Brock Lewin is founder and owner of Badger & Dodo Boutique Coffee Roasters along with his wife Claire. Brock developed baristing skills and learned the art of coffee roasting in Melbourne before moving to establish Badger & Dodo in 2008 on his inlaw’s farm in Fermoy in 2008.
Badger & Dodo was one of the first speciality coffee roasters in Ireland. They only source and roast current crop seasonal coffee graded at 85 points or more out of 100. Most of the coffee is imported directly into the Port of Cork, direct from the coffee producing country for better quality and to save on CO2 emissions. Badger & Dodo also sell a range of peripherals, including high-end espresso machinery which is complemented with an expert Technical Support Division.
Brock loves fast and vintage cars, any kind of water sport, gardening and the great outdoors and lives in cork with his 3 beautiful daughters and wife, just outside of Cork City.
In this episode, we discuss the development of their product & brand, the importance of getting the basics right, their focus on quality and Brock’s belief that it’s best to let the coffee do the talking.
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Duration: 34:34 mins
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[00:00:00] Geraldine Hennessy: Thanks for tuning into the Cork Creative Podcast. With this podcast, we hope to promote creative people and businesses in Cork. To learn more about the podcast, visit corkcreative.ie. Flux Learning is a company fueled by caffeine. We take our coffee seriously. So for our fourth series, we took the opportunity to broaden our knowledge and learn some insights into the coffee roasting industry in Cork City and county.
Today we are joined by Badger and Dodo’s Brock Lewin in his aromatic roastery outlet on Barrack Street. Brock developed baristing skills and learned the art of coffee roasting in Melbourne before moving to establish Badger and Toto in 2008 on his wife’s parents’ farm in Fermoy. Badger and Dodo were one of the first specialty roasters in Ireland.
They only source and roast current crop, seasonal coffee, graded at 85 [00:01:00] points or more out of a hundred. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a fresh brew as we discuss the origin of the company from picking a name to establishing their brand identity, flavour profiles, and business ethos. We discuss getting the basics right, their focus on quality and Brock’s belief that it’s best to let the coffee do the talking.
So you’re very welcome to Cork Creative Brock.
Brock Lewin: Thanks Geraldine.
Geraldine Hennessy:So Badger and Dojo is a unique name. Can you tell us a little about how the name and brand came about?
[00:01:31] Brock Lewin: Yeah, sure. I started up in 2008, moved back here from Melbourne. I was struggling for a name for a little bit, and I found out that the father-in-law’s nickname was Dodo when he was a young boy.
Um, his brother couldn’t say Dave properly-said Dodo, and he’s known around the area as Dodo. Okay. And, and my own name, Brock is Irish for Badger. And seeing, we were building the, setting up the roastery on his property. I [00:02:00] thought a little bit of a tip of the hat to him to say thanks. Little did he know that, it was going to end up, on the radio.
[00:02:12] Geraldine Hennessy: But it’s, it’s such a cool and a strong name, isn’t it?
[00:02:15] Brock Lewin: Yeah. I think the double barrel word, you know, name . I didnt, it’s not something I realized or thought of. It’s, I just went without gut what sounded good, you know? Yeah. There were, there were other names sort of floating around, but they were all a bit clinical. So yeah, a bit of fun as well. A bit of mystery, bit of intrigue. It, it worked. Seems to have worked.
[00:02:33] Geraldine Hennessy: Does it, do you think it reflects your personality?
[00:02:36] Brock Lewin: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we often joke about badgering people and, you know, dodo himself was a chicken farmer, so there’s a bit of a connection there.
[00:02:46] Geraldine Hennessy:
Oh, very good. Very good. And how did you get involved in coffee roasting?
[00:02:52] Brock Lewin: I was in Dublin from 2000 to 2003, and the coffee scene was really non-existent. [00:03:00] Um, and I’d already worked as a barista before that in the nineties to get me through uni kind of thing. And so then when I went back to Melbourne from 2003 to 2008, you know, I was quite involved in the coffee scene, living and working off Chapel Street and prahan.
