Ozone and Coffee Cupping: An Introduction

Hugh Thomas
Ozone -2014 Emilie WHITE_46 WEB

On what would otherwise be a nondescript backstreet in Shoreditch (also known as Leonard Street) is a palace for coffee lovers called Ozone. Ostensibly the place resembles a café, and stepping through the threshold you’d be forgiven for assuming it to be just that. At least, if the warm bitter aroma emanating from floor below wasn’t so powerful, and if the shiny, well-kept roasting machines weren’t so glaringly obvious.

As well as good coffee, people are a big part of the operation at Ozone. In fact they have been a big part of the operation even before coffee was. The story begins with Jamie and Karen, two Kiwis with big hearts and even bigger ideas. In 1995 the pair travelled to El Salvador to work with an organisation helping children affected by the civil war there. A great deal of the livelihoods of the people that lived in the area depended on the coffee plantations.

Fastforward to their return to New Zealand, Jamie and Karen had invested in an old Otto Swadla coffee roaster and enough cash to start a business. In a short amount of time Ozone, which the company had since become called, established itself as one of the biggest roasteries in New Zealand. Craig Macfarlane, an entrepreneur with experience in hospitality, saw the potential for the brand. He bought it and, in 2012, established the comapany’s London headquarters.

coffee cupping

Time Out describes the setup as ‘a major hit with office workers in and around Silicon Roundabout’, while The Independent deems it ‘one of the most beautiful coffee spaces in London.’ An interesting way of describing what looks to be an old warehouse, but the ethos and sharpness of understanding that goes on inside of it is indeed nothing short of beautiful. It’s an ethos that extends beyond the simple café-roastery dynamic, but still, it all goes back to Ozone’s ‘people and coffee’ principle.

coffee cupping

That is, the coffee tasting, or ‘coffee cupping’ as we’ll be calling it. This trend was standard practice for anyone in the industry in the 19th century, in particular experts based in San Francisco, but is being shaped into more than that – a pastime, you might say. Even so, cupping is still a bit of a niche in most places, and has the terminology to show for it. ‘Rubber-like’ is a term used to describe the aroma of melting car tyres, while ‘animal-like’ describes a blend with a notable wet dog smell to it.

The list of terms for smells and tastes is long, though the methods of discerning them is rather simple: the process involves little more than a sniff and a slurp (a very audible slurp, at that) in order to measure the affect the coffee has on the palate. Tasters, or ‘cuppers’, as they are known, are invited to guess from which country the coffee’s beans are sourced.

It’s a far cry from the daily ritual of walking in and out of Starbucks and thinking none of it, but the trend is making people think more about how to better appreciate the liquid they put in their mouths. Ozone’s head Barista trainer Anson is an advocate of the craze, and is one of the friendliest people you’ll meet if you fancy being part of it.

Coffee Cupping with Anson


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