Zest Buckley St Blend, very Sydney; very, very good.

By Darren Stinson, Zest roaster.

The Sydney Roastery in Marrickville can be considered the crown in which the special jewel that is our Probat UG-15 is mounted. This cast iron beast is somewhat of a legend in the coffee world – its unique airflow system combined with its demand for an artisanal touch has the potential to realise coffee flavours which are simply out of reach of more automated roasters.  It was with this potential in mind that we here at Zest sought to develop our boutique, unique to Sydney, Buckley St blend. A blend that pays homage to the crown, our Sydney Roastery located on, you guessed it, Buckley St.

Over the course of six months we trialled and errored (at the same time I myself was trialling my newly developing  skill – roasting) until we finally developed a versatile blend we were proud of. The final blend boasts intricate flavour profiles in both espresso and milk. In the former, rich aromatics of orange blossom are balanced with a syrupy sweetness mid-palette which finishes with a tart raspberry acidity. In milk, all that is transformed into a confectionary like blend, where nougat and baker’s chocolate tones are cut with a lime acidity to mellow into a subtler butterscotch finish. Such flavours are possible only with a unique seasonal blend comprising 75% natural and 25% washed coffees. Such processing techniques delineate the flavour notes of the coffee long before they reach Australian shores, and it’s by combining the two that we were able to achieve such an adaptable and dynamic blend.  

It certainly wasn’t a smooth road. In stark comparison to the Probat’s long history, it is my first year of roasting, and I faced a steep learning curve trying to make sense of what seemed like volumes of roasting terminology, profiling, and sensory analysis. Invaluable in this journey was the mentorship of Zest Melbourne’s Rob McDonald, whose passion and ingenuity led to our collaborating to develop an innovative approach to roasting – envisioning already the flavours we sought to accomplish in the finished product.

Persistence and passion manifested in inordinate cupping, and our returning to the drawing board again and again in an endeavour to realise our vision, was the gumption that lead to our success. In November our Buckley St blend achieved bronze in the Golden Bean roasting competition, and this was prior even to its commercial release.

As a new roaster and collaborator this was a very proud moment. I had my hand in 2 other roasts that stood higher on the podium at this year’s Golden Bean (silvers for SukeQuto espresso and Project Raggiana Lot 1 pourover), but there was a little more sweetness in the Buckley St bronze as it documented – in flavour – partly my journey and part that of my town. As a Sydneysider, I was happy to help plant Zest’s first firm foot in the local roasting scene, whereas up until recently we produced very few commercial roasts in the Sydney ‘greenroom’, on the back of the success of this blend, I now look forward to producing many more stand out Zest products in the future.

A perpetual aspiration to curate flavour in the cup, and to elevate coffee into something exceptional – this is at the heart of Zest Specialty Coffee Roasters.