And I was managing a pub there that was on Chapel Street and had big bifold doors that opened up and you had to have a coffee scene to, had you had to be in the trade in order to keep your daytime trades, you know? Mm. So we were, quite involved in coffee and then I left the pub and I managed a cafe or two.
And, and I, I knew I was coming back here. I met my Irish wife and I was going to either roast or open a cafe. I wasn’t sure if the coffee scene had developed here. So I learned to roast in Melbourne and did courses and did one-on-one roasting with a guy called Bruno Mayo from Sea for coffee in Melbourne, and then the rest was just history really.
You know? [00:04:00] Yeah.
[00:04:00] Geraldine Hennessy: So it was kind of like you were kind of at the start of the wave really, weren’t you? Of the whole phenomenon that has kinda become coffee in here in Ireland anyway.
[00:04:08] Brock Lewin: So we are what you call specialty coffee roasters. Specialty is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but it’s coffee that has been Q grade at 80 points or more out of a hundred.
A Q grade is like a sommelier is to wine. A Q grade is to coffee. Two of Ireland’s first two Q graders worked for me in the years gone, and so we’ve always been very passionate about specialty. Steven Morrisey, Ireland’s only world barista champion, happened to win the World Barista Championships just as I came and set up in Ireland in 2008.
And so that, that was, that was really the start of the specialty scene. In Ireland, you know, it developed a lot more after that, obviously, and quicker. There was one or two other roasters around at the time, um, micro roasters, let’s say. But, I’ve, I’ve always been a champion of [00:05:00] specialty coffee.
[00:05:01] Geraldine Hennessy: And does it sort of annoy you when you know people maybe, brand themselves a specialty when they’re not really.
[00:05:09] Brock Lewin: Um, I, I think I’m a bit past that now. You know? And, and you do see people, you know, give their coffee scores and you’re just like, well, you know, who scored that? Yeah. Who scored that?
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Now mind you, I have no Q graderss on team at the moment, but Jacob, my GM has and, and myself, um, and, and Pa my roaster we’re our cupperss. And between us we’ve got something like 25 years of proper coffee experience. So, and, and we always cup pretty well. We, we always cup a line, cup, but we always seem to fall around the same outcome ourselves, you know?
Okay. Okay. So I think over time and practice, Yeah, you, you do develop the palette. It just take, developing a palette. In coffee, definitely takes time. Yeah. And practice.
[00:05:56] Geraldine Hennessy: And how did you develop your brand identity?
[00:05:59] Brock Lewin: Well, my wife, [00:06:00] Claire enters the scene here. she went to NCAD in Dublin -National College Art & Design in Dublin.
I was a barman in Dublin from 2000-2003. She was a student and she just had the, the knack, you know, the, the look, the feel. She doesall our graphic design, and now we have had, advice and sort of standardization from experts along the way, but she’s always been the full drive and, and core of that. I, I had very masculine kind of look, and she rightly sort of plucked that and said, no, that won’t do.
And so, you know, us being quite opposite, she, she, she brought the arty sort of Yeah. Edge to it. And I guess like any brand identity, it, it evolves over the years and yeah, I think she’s, she’s done well there, you know, good.
Geraldine Hennessy: A good partnership so .
Brock Lewin: Yeah. And she continues to do, like the new drip boxes we’ve put out there are just. I think they’re fantastic, you know? Yeah. Yeah.
Geraldine Hennessy: So good [00:07:00] partnership.
Brock Lewin: Yeah. In many respects. Yeah.
[00:07:02] Geraldine Hennessy: And how and where do you source your beans? Um, So we call, I called ourselves a, a boutique coffee roaster at the start because I wanted to give the idea that we sell a lot of one-off coffees like a woman’s boutique might sell one-off clothing, you know. So of course this has been abbreviated to Badger and Dodo, so we really source anywhere that we find is great. At that particular point, it’s seasonally fresh. We’re never old crop, always 85 plus. As a mantra, we’ve, um, picked up and you’ll see it in our marketing 85 plus.
