Roaster profile: Mr. Hoban’s
Coming from my hometown of Hamburg, Mr. Hoban’s will be making his Coffeevine debut with a juicy and complex coffee from Rwanda
For its size, Hamburg has a surprisingly small amount of specialty coffee roasters, in particular, ones that are known beyond the city limits. Of course, you can’t compare Hamburg to Berlin and Hamburgers generally make it quite clear to those who do that they don’t want to be compared to the German capital anyway. Still, as a native to the city, I often do wonder what is holding it back from becoming a mecca for third-wave coffee bars. After all, much of Europe’s specialty coffee supply passes through the city’s port before ending up in your cups.
During my most recent visit to my hometown, I ventured out to the western suburb of Wedel to visit one of Hamburg’s finest boutique roasters, Mr. Hoban’s. This fine specialty coffee business was started by the charismatic Jan-Cort Hoban in 2012 with the aim to focus entirely on roasting great hand-picked single-origin coffees.
Jan-Cort and I have followed each other’s progress for quite some time and often end up coinciding for coffee at one of the best coffee bars in Europe that goes by the name Tōrnqvist and happens to be in Hamburg. Yet, it took Jan-Cort and me this long to find the right moment to finally work together. For the forthcoming September ’19 coffee box, Jan-Cort will roast for us a very special washed Rwandan coffee from the Gift washing station that was hailed by my tasting team as ‘one of the best Rwandan coffees they’ve tasted this year.’
Scroll down to read my full interview with Jan-Cort that I conducted with him when I visited his roastery a few weeks ago.
Interview with Jan-Cort Hoban
The Coffeevine: How did you come to start this specialty coffee roaster?
Jan-Cort Hoban: I actually used to work as a distributor for an Italian espresso brand for nineteen years and it was during that time that I first came into contact with what was becoming known as the ‘third-wave’ coffee culture. I was so fascinated by it that I soon founded Black Delight, one of the city’s first micro-roasters and specialty coffee bars. Yet, after four years, I decided I wanted to concentrate one hundred per cent on roasting and we ended up going our separate ways.
TCV: Why did you decide against having your own café?
JCH: I think it’s very tough to put the same amount of attention towards roasting outstanding coffee and running a fantastic hospitality business when you’re just one or two people. I learned that at Black Delight and when decided to start Mr. Hoban’s, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t have to make that choice. For me, it’s all about roasting coffee and visiting origin countries at least once a year to build my own knowledge, work with coffee growers and get out of this bubble that we’re in. We have really high demands in the West, but in producing countries, the real-life situation is often very different.
For many people, being able to send their kids to school is one of the most important things whereas here, we take those things for granted. If we expect everyone there to have a car and a great infrastructure but we’re not prepared to pay a decent price for our coffees, then there’s a great mismatch.
TCV: Tell us a bit about this roastery. You’re one of only a handful of roasters with a Loring in Germany. Why did you decide to go with this extraordinary machine?
JCH: Right. I was actually the first with a 35kg Loring in Germany and there is only one other roaster in this part of the country who operates a Loring as well.
TCV: How would you describe your roasting style?
JCH: I would say, for Germany, I roast my filter coffee rather light because I really try to focus on brightness but for my espressos, I try to find a middle ground between what I like and what the average customer knows. I made the experience that very fruity coffees simply overwhelm people who are not used to them. We’re not quite there yet (laughs).
TCV: You’ve already been to Brasil, Guatemala and Tanzania. Where is your next origin trip taking you to?
JCH: I’d love to visit Rwanda to see the project that was started by Eric Wright, an American coffee exporter who has done some amazing things in that region. He works with a lot of smallholder farmers and especially a lot of young people. Due to the horrific genocide that happened there in 1994, the workforce today is largely made up of women and young men. Many of the older generations are still suffering from the aftermath of the horrors they experienced during that fateful year.
You can really see how much interest there is from these guys to learn and to keep getting better at what they do, especially if you can show them that producing higher grade coffee actually leads to more money in their pockets.
I’m very excited to see where this will go!