Our relationship with Brothers Coffee Roasters has been deeply intertwined for the past couple of years. They have played a major influence on the development of the café side of our business, being the main coffee roasters, we showcased in our first year in business.
We were introduced to Shaun Waitzer—founder, roast master and head of operations—in 2016 through a fellow surfer and quickly came to find that Shaun not only hails from the land of the flat white’s (New Zealand), but he’s also adventured to some of the best regions for coffee beans in the world. He also deeply invested in our community and what we have to offer them here at Surf the Greats.
Since we started working together, we’ve also become friends with Charlie Penn—a lovely English barista who moved to Canada and became one of the head roasters at Brothers Coffee Roasters. We caught up with them over a cup of coffee to find out more about their operation and their love for surfing and coffee beans.
Tell us about how Brothers came to be and where do you see Brothers going?
Shaun Waitzer: Brothers started officially back in 2014 but I had been roasting for our Cafe for a while before that playing around with different coffees and blends getting feedback from our regular customers. It was only ever really supposed to be for our cafe but quickly found out that there was demand for our coffees in other cafes around the GTA. I see Brothers continuing to grow as we meet more and more like-minded operators that we like to work with.
What is your favourite blend/origin?
SW: For espresso, Notorious. Filtered coffee, Dawn Patrol. In terms of origin, Costa Rica at the moment.
Being one of the head roasters and quality control at Brothers, how did the transition from barista into roaster happen for you?
Charlie Penn: The transition from barista happened out of pure curiosity. I had worked in the industry 3 years prior to moving to Canada and worked at an amazing cafe in Bristol, England. Although I wasn't a barista there, I was very into the coffee side and always asking our baristas questions and I took a couple trips to our roaster, Extract. Because I was supervising, I never really got to put my knowledge of coffee to practice until I moved to Oakville and started working in Shaun's cafe. After a year of being a barista, my interest in coffee continued to flourish and I pestered Shaun to let me come and see the roasting process. Eventually I took over the reigns after he taught me all he knows, and with the extra help in the roastery, we've been able to take on more clients and grow the business.
As we see in countries like NZ, Australia and the UK, the specialty coffee/alternative milk game is on another tier in terms of quality. Why do you think that is the case?
CP: I think the specialty coffee industry is still in its infant stage in Canada, whereas New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom have had bountiful quality espresso for years. Not to say we aren't rapidly catching up/up to par in terms of finding a great cup of coffee in Canada. However, I imagine the demand for alternative milk has been around a longer time, so more products that are coffee specific have been developed overseas.
What is your morning coffee ritual look like?
SW: If I’m at home 2 double flat whites before I do anything. If I’m traveling, Dawn Patrol as a filter.
For anyone who wants to understand how to find tasting notes in their own palate and the language of how notes came to be, what resources would you recommend for the passionate home brewer?
CP: I think the best way to describe tasting notes are 'flavours that are reminiscent of …", there is an awesome flavour wheel available on the Specialty Coffee Association website that is a great resource to help you defer which flavours you are tasting by categorizing into sweet/fruity/floral etc. And then narrowing down very specific flavours.
Let’s clear up this debate, what makes the perfect flat white?
SW: Double shot 5.5oz cup silky milk
What is your ultimate Great Lake surf spot?
SW: Of the ones I can name, The Cove. Fun, punchy wave, and can hold some size. Or Crystal Beach, it’s a leg breaker!
In your years as a barista, and now roaster there has been quite the shift in coffee culture. What do you think personally brewed this change, and why now?
CP: Haha, ‘brewed this change’, I like that! I think generally there has been a big shift in consumer conscience over the past decade, not just for coffee. There has been a lot of research and journalism shedding light on the impact of excessive consumption and the negative effects of globalisation on other areas of the world. That has sparked a passion for more sustainable consumption, period. I think people are more willing to pay more and buy less these days if they know they are going to get a quality product. I think the coffee industry is somewhat a microcosm of this. Paying $4 for a cappuccino may have sounded absurd ten years ago, but now, knowing that the coffee has been sustainably farmed, sourced, and compensated fairly to all those in the supply chain is enough to make people want to only drink specialty coffee. Plus, it tastes one thousand times better.
What is your dream origin, and favourite blend?
CP: My favourite single origin coffee is probably Guatemala, particularly in Antigua, some of the best coffees in the world are grown there. I am more of a sweet, caramel, chocolatey cup kind of person, so I tend to reach for central/south American coffees before fruity African coffees. Controversial, I know! My favourite blend is our Dawn Patrol, it's a 60% Colombian 40% Guatemalan mix, we use two exceptional origin coffees both graded high, and it just tastes like dessert in a cup.
Besides swinging by Brothers and Kerr Street Cafe in Oakville, what is another must see/do?
SW: Grab a coffee and head down to the waterfront. They’ve done a heap of work down there so you can stroll the waterfront. There are actually some fun spots to surf there.
Antonio is an ISA-certified surf coach, movement teacher and community builder. He was born and raised in Brazil and graduated from OCAD University with a degree in Graphic Design. Antonio is the founder and CEO of Surf the Greats. Find him on Instagram.