So it’s always all definitely specialty coffee in our mainstay offerings for espresso. In, in, in the cafes we supply around the country we’ve got Brazil Fazenda Recreio and I went there in 2018. Visited the farm and we import directly from Brazil there. Actually we had a container come in the other day, so it comes directly from Porto de Santos into Port of Cork, which is a great [00:08:00] thing for Ireland for freshness, for reduced carbon emissions. It allows us a better price so we can get a better quality coffee. Leo Varadkar came to the roastery aew years ago, and it was when Brexit was happening and Theresa May was still at the helm. Oh, I think I said, I said to him, “Brexit bring what Brexit may we’re no longer using the UK” Yeah. It was a nice little catchphrase for the moment. Yeah. But it is, it’s great for, local economy as well. Yeah. Um, so Brazil is the main origin. Fazenda Recreio. Specifically we have put on the map. Then like I’m always a big fan of Ethiopian coffees.
I’ve always stocked a washed yigacheffe from day one. That was my go-to specialty. And then it’s really whatever the current crop is. And, and it can be East Africans or Central Americans. We don’t really do much Asian, we just found them too full [00:09:00] bodied. Okay. Too earthy for specialty palette.
[00:09:03] Geraldine Hennessy: Okay.
Okay. So like just the climate, like what’s happening with, say, climate change, does that impact on your decision making now going forward or?
[00:09:13] Brock Lewin: It does, um, certainly in regards to say like supply, there was issues there with Columbia last year. So we’ve tried to move away from Colombian. Now we do bring that in for special customers who are on the Colombian, but Columbian in particular has become very expensive.
In, in regards to considerations, the coffee market suffered a huge price increase there about three years ago. This is a global thing with coffee. Yeah. there were major frosts in Brazil, unseasonal frosts that drove the price up for coffee and everyone was affected. And I think when price is affected, we’re all, you know, you can’t help but be affected.
[00:09:57] Geraldine Hennessy: Supply and demand is always going to be there. I suppose there’s always gonna be an issue. If there is a, an issue with the source, it’s gonna affect the, the end customer. Yeah, yeah,
[00:10:06] Brock Lewin: yeah, yeah. That’s it. Yeah.
[00:10:07] Geraldine Hennessy: And it’s, I suppose, probably trying to come up with contingency plans just to try and deal with that. Or do you have to – is it kind of like spur of the moment kind of thing?
[00:10:16] Brock Lewin: Yeah, you do have contingency plans. You know, like for instance, our black water blend, the Colombian was a component in that. Um, so, you know, we, we might reduce the amount of Colombian that’s involved and increase the, the Guatemalan or Peru.
Okay. The subtle changes to the blend that most people wouldn’t be able to detect at all. Yeah. Mm. And managing a blend is part of what a roaster does. Yeah. You’re never gonna have 100%. Consistency because I mean nature, it’s a crop of nature anyway. Anyway.
[00:10:45] Geraldine Hennessy: I suppose that’s just part of, you know, like variety is, you know, it’s, it’s just part and parcel of the product.
If you want something that’s the consistent a hundred percent all the time, buy something in a jar that you can get in a supermarket.
[00:10:54] Brock Lewin: Yeah, exactly. I, you just can’t control nature. Yeah. You know, you can’t [00:11:00] control the sun and the rain. Yeah. Okay.
[00:11:02] Geraldine Hennessy: Okay. And how would you describe the flavor profile of your coffee and individual coffee varieties?
[00:11:08] Brock Lewin: Blackwater Blend is our most well known blend. We, we are medium roasters, I guess is what you would say, um, for our espresso blends. And then typically for something which would be a seasonal coffee, we would go more towards medium, medium light, um, because we know that it’s gonna be brewed at home.
A feature of specialty is trying to enshrine or captivate acidity in a coffee. I believe acidity brings flavor to the fore. Unlike your, say, your, your first or second wave coffees, like your traditional Spanish, Portuguese, French coffees would be dark roasted and people are looking for that real coffee hit.
Mm. they might have 20 or 40% robusts. It’d be darker roasted. You would need to put sugar with that. That would be a [00:12:00] completely separate cup profile to what specialty roasters would go for. So our black water blend is very pleasing across most spectrums. Our Brazilian would have a little bit more acidity than most people would expect.
