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Next Brew Box Shipment Date -> 29th May 2024 🗓
Next Brew Box Shipment Date -> 29th May 2024 🗓
Subtext Coffee Roasters - May 2024

Subtext Coffee Roasters - May 2024

One of Toronto's most exciting roasters at the moment! Subtext Coffee Roasters pushing the boundaries of coffee quality. Their focus is on highlighting biodiversity and the human labor behind each coffee cherry. They don't blend or rename coffees, nor do they roast dark, aiming to break away from practices that veil producers and prioritise coffee's true quality.

  • Tell us a little more about the story of your company—how and when did you get started? What is your background in coffee? 
  • I was exposed to coffee from a young age, being drawn to the mystique of crafting coffee…the mysterious specific actions each Italian family member had of making espresso.  It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I tasted single origin expressions that made we want to understand what made a coffee singular.  So began my obsession with the humanity behind coffee and a deep love for coffee’s potential.  

    I have been working in coffee for over 15 years in various roles — barista, manager, consultant, roaster, trainer, and instructor, to name a few.  I opened a multi-roaster cafe in 2014 which included an involved wine program (which I would also run for a period of time) having spent years in formal wine education.   The project was motivated by the connectivity between these product categories—an obsession with understanding terroir and the human production that made each expression singular.   We always worked with what we thought were the best roasters from around the world—companies that prioritized transparency through relationship sourcing. 


  • When and how did you get started roasting? Why is roasting important to your project — what does this control over the product offer your business?

  • I resisted roasting for a long time.  My business partners wanted to roast early on but, having roasted before in my career, I understood the difficulty of that endeavor and our cafe expansion had its own challenges.   Still, two things quietly developed: a desire to be closer to where our coffee was coming from beyond second or third hand accounts, and the development of strong opinions on how coffee ought to be traded, marketed, engaged with, and executed.   All this in the context of a local industry lacking what we thought were best practices in the many facets of roasting coffee.   

    And so in 2020, weeks before the first lockdown, we started a coffee roastery.  They were incredibly difficult years but it was in those moments that we carved out defining structures in our robust quality control protocol, who to partner with on the ground in the various countries we work in, and what our voice was going to be.   

    Roasting is a privilege and responsibility… it means sourcing from places that have been egregiously exploited through structural power imbalance;  It means existing in markets whose conventions have served to erase what we celebrate: transparent coffee as an ephemeral, singular, human expression.  Everything, thus, about our project is about that through thread to humanity.  It’s why producers’ names are the largest text on our bag.  It’s why we don’t rename our coffee or blend it.  Importantly, it’s not charity or even altruism even if it is informed by empathetic faculties.  We, through these practices, also get some of the best coffees we’ve ever tasted and with staggering biodiversity.  Simply put, if we couldn’t do coffee this way, we wouldn’t do it at all. 

  • What do you roast on and why? 

  • We roast on a Loring S15 Falcon.  Lorings can do two things well: create clean, flavour-transparent coffee, and give you a great combination of data and control.  Convective heat transfer develops the coffee internally more easily meaning you don’t have to over develop the outside to develop the inside properly.   For all the reasons listed earlier, roasting light for us was necessary being both our taste preference, but also, crucially, the only way to represent a direct connection to source.  We use other QC equipment in concert with our roaster—optical sorter, colour analysis, solubility testers, and of course our team’s palates—to build and maintain profiles for each coffee.  

  • Tell us—what does being a coffee roaster mean to you? 

  • Roasting is our ability to represent our world view.  It’s our means of expressing what we believe is important, just, and beautiful in this world.  That is true for the sheer visceral experience of what we believe coffee can deliver through flavour and aroma, but really what it means to engage with other human beings internationally, recognizing the integrity and dignity of human labour, the product of which is an expression of their person and place. Roasting is our craft just as growing coffee is theirs.  There’s a stunning (and daunting) number of variables that need to go well for coffee to be great… it’s something to celebrate, yes, but also something to exercise our agency in shaping.   

  • What is the best coffee experience you’ve had ever?
  • Almost every trip to visit producers we work with is life changingly meaningful.  Spending time with people that grow the coffee we source, experiencing how much they care about their work, and tasting coffee with them plays an enormous role in our outlook.  Highlights no doubt have been judging producer competitions in Huila, Colombia and tasting coffee with our producing partners in Jimma, Ethiopia.  

  • Tell us something not coffee related about yourselves? 

  • We have an amazing team of experienced coffee people.  Of the 5 Subtext team members, 3 of them have philosophy degrees, 2 of them are photographers, one of them is a Jazz musician though 4 of them play instruments including drums, trumpet, and guitar.   We also all love and care about food and food culture.  

  • What is the plan for the future? World domination? 

  • For now we care to deepen the relationships we have with our producers and clients around the world.  In celebrating biodiversity at origin and caring to systemically value/enable small producers, we are equally wary of world domination by us (haha).  The world has had enough hegemony so it’s time to celebrate smallness, care, craft, and connection.  That said, we have decent room to grow without a bigger footprint.  We’re so excited about what’s coming: having spent years developing relationships, we are seeing those connections and that persistence bare fruit (fruit that we will depulp, ferment, mill, dry, roast, grind, and brew).  

    Sorry for the bad coffee joke. 


    We love it Alex! :) 

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