Perry, our head roaster is on the right, Chuck, his assistant roaster, is on the left.
This week: The first of many profiles of the people that make Victrola great.
Our head roaster Perry Hook grew up in Warminster, PA. A member of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, Perry graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Science with a minor in experimental music in 2004. If you have spent any time with him we need not tell you- Perry is bright. He’s kind too, and a natural teacher.
SJ: How did you get into coffee/coffee roasting?
PH: I got addicted to coffee in 9th grade and started working as a barista at a coffee shop during my freshman year of college. We carried a very wide range of coffees there, which sparked my interest in single-origin coffees. After college I found myself on the east coast (and) started home roasting. With my I-Roast
and SweetMarias.com I started exploring all sorts of different coffees and developing my palate. Before I knew it I was living in Portland, I-Roasting in the bathroom with the fan on. Victrola was hiring an assistant roaster so I took my best roast of a natural Yirgacheffe Idido Misty Valley up for an interview and got hired.
SJ: Tell me about any recent accomplishments & what you are working on
PH: We’re continuing to put out new single-origin espressos with the goal of exploring the range of flavors and balance available in an espresso. Since espresso really amplifies the unique qualities coffees have, the taste differences between different s.o. espressos can be huge. I like exposing people to an espresso that might have a totally different taste profile than what they are used to, but is still delicious and interesting. Our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe from the Koke Coop is a good example of a s.o. espresso that lacked the balance of most espresso blends, but still tasted great: bright, sweet, tart, and intensely aromatic and floral.
SJ: What do you like about the Seattle coffee scene?
PH: I like that the average customer in Seattle has a high expectation when they purchase coffee. Good coffee is appreciated, and people want to
know more about the coffee they drink. This isn’t true in most parts of the country, and I think we sometimes take it for granted here on the west coast from San Fransisco to Vancouver. When you have customers that already have high levels of coffee knowledge, experience, and expectations it provides coffee roasteries like us to strive for higher standards and have those efforts be appreciated by our customers.
SJ: What do you drink?
PH: Black coffee, espresso, a short to very short americano. I don’t like milk with my coffee. Usually I stick to the French press, but I do like pourover drip brews, vacuum pots, and occasionally an Aeropress at home.
SJ: Tell me about some things you take into consideration when buying &sample roasting new coffees.
PH: First and foremost we look at the quality of the coffee. We taste it several times, get opinions from staff, and think about how it will fit with the other coffees on our menu. One of my goals is to keep a diverse range of origins on our menu, but only if the coffees taste good. In the last couple years we’ve had to shy away from some origins such as Ethiopia Harrars, because the quality just hasn’t been there. Historically they’ve always sold really well at Victrola, but there comes
a point where other origins with similar characteristics are just better. Instead of Harrar we now have the natural Ethiopia Sidama Ardi and the natural Brazil Cerrado from Fazenda Esperanca. A good Harrar might have fit somewhere between those two coffees on the taste spectrum. Hopefully this gives those who love Harrars some good options, and helps expand their palate at the same time.
SJ: What can Victrola look forward to in the next few months?
PH: Some great new coffees! We just purchased an organic Guatemalan coffee from Finca Bourbon in the Patzun area. Not only does it taste
fantastic, but it is certified organic, Bird-Friendly, and shade grown. For those who want to try an unusual coffee for the U.S., we purchased a very small amount of an arabica coffee from Thailand. Very little coffee from Thailand makes it to the U.S., and we hope to share the work that the Suan and Lahu tribes that produced this coffee are doing to develop arabica production in Thailand. We also purchased one of the best Ethiopian coffees ever produced, called Nekisse. We hope to put that on
the menu very soon as well. Early to mid summer is when the new crop coffees from East Africa start arriving, so shopping for some new ones is always fun. Stay tuned for some new single-origin espressos too, including a microlot from Honduras, the Ethiopia Sidama Ardi, and perhaps
SJ: After an arduous day in front of the roaster, what do you do for dinner when you get home?
PH: Homemade pizza. I make everything from scratch.
SJ: And finally, we’d all like to know what is cued in your iPod?
PH: Orb – Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
Join Perry & company at the roastery at 310 E Pike St at 11am every Wednesday for our public coffee tasting. First 12 people to show are welcome to sniff, sample and learn all about the coffees on our menu. Often, there
are some new beans on the table ready for your input and opinions. If you’re lucky, you could lend just the right descriptors and insights to be used in designing an upcoming coffee menu.
I’m looking forward to contributing to the Blog by sharing insight into the lives of the folks who bring you exciting coffees and coffee news. -Sarah Jane