With a cup of Brazilian, you would, you might expect, say nutty, chocolatey flavors In our, you know, Brazilian, we would have that, but we might also have a bit of an uplift through, say, some orange acidity. For instance, or maybe slight lemon in a refined cup situation. You pick that up.
Whereas now, then our jam jar in 2016, I had great fun. I went to Portland, Oregon, hired myself a convertible Mustang and drove down the west coast of America researching cafes and cup profiles. But of course, you know, That part. Um, Portland, Oregon, Seattle West Starbucks was founded, you know, is, is a huge coffee mecca.
Mm. One of them in the world. And, I, I came across [00:13:00] natural Ethiopians there, which we had been using at the time. Natural Ethiopians are, a lot of people think that it’s, it’s, it’s a coffee that’s left out to dry and ferment in the sun. Very funky stewed fruit kind of profile. When we first started selling it, people were sending it back saying, it’s off. You know, it’s rotten. There’s something wrong with this. The market clearly wasn’t ready for it. But what I discovered there in Portland was that if you blend it down, then it can g give really good sweetness To a blend. So our jam jar embodies that, you know, and Fairy Floss is another one that is mixed with a natural process and a washed process.A wash process, will really enshrine an acidity like a fragrant orange, bergamot jasmine, and you mix that with strawberry for a funky, natural Ethiopian. It’s a beautiful combination.
[00:13:51] Geraldine Hennessy: Okay. You’re obviously very passionate about coffee, and it’s obviously still a learning journey. As such, you’re still learning, you’re still going on your trips and finding out new [00:14:00] things about coffee. As such, it’s always going to be.
[00:14:02] Brock Lewin:. Yes. You know, one thing I learned about coffee in Australia is that it is a dynamic industry, that it is always changing.
Now, sometimes there’s reinvention for the sake of it, like the deconstructed cappuccino. I don’t think I’ll ever want to serve that up in my coffee, where you, you get the espresso and then you get the milk, and you get the foam and you build your own. That’s one fade I won’t try, but it is important to keep exploring and, and having fun.
You know, like our drip bags that we’ve just brought out. I, you know, I think they’re a great thing. Before that, I brought out a Discover Coffee series, um, where you might taste the same coffee process, say three different ways. Okay. Or three coffees from the same farm, or the same farm with three different coffee varietals or processed the same way.
So you’re trying to get people to understand coffee in different ways. It’s a bit complex for the average person and a lot of these projects that we call, they don’t really make financial sense. Yeah, we definitely lost [00:15:00] money on some of them. But it’s something to do. Yeah. And it’s just another way to keep researching or developing or being involved in the industry, because otherwise it’s just too much like work.
[00:15:12] Geraldine Hennessy: Keep the interest going as such.
[00:15:13] Brock Lewin: Yeah. Oh, a hundred percent. Yeah. And you never know. You find something, you discover something along the way or. Yeah, I’m looking forward. We’ve got an origin trip lined up next year to Guatemala, which will happen around about February, and we’re going over there with to visit a supplier.
Actually, a container just came in the other day from Guatemala, and this is a very long time broker that we’ve been dealing with. Her father owns some processing mills in Guatemala. It’s third wave coffee Source. Hi Nadine. Um, yeah, so we’re looking forward to going over there and she’s been fabulous with us over the years and I’ve seen her develop from quite a small stage and she came out to the roastery and looked around and yeah, it’s great to follow people through the industry over the years. You know, even the famed Colin Harmon and 3fe [00:16:00] and see him swim to dizzying heights and old customers of mine, like Cloud Picker or Roasted Brown or Bean in Dingle or Red Strand or Coffee Culture. You know, there’s a lot of these guys who were my own customers and see them go out on their own and do well is great.
I think I was interviewed in a radio session years ago when I was trading at the farmer’s market at the Point Village. I used to drive up to Dublin for the Point Village Market. Nice. Yeah. And they got hold of me and I went in for an interview. I said, yeah, there’s loads of room for more roasters, you know, and the industry’s just opening and within a year, I’d lost half a dozen customers, but, yeah, more than merrier.
[00:16:41] Geraldine Hennessy: Careful what you wish for though.
