Behind the Roaster: Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters
Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters needs very little introduction. For lots of us (including myself) P&S is what introduced us to specialty coffee. Phil & Seb officially started roasting coffee on June 4th of 2009. Shortly after that they started buying their green beans directly from the farmers. Phil & Sebastian is easily recognized as one of the largest specialty coffee roasters in Canada. Let's find out who is currently behind roasting that delicious coffee!
Phil & Seb Director of Roasterie Operations - Jeff (Photo Credit: Phil & Seb)
BCB: Can you briefly introduce yourself to us?
Jeff: My name is Jeff McCord and I’m the Director of Roasterie Operations at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.
BCB: What is your first memory of specialty coffee?
Jeff: Circa 2010, the specialty coffee scene in Australia was pretty ahead of North America. I had some mind-blowing flat whites at Auction Rooms in Melbourne that changed my perception of what coffee could be.
BCB: What did you do before you started roasting at Phil & Seb?
Jeff: I’ve been at P&S for over nine years, but before that I was a student of mathematics.
BCB: How did you get into roasting coffee?
Jeff: Like many roasters, I started out as a barista. After two years serving coffee in our cafés, I wanted to broaden my skillset and coffee knowledge.
BCB: Was going from a barista to a roaster a steep learning curve or could you apply concepts that you learned behind the bar?
Jeff: Moving from barista to roaster definitely takes some getting used to! There’s less of a focus on multitasking — it’s all about really focusing in on your primary task of executing profiles. After a couple years, that part of the job becomes more intuitive and much less stressful. Once you get a handle on production roasting, the most engaging part of the job is the quality control and profile development side, where you make adjustments to roast profiles and conduct blind tastings to evaluate the results.
BCB: What are you passionate about outside of coffee?
Jeff: I’m super into rock climbing and fly fishing. Both of those activities involve a high level of problem-solving and analytical thinking (not unlike coffee roasting).
BCB: If you could change one thing in the specialty coffee industry, what would it be?
Jeff: I think providing outstanding customer service and customer experience is something our industry as a whole has not always excelled at, but over the last few years there have been significant improvements, which is amazing to see.
BCB: What is one of your favorite things about the specialty coffee industry?
Jeff: Both here in Calgary and across the industry as a whole, there is an element of community and cooperation between competing businesses that I really appreciate; other roasters are always eager to help out with information or provide feedback on cup quality.
BCB: Who is one person in the coffee industry that inspires you?
Jeff: Obviously I have to give credit to Sebastian and Phil for their massive contributions to specialty coffee! Other brilliant and dedicated coffee professionals who really inspire me are Karine Ng, Ben Put, and David Kim – all total legends!
BCB: How do you choose the coffees that you want to roast?
Jeff: At P&S, Sebastian and Phil are responsible for purchasing our green coffee. When lots arrive into Calgary from origin, we sample roast and cup them. Based on factors like overall cup performance, flavor profile, and lot size, we decide what we’ll do with each lot. For example, certain Central American coffees with more low-noted flavour profiles and medium acidity might be good candidates for our approachable espresso offering, whereas a massively fruity and floral Ethiopian natural would likely end up as as a more exotic filter. Our goal with all of our roasts is to highlight the innate character of the coffee without introducing roast-based flavours like ash or grain.
Q: Do you have a favorite coffee origin?
Jeff: I’ll always have a soft spot for Ethiopian coffee. The floral, fruit, and tea notes never get old! It’s also the go-to origin for introducing someone to light roasted specialty coffee.
BCB: How do you brew your coffee at home on your days off?
Jeff: I’m a big fan of paper filter Aeropress brews. They always seem to perform well, even with a sub-optimal dial!
BCB: What's your go-to Aeropress recipe?
Jeff: It’s always fun to mess around with complicated Brewer's Cup Aeropress recipes but ultimately I prefer to keep it super simple and just do a classic inverted style infusion with a ratio of 17:1, brew time around 2:30.
BCB: Do you listen to anything while roasting, music, podcasts, etc?
Jeff: Any coffee roaster will tell you that good tunes are essential! Lots of hip-hop and podcasts for sure!
BCB: What podcast have you been into lately?
Jeff: Reply All (a sort of goofy and nerdy podcast about the internet) is one I’ve been listening to recently.
BCB: Anything on the horizon for Phil & Seb that we should keep an eye out for?
Jeff: We have some unreal fresh crop Panamas right now that I’m pretty excited about. Check out our Limited Release offerings for those. Also, with camping and hiking season now upon us, definitely sample our instant coffee… it’s pretty legit!
BCB: Whoa, that limited release Panama Geisha sounds incredible! Notes of Lilac, Tangerine and Blueberry!
I want to give a huge thank you to Jeff for taking the time to participate in the interview so that we can learn a little bit more about who is behind the delicious coffee of Phil & Sebastian. Don't forget to check out their Action Dignity coffee. 100% of the proceeds from these bags are being donated to Action Dignity. Action Dignity works to combat systemic racism in the Calgary community.
Stay tuned for our next Roaster interview!