The best thing about the coffee industry is the people in it, so we’re pulling back the curtain to spotlight the amazing team we have here at Bellwether.
Who: Greg Dawson
Role: Director of Coffee
Location: Sacramento, California
As Bellwether’s Director of Coffee, Greg oversees our Green Coffee Marketplace, as well as all roasting and quality control-related projects. Having been in the coffee industry for over twenty years, he’s a master of all things sourcing logistics, producer relationships, roast profiling, and menu building.
Beyond coffee, Greg’s our resident music man, with a cassette and record collection spanning over 200 items and a calendar booked with shows. Greg’s also an avid cook and loves spending time with his family, especially if it’s in the great outdoors.
Hey Greg, Will You Answer A Few Questions?
You’ve worked in coffee for almost 20 years—have any words of wisdom for newer coffee shops and roasters that are still getting their footing in the industry?
Keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate your operation from the start, you’ll always have time to do that down the road. If you start simple, but you do it really well, you have room to grow and improve over time.
Also, take the time to understand what you like and what your customers like as well. It’s so important to taste your coffee often and understand what you like about it and how you may also want to improve.
Where did you learn to roast? What was that experience like?
Like many others, I started with home roasting when I was a barista. The company I worked for at the time, Modern Coffee, was a multi-roaster and the owners were really supportive and asked if I wanted to learn how to roast with them.
We ended up working with a friend who trained us how to roast on this old Probat from the 1950’s. Everything about it was totally manual and we tracked our roast times and temperatures with a pen and paper. It was really fun in some ways but also stressful because we’d be roasting these 30lb batches of coffee not really knowing what we were doing. It was a lot of trial and error and a lot of times the coffee didn’t turn out exactly how we wanted. Over time we got better and better, but it took us a while to get there.
What’s something most people misunderstand about coffee sourcing?
The story of each coffee is so deep and complicated, and there are many people involved along the way. To make sure our coffees are sustainably priced and grown, we have to foster relationships and get to know each one of those stories.
Gabe and I have worked with a number of importers and exporters over the years, and we’re closely tied to ones that share the same values as us. When we know who was paid what all along the supply chain, we can better understand if the farmers were paid a fair price or not for their green coffee. When partners are open and transparent about this kind of information, we can grow the relationship and source more coffees alongside them.
Finding the right partners takes time and it is still a learning process, but I am really excited to see where we are at today because of the hard work put forth by the team.
Why should someone get excited about sourcing through our Green Coffee Marketplace versus a big-name importer?
There are a bunch of reasons! I’ll list a handful:
- For Bellwether customers, we have an entire team dedicated to ensuring that they can source, roast, and brew amazing coffee from day one.
- We curate the Marketplace with coffees that have been carefully vetted by the Green Coffee Buyer, the Senior Sustainability Manager, and myself.
- We then design each roast profile individually for every new coffee and cup all of them before approving and releasing into the Marketplace.
- Quality relationships and quality coffee is what drives us and each person on the team helps to contribute.
What’s your favorite coffee in our Marketplace and why?
Oooh this is a tough one. I really do like all of the coffees we carry. If I have to pick just one though, I’d say the Guatemala Manos de Mujer. It’s just a coffee I can really enjoy every day and never get tired of it. It’s super sweet and chocolatey, with a little bit of fruit. A great coffee all around.
What’s something you think would surprise most coffee professionals about the roasting process?
I don’t think this is that shocking or surprising, but standing in front of a roaster day in and day out watching it roast is not the most rewarding part. I think what is most rewarding is being able to consistently deliver an amazing product, for both yourself and your customers.
I used to stand in front of a traditional roaster and obsess over making the right moves at the exact right moment, which is difficult to do every single roast. With Bellwether, you set the profile and the machine will run it consistently each time. If you want to adjust or tweak a profile more to your taste, you can do that and then the machine executes. So then you can use your time for other things and know that consistency and quality are obtainable every roast.
What excites you most about working for Bellwether?
Being able to work with such a dynamic team and for such a great company. The people at Bellwether truly care about the company mission and values and try to make an impact every day. I’ve never worked for a company like this before and it’s an amazing feeling to be proud of the work you do and the people you work with.
If you could only take 3 records with you to a remote island, which would you choose?
That’s so tough. I guess I would say …
- Led Zeppelin III by Led Zeppelin
- Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever by Explosions in the Sky
- At the Pershing: But Not for Me by Ahmad Jamal
- Sorry, but I need a metal album on here also: Left Hand Path by Entombed
Want to see how roasting coffee in-house with a Bellwether Roaster can help you build a stronger brand and keep more money per pound sold? Reach out today.