[00:16:41] Brock Lewin: Yeah, I know, I know know. But no, it’s all good. I, you know, I don’t wanna grow for the sake of growth. I just want to do what I do, do it well, and enjoy the business. Look after our wholesale customers, you know, I’m not pushed on growing for the sake of it.
I [00:17:00] don’t want to grow the company too much. It just gets out of control. At the moment, one of my goals is, you know, we’re developing our technical support department. So, you know, we’ve got Simone, he’s, born of a coffee roaster. His brother’s a coffee roaster. He’s gone on the machine route, and, he’s, he’s just expert in machinery.
And look, it’s beans machines, baristas. You know, other than that, the only other thing is, is water. So, and, and we address every component, but it’s amazing how often machinery has lets people down. Mm. Not changing your blades, your burners, and your grinder, not keeping your water filter up to date.
Um, even just proper cleaning of the machine. So, you know, Simo and with the help of Oisin, another, guy, we’ve got training up in the department, we’re rolling out preventative maintenance programs to make sure that our customers are keeping on top of their machinery. Because it is so important as well.
[00:17:58] Geraldine Hennessy: I, I suppose that the [00:18:00] basics are, it’s, it’s quite simple as you say there about the beans, the machine, the water, you know, they’re the basics and you have to have them right. Yeah,
[00:18:08] Brock Lewin: yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah. Look, when I came here, no one was doing flat whites. And it was so hard to try to train people up on flat whites.
You know, training is so important. Mm. It’s important that they can do the milk right, that they know- I don’t really care about latte arts as long as the shot is dialed in, so long as the milk is at the right temperature and the right foam consistency. You know, getting those training essentials across is, is a vital importance.
There’s nothing worse than an owner who puts in charge a manager, but doesn’t keep their staff up to date. Yeah. And, and, and, and then a new manager comes along and then, not bothering checking them for their coffee skills. And that can happen in places where coffee isn’t that important. Mm-hmm, You know, like if we supply a gastro pub, you know, but that’s not endemic to Ireland.
That was certainly a thing in Australia as well. You know, I, I worked in a, a restaurant and I was always on the coffee machine. It was great when I was working, but then other [00:19:00] people would jump on and Yeah. You know, you’ve gotta keep up your skills that way, you know? Yeah. Okay.
[00:19:06] Geraldine Hennessy: So you, you mentioned there that there are many coffee roasting companies out there.How would you describe the market? Is it collaborative?
[00:19:13] Brock Lewin: I think it’s, it’s definitely getting to saturation. You know, it, it used to be such that, I, I would know the other roasters and, you know, we could chat to each other and, and I still do, I have great relationship with some roasters. Um, but I guess, you know, now there’s well over a hundred roasters in Ireland.
It’s, it’s getting a little bit competitive. And we have account managers, you know, who are designated staff, who are trained in coffee to work in particular areas. One in Dublin, one in, one in Leister, one in munster, Connacht. And you know, when they go out to visit our customers and see how they are, they will find bags from other roasters who have been in there to try to poach the accounts or try to win the accounts.
And all is fair in love and war, but it never [00:20:00] really used to be that way, you know, and I’d certainly have respect now, say for like other roasters in town, you know, I, I wouldn’t, you know, we don’t need to go looking for new accounts. I do understand if you’re a new roaster and you’re trying to make your way, you need to do that.
So I think it’s, I’d say it’s collaborative amongst the older guard or the older guys. Yeah. But maybe not these new punks upsetting the status quo. Go for it. You know? Yes. Like, as I say, you know, you, you, you look after your customers. Yeah. And you do a good job. And you just do business and do it the best you can. And you know, I think your reputation stands above all.
[00:20:37] Geraldine Hennessy: Given the marketplace, how did you define yourself when you first started out?Was it that, you know, building up a good reputation as you just said?
[00:20:44] Brock Lewin: Yeah, a hundred percent. it was all about just, just doing a good product and being able to provide everything that your customer needs. So, you know, we’ve developed a range of peripherals. Sell the machinery, sell a new grinder, stay abreast of new [00:21:00] machinery as it comes out.
