Coffee Query: Johnny Hickinson, Established Coffee
Jonathan Hickinson has been working in coffee for almost two years, and has already gone to Seattle to represent Northern Ireland in the 2015 World Aeropress Championships & is in the process of getting his own cafe started (Middletown Coffee Co, in Ballymena).
His friendliness is infectious, and his passion shines on both sides of the counter!
What got you into coffee and what’s kept you in coffee?
My fascination with coffee first started in Sydney, and I remember strongly feeling the sense of community & family that surrounded each neighbourhood coffee shop. It was like a real life "Cheers". (I'm old enough to remember Cheers).
On my return to Ireland, I started experimenting and reading about speciality coffee. This side of the industry immediately captivated me. I totally understood the meticulous procedures which are carried out at origin to ensure an amazing quality end result. (If we don't mess it up this end).
I suppose it's this that keeps me locked in to this awesome industry. The fact that it's always evolving and we are never done learning. Coffees just keep getting better and it's so exciting to be a part of that.
What have been your favourite coffees, both in filter and as espresso?
Wow, my favourite coffees. This is a big question for me as I think every speciality coffee has certain values that just need unlocked. We are all so quick to turn up our noses at coffees if that particular coffee dosnt tick our boxes. We are missing out I think. I've started appreciating each coffee for what it has to offer. Yes, I taste coffees that just don't excite me, but I also get to develop my palate with a more diverse range of tastes & flavours.
Put on the spot (which I am), I'd have to say that Reko, Ethiopia, roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London was very much a stand out filter coffee for me. I remember brewing with it 26 days after roast and it was still so sweet.
Espresso is more tricky, as it depends on who has dialled that coffee in. There are two espressos that have left me very happy. One from Mark Ashbridge as he prepared for IBC 2015: Buena Vista, Colombia. And one from our current WBC 2015, Sasa Sestic, which I was lucky enough to taste in Seattle.
What’s your home coffee setup?
Haha. Home setup. I'm pretty lucky in that department at present. On brew bar I have Chemex, V60 & Aeropress, which I use an EK43 (coffee burrs). For espresso I have a La Marzocco Linea Classic & a Simonelli, Mythos1. I know what you're thinking, but this gear will be carried onto my shop which I hope to open next year at some point.
Where do you want Belfast/Northern Ireland’s coffee culture to develop next?
Speciality coffee is very new in Northern Ireland so people are still trying to work it out and understand exactly what's going on. I would like to see more cafes of standard open their doors and do great things with coffee and service. As a small country, we have been stuck in the dark ages for too long. It's my dream to see N.I. be placed on the speciality coffee map. And with Established Coffee paving the way, this door has already opened.
Who’s someone you admire in coffee?
There are many, many people to which I admire and look up to in coffee. Pioneers such as Steve Leighton of HasBean, James Hoffmann of Square Mile and Tim Wendelboe. These guys share an abundance of information and knowledge. All of which has helped the industry march forward.
Two people I admire and look up to on a daily basis are my bosses. Bridgeen & Mark who own Established Coffee in Belfast. This is where I work and continue to learn. They have been real inspiration to me and all the other staff.
What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in your field?
Am I mature enough to give advice? Haha.
Okay, for people who are wanting to follow their passion in coffee: I would tell them to go for it. Do what it takes to get where you want to be. Quit your job as I did and get a job in coffee. Colin Harmon once said "learn your trade." And in order to do that you need to start at the bottom. Just be prepared for a rough ride. Hospitality isn't an easy profession. It will bend you, push you, challenge you - and if it's not for you, it will break you.
On a more positive note, you get to work and learn about what you love. This is priceless. And the people in speciality coffee are great people.
What are you drinking now?
At home I'm drinking two coffees at present. I always like to have two offerings in the house. Anymore just goes to waste and that's a pet hate of mine.
First coffee is Bifdu Gudina, Ethiopia roasted by Square Mile. It's a fully washed coffee with beautiful notes of Jasmine, Peach & sweet honey.
Second coffee is Suke Quto, Ethiopia roasted by James Gourmet Coffee. It's a Natural processed coffee with notes of Water melon, Prunes, and Berries. It's also amazingly juicy.