The upward momentum of Flight Coffee
Mornings in my household just aren't the same without a good cup of Flight Coffee - extra strong, extra hot, white and hold the sugar, please.
The team at Flight Coffee are a pretty cool bunch (I know because I went to high school with one of them!) and they are doing some extraordinary things, from roasting and brewing to buying a coffee farm in Columbia - and being part of Little Koha's gift hampers, of course. We put some questions to the team and received a mix of answers from Trev (General Manager), Gabby (who works for Raw Material, their sister company), Nic (Head Roaster) and Francois (Wholesale Manager).
Where did the aviation inspiration come from?
The name was thrown up in conversation. It has many different meanings and is open to interpretation. We like the fact that it seems limitless; it's free, and has upward momentum.
What is the Flight Coffee team most proud of?
There are too many proud moments to list, but here are a few....
- Our guys have won a few comps and competed in many. Nick Clark, one of the founders and Managing Director won the New Zealand Barista Champs in 2013, and Nic Rapp, our Head Roaster, won the Brewers Cup in 2014 and 2015.
- We have sourced and roasted some ridiculously rare and incredibly tasty coffee.
- The relationships we have with our customers are awesome - we've even had customers join us in trips to Colombia and Rwanda.
- Our team is golden.
- We bought a coffee farm in Colombia, which is pretty neat. (see the video for the Kickstarter)
You’ve accomplished so much since its inception in 2009, what are the next steps for Flight Coffee?
We are never going to be the biggest, and that is fine; we just want to be the best. I don't think you can be the biggest AND the best. Some stuff falls off. Don't get me wrong - there are some massive companies doing an incredible job.
We want to continue growing, but still, keep supplying the best service possible - this is such a crucial part of our business.
Apart from that, we are keen to just keep concentrating on what we are good at. Roasting great coffee, doing cool things, hanging with cool people.
Can you explain the relationship between Flight Coffee and your sister company, Raw Material?
Anyone who is passionate about coffee says to themselves "One day, I'll make it to origin". Flight started with that same ambition, but to also take it a step further. Having more control of the supply chain was always part of the picture, and using Flight's demand for green coffee, we were able to create a company that would go to origin, forge relationships with producers, and provide roasters across the world with the coffees they produce. Raw Material, as it's come to be known; also works in a consulting capacity to work alongside producers to increase the quality of coffee they grow. Raw Material also has adapted a fixed pricing model when purchasing, which allows farmers access to great pricing that is also quality incentivised. This pricing is completely separate from the commodity pricing, and therefore isn't affected by the volatile fluctuations of the NYC. This allows the farmer to forecast and budget to make improvements to their farms, and draw a sustainable income.
Also, Raw Material launched a Kickstarter for a community wet mill - check it out here.
Describe a typical day in the Flight Coffee HQ.
We can split this question into three teams:
- Roasting: Roast the daily production / cup the previous day’s one (QC)
- Dispatch: Check for late orders, emergency / pack the coffee for out of town customers then for in town one for the day after / deliver the daily orders
- Account management / sales: Making sure all our customers are well look after, checking the quality of the coffee produced by our wholesale customers.
What makes a good coffee?
There is a lot that goes into good coffee:
- At the farm: the picking and processing of the cherries is crucial. The grading of those plays a big part in it.
- At the roastery: the roasting profile must be well under control and applied / the cupping for quality control the day after is a “double check” of some sorts
- The barista in the café: must make sure he/she has control of the parameters (dose, yield and time) to make sure the consumer has a good cup of Jo
What is your favourite brew and why?
Wush Wush, it is new and exciting. When it was cupped at origin it jumped out as one of the most amazing coffees we had. But it is a very rare and expensive coffee.
As more “mainstream”, Gahahe Honey (Burundi), it is super sweet and very interesting floral characteristics. One of the best Honey processed we have tested.
What skills, characteristics, and knowledge do you think is needed to start a new business?
- Skills: Being able to socialise and network are huge. Never underestimate how powerful social interactions can be for business.
- Characteristics: Be resolute. It won't always be on the ups. Keep the end goal in mind and keep pushing.
- Knowledge: Knowing your product/service implicitly is key, and while not as entertaining - basic understanding of economics and accounting are salient.