Yeah, it was always a hundred percent about just good name and reputation and trying to develop it that way. Word of mouth is all I ever, I didn’t actually advertise ever. Until the pandemic came. And we were like, whoa, what are we gonna do here? Yeah. You know, our wholesale customers can’t open. And then all of a sudden we, we saw online taking off a bit and we just redeveloped our website.
It was very good timing. So our online sales just went crazy. And then we realized that with a little bit more marketing, it would work even more. And then I’ve kind of been swayed a little bit about marketing. It’s not so much about selling hard and saying, you are the best and buy our stuff, but it’s also a little bit about letting people know that you are there.
Mm. And. Like, I’m, I don’t, I really don’t wanna push ourselves in front of anyone’s face, you know, or, or down their throats. But it’s funny years later, you [00:22:00] know, when you find that people still don’t know about you, “Hey Patrick, oh, you are in Fermoy. I live in for Fermoy. I never knew you were there. Where are you?
And, and that conversation would happen. Yeah. You know, despite that, we do farmers’ markets and things around town. We’ve got two cafes in town. There’s always new generations of people coming through. So you do have to tell the story a little bit. You can’t just survive on word of mouth alone, I think.
[00:22:21] Geraldine Hennessy: Yeah. You know, I suppose as you say it’s not probably about the hard sell. Um, it’s just letting people know that you’re there and letting the product speak for itself. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah.
And have trends like cold brews affected your approach to roasting?
[00:22:35] Brock Lewin: Um, Yeah, not as such really, because the demand for cold brew really isn’t there at the moment.
In North America. It’s a major, major project that, that they undertake every year. Even places like Wendy’s Donuts, will sell cold brew. Mm. We tried it a few years ago and we were bottling it and we’re throwing half of it out, but this year it has taken off a bit more. But there’s a difference between [00:23:00] cold brew and iced lattes and iced americanos.
Iced latte, iced lattes and americanos can be made in the espresso machine. Cold brew has to be infused, um, through a special process. And then it’s a concentrate, which you then watere down. It’s kind of like the flat white of cold coffees. So, yeah, there’s just not the demand there for it as such.
[00:23:26] Geraldine Hennessy: So yummy.
Says the one who’s just after gulping her one down!
[00:23:29] Brock Lewin: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, like you, you can still play with the variables in coffee. Um, to use it in cold brew to make it work. And that’s one of the good things about cold brew is, is that you can, or about coffee in general is, is there’s so many variables.
You can make some of them consistent and play with the others. Like grind size, contact time, water temperature, brewing device agitation, you know, so you, you can modify these [00:24:00] to find something that suits your palette. And, and we’ve all got different palettes, you know, I. I, I used to really like natural coffees um, when they first came out, I thought they were fantastic. Now I’m very tired of them. And then anaerobic came out. That’s, that’s been quite a fashion for a couple of years, and there’s some great ones and then there’s some there that are just done for the sake of it, I’d be like, my God,that just does not even taste like coffee.
So, yeah, it’s, you know, there’s, there’s lots of variables in coffee and that’s, that’s one of the, one of the exciting things I find about it.
[00:24:32] Geraldine Hennessy: Some trends are good, I suppose. It’s like everything, some trends are good and some trends not so good.
[00:24:37] Brock Lewin: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I think as well, it’s important to keep your own own mind open because what you like may change as well.
For instance, when I’m drinking whiskey, I, I loved, peated whiskey when I first started getting into whiskey. Now I can’t stand it. Yeah. I’ve gotta have a really crisp, grassy, something hot still, you know, to Yeah. You know? And the same with your wines and your [00:25:00] beers, and…..
[00:25:01] Geraldine Hennessy: Would your palette overall have changed for all those kind of things? Do you think your palette has become more, I suppose, fine tuned because of the, the nature of the work that you do?
[00:25:11] Brock Lewin: Oh, a hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. We’ve been going 15 years now. I’d say 12 years ago I was still looking for a full bodied. Um, and we used to do, Sumatra Gegorene. It was, it was really famous with us, a real orangey chocolatey orange, and it sold so well.
But my palette changed, um, and started picking up a lot of the, the light acidity based jasmine bergamot orange coffees. And, and to me, specialty coffee really does,well did, at least back then, was really about understanding acidity and coffee. And understanding the difference between that and bitterness.
