate a coffee the least so I can showcase the coffee and the growers. If I can enhance sweetness or bring out some clarity even better, I never want to mask a coffee with my roast.
I heard another roaster say once, “You really have to love the monotony of the job.” True? Tell me about that!
Oh yeah, it’s a super monotonous job. At surface value your job is to change the color of a bean from green to brown for eight hours a day. But the fun part is breaking up the monotony of the job by interacting with your coffee, learning the most about it structurally and constantly cupping to know the most about it and how to best roast it.
You recently got your ‘Q Grader certification.’ Tell us what that means and how it is going to help you perfect your craft!
The Q grader course is origin focused unification. Not only would someone be able to identify what is and what isn’t specialty grade coffee they would be calibrated with someone else that is Q certified.
For me it refined skills and helped me have a more objective view on coffee. We all have personal preference and profiles we lean towards, but hunkering down and learning terms and classifications for what is objectively good was helpful.
To the newcomer to the specialty coffee world, what makes the coffee you work with so much different than what they may have been used to their whole lives?
Clarity in many aspects. You’ll find coffees with different levels of complexities and tells a story from hot to cold. Something revelator is working to get better at is transparency when it comes to origin, so you’ll be able to trace back the origin of what you’re drinking.
Specialty coffee culture is booming right now. Shops and roasters are popping up everywhere and people here in the U.S. are increasingly viewing coffee more as a craft. Why do you think that is and what’s so special about it?
I’m going to sound like an alarmist and I know it but I don’t see the uptick in roasters and shops as a good thing. Right now getting into coffee is the hip thing to do and everyone wants their piece of the pie, but like all things this bubble will burst and what will our industry look like after that? It’s a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people that we all have awesome coffee and I can rattle off ten coffee companies in my region that I would recommend to someone if they asked for anything other than Revelator. So why do I think this industry is so special? A part of me thinks that our industry is so special because we all care about honoring people and producers first. With that said, the more folks get into the game, the less special that gets, I think.
Have you traveled to any coffee growing regions of the world? If so, what rocked your world while you were there? If not, where would you most like to go and do you want your world rocked?
I’m actually leaving for Honduras this time next week and I am super pumped about it. This is my first trip to origin and every time someone has told me their story about going to origin they speak about how eye opening it was and how it inspired them to be a better coffee professional. I want that, I want my world rocked.
What’s next for specialty coffee?
I think we’re on the verge of a huge cultural change. There’s a lot of key players in the industry that are very vocal about the views and opinions of women, POC & LGBTQIA population within coffee. I’m pumped about it! There’s a pretty obvious problem with the old guard in our industry.
What’s next for Revelator?
Oh man, so much! 2018 might be a crazy year for us. I think the only think I’m able to say is our focus on transparency when it comes to the sourcing side of things. Being able to trace back the origin of what you’re drinking is important and we want to make it easier.
What are you brewing at home right now?
I’ve recently got a deal on a Bonivita 8-cup at home so I’ve been playing around with that. It’s really going to make my weekends even lazier. I just got an awesome ratio lined up so I’m pumped to really relax with a cup from that thing, I usually don’t brew at home during the week. Right now I have a bag of “First Contact” from Matchbook Coffee Project that I’m plowing through.
If you could be any kind of doughnut instead of a coffee roaster, what would you be?
A simple glazed doughnut. It’s a classic.
Tell people in a few sentences how the quality of coffee has changed in the last 10 years and why.
Well, since I’ve only been around for five of those 10 years I can say that the focus on origin has increased. Knowing where your coffee has come from and knowing it’s story has been a hot topic more and more.