The Roast – Roaster Guild member Hideyuki Kono

‘The Roast’ is a short set of questions that the NZ Roaster Guild put together to profile members. Hideyuki Kono was the first member to return the set of questions. Anyone who has seen Hide compete knows how impeccable he is. Find out more about his background and what drives this former NZ Barista Champion and why roasting is his new passion.
What is your earliest coffee related experience?
Watching my mum making a paper filter coffee at home when I was little…it was exactly what we now call V60, but it was and still is just “regular” coffee for ordinary Japanese consumers.
When / why did you first get working in coffee?
It must have been in 2004 when I had just got NZ residency and was looking for a work. When I found that a coffee shop is hiring something like 10 people(!!!), I called them straight away. I also thought my experience in hotel industry in Japan might be useful.
What led you to becoming a roaster?
I always wanted to embrace more responsibilities on my products. If I have less chances of blaming on someone else when I made a bad coffee, then I truly have to focus and use my brain to make all things work in everything I do while I am at work. I love that kind of intensity.
What do you roast on, anything unique about your set up?
Our roaster was built in New Zealand some years ago. It is the only one of a kind in the whole world I believe, and it has roasted the competition coffees for 3 NZ Barista Champions.
Apart from your roasting machine (in its factory floor form), what’s your favourite “tool” you use in your role?
It has to be my manly black earmuff.
What do you find most rewarding about roasting?
Knowing that there are regular “retail coffee beans” customers is just as humbling as having my everyday café regulars.
Talk us through a typical work day
When I am roasting (Tuesdays and Wednesdays), I will decide what coffee/how much I roast for the day, then cup the coffees I roasted the day before with other café staff before I fire up the roaster and get my hands dirty. I try to make cupping as fun and thought provoking as possible, so we may blind cup the coffees of different origins, different grind sizes, or I might play with brewing temp/time to help others find there is a bit more involved in coffee than they might think.
What are your roles outside of roasting?
I am also on the machine in the café making coffees three days a week.
Have you visited Origin? Any interesting harvest trip experiences or story? or which origin would you most like to visit and why?
I have been to Mountain Top Estate in Australia, and several farms in Colombia when I competed at World Barista Championship in 2011. Also, I have been very lucky to be able to take part in the coffee farming project in Kaitaia here in NZ which has just taken off this year. I have been keeping in touch with a few coffee growers in Okinawa island as well, so to visit them is on top of my to-do list next time I go to see my family in Japan.
Any fire stories?
I have heard them say that you don’t become a real roaster until you have your first fire story, but I DO NOT BELIEVE IT AT ALL. I have had some close calls though, so please don’t tell my boss, ok?
Hide works at NZSCA member company Crafted Coffee in Christchurch