And so as a result, I got rid of the Sumatra Gegorene. Even though it was a really good seller for [00:26:00] us. Yeah. It was a hard decision to do that. And I know we disappointed a lot of our fans. But we had to take them on that journey, I felt. You know, that had some sort of a certain responsibility to really try to portray this worldwide movement of appreciation of lighter roasted coffees, you know?
[00:26:19] Geraldine Hennessy: Do you think the decision has paid off?
[00:26:20] Brock Lewin: Yeah, sure. I, I, I know no other outcome, but, yeah. Yeah, we do fine. And, oh, I’m quite proud of the way that the company has grown and. Yeah, it is, it’s, it’s good when you do get customers who do appreciate, you know, when you bring out a new coffee and you look at how much it sells, or you take a bit of a gamble and something’s a bit more expensive and the customers pick it up and Yeah.
That is, that is, that’s rewarding when that happens, you know? Okay.
[00:26:44] Geraldine Hennessy: Okay. Do you find your sales are affected by seasonal factors? Like, for example, has the recent good weather impacted you and two customers favour lighter flavour profiles in the summer?
[00:26:55] Brock Lewin: Yeah, that’s, that’s the way I always used to, um, try to [00:27:00] portray it.
Anyway, we do a winter blend. A Christmas blend, and that will always be a lot more full bodied. Um, we would tend to go that way. And we would look for more Christmasy sort of notes in it. But then again, we just brought out a coffee Las Brumas for Father’s Day. Because it was very unusual coffee. It’s got notes of leather and cinnamon and tobacco. Mm. Because we thought that that would be sort of your traditional dad profile, mightn’t be a modern dad’s profile, but, we had to go for some sort of a profile. Yeah. And that’s what we chose. Yeah, you’re, you’re looking for, um, a lighter summer based, like you drink a cider in the summer, you drink a stout in the winter.
[00:27:42] Geraldine Hennessy: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Okay. If you had to have to pick your favorite coffee, what would it be?
[00:27:46] Brock Lewin: Oh, it’s Ethiopian. Yeah. A washed Ethiopian, a hundred percent. I’ve always, always stocked it right from day one. You know, it was one of the first coffees, if not the first coffee [00:28:00] I put into the roaster, into the roaster I had then.
I always love it. And to me, I mean, specialty coffee is, you know, is, is really very diverse. But if there’s any one coffee for me that defines specialty coffee, that would be it. Okay. Okay. Yeah.
[00:28:17] Geraldine Hennessy: And you also run a, a coffee academy and have your own blog. Is this as a result of the surge, an interesting coffee over the last few years?
[00:28:24] Brock Lewin: No. Yes, no. Yeah, look, the Academy was something that we wanted to set up here. So, um, we had a place for our wholesale customers to come and train up. Often, new wholesale customers we bring on board are, they’re new. They’re setting up a new cafe. And, you know, they don’t have the facilities set up ready to go.
So we bring them in here and we train up the staff here beforehand. We have the online courses as well.
The blog. Um, I, I think I was told I had to have that for the website. [00:29:00] but you know, like the blog has worked out well because Yeah, I was reading an interesting thing in there about, um, Last kingdom and its really interesting how they’re learning to, to write and how they’re recording the way buildings, so much knowledge has been lost over time.
And, you know, and, and we realized that we were taking on these so-called projects. You know, when, when we put the reverse osmosis water system in here, to the Barrack Street Cafe two or three years ago. You know, water was really in, in what we thought at that stage is really peak in the industry and how important water is to coffee.
So it’s a reverse osmosis system and it remineralizes for the ideal water to extract coffee into water. So, you know, but that’s heavy knowledge. And it’s not the sort of knowledge I want in my head all the time. Yeah. You know, so that’s where the blog comes in very handy, you know, to put that information out there.
I think it’s also good from historical perspective Yeah. As well to go back and [00:30:00] see, oh look what I was doing back then, you know? Yeah. And it has built up over time. I dunno how up to date it is at the moment. It’s been a while since I read my own blog, but, yeah, I know it rolls on you.
[00:30:11] Geraldine Hennessy: Yeah, I think it’s a good idea just to get people to get even, to get a feel for you.
And I know it’s a good way to represent yourself, I think, and represent the company. Yeah, personal opinion because I like looking at blogs like that.
[00:30:21] Brock Lewin: Oh right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So now I must get onto that.
[00:30:29] Geraldine Hennessy: Now, Ive given you a job to do -homework to do, oh no, there’s always that.
And the US comedian Dennis Leary derided, the shift away from coffee flavored coffee in his sets.Is adding a syrup or flavoring to your coffee akin to adding a mixer to a top shelf whiskey?
[00:30:42] Brock Lewin:. Yeah, I, you know, comments, guys like that are obviously saying more about themselves, aren’t they? Yes. Really, they’re not able to appreciate the finer things in life. You have a bit of a sledgehammer comment, but, yeah.
We have never, ever sold syrups. There was always a market there for us to sell them. People always want them. We have never sold them. We don’t have them in our own outlets. It’s about the coffee. Yeah. It’s about the coffee. Ballymaloe Literary of Food Festival. First of all, we, we, we, we get on great with Ballymaloe
I’ve always been a big fan of DarinaAllen. The shop out there was one of the first to stock our retail coffee and we share the Saturday market with them at Middleton. And, so we did the Ballymaloe Literary of Food Festival years ago, and we bought this Kenyan, paid through the roof for it, you know, and, you know, we set up, our friends at Marco loaned us a, a lovely piece of brewing equipment.
And we went out there and we set it up and we brewed this coffee and we gave it away to people. And no, it broke my heart. People asking for milk and sugar, and this guy, I said, no, sorry. Yeah, no milk, no sugar, it’s free. Take it or leave it, kind of thing, you know? Yeah. So, yeah, and it was all about, you know, [00:32:00] can you taste the Blackberry and yeah, it’s a bit of an education, but that’s what that Literary Food Festival was about.
You know, it was. So, um, yeah, we’re very thankful for the festivals and markets that are, they’re very important parts of any small business coming to the fore. Now, it can be very hard, and for a lot of companies it’s just turned into a marketing or moneymaking exercise. But I believe the, the markets are really where you go to try your product to bring it to the market to get up and going. And, and I did this originally at Fermoy market, under Dave Ryan there, who has the Amber Service Station in Fermoy. And, Dave was a big part in me getting up and going. Um, you know, I was roasting my coffee, taking it to that farmer’s market and testing and trialing it.
And, you know, I had my barista skills, but it was all about, you know, just trying to fine tune my roasting, you know? Um, And, and I know there are other roasterss, like Red Strand down in, um, Clonakilty, you know, he, he’s Shane takes his coffee to [00:33:00] the market there. Mm. And, and even our friends around the corner here at, um, Molly.
Yeah, yeah. Cafe Molly around the corner here. And you know, Daniel’s done a great job there of roasting in cafe and serving up different types of coffee that way. Fabulous. Like that, you know? So, but festivals and markets. Yeah. When, when you, when you don’t have your own little, cafe to serve it out in Yeah.
[00:33:26] Geraldine Hennessy: Yeah. It’s a good way to start isn’t it then.A good base to kind of, it is, see if, if this is gonna turn into a successful, viable business.
[00:33:32] Brock Lewin: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, even, we’re still doing to, to this day, we’re, we’ve got a pop up there in photo at Wildlife Park and, this cold brew that we’re drinking we’re gonna bottle that up put it in there as a ready to go grab off the shelf thing because the ice machine out there can only do so muc ice.
[00:33:50] Geraldine Hennessy: Quite a great idea for all the parents. Oh my God, I love it. Yeah. Go play. Let me drink my, my, my cold brew.
[00:33:57] Brock Lewin: Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. [00:34:00] Very. And it’s, it’s called on in this weather.
It’s fantastic, you know? Yeah. Yeah.
[00:34:03] Geraldine Hennessy: Very good, very good. Yeah. Well, thanks so much for joining us, Brock, on the podcast today. Um, if you want to learn more about Badger & Dodo and their fantastic coffee, you can find more on corkcreative.ie
[00:34:16] Brock Lewin: Thank you very much. Thank you for the opportunity.