As consumers become increasingly interested in the journey of coffee from seed to cup, roastery tours offer an exciting opportunity to peek behind the curtain of one of the most important stages: roasting.
Depending on the purpose of the tour, it can be as short as five minutes, or it can last up to an hour. And, considering the relatively short amount of time spent on giving tours, the underlying outcome can be largely rewarding. Therefore, no matter the size of the roastery space, it’s always a good idea to explore the opportunity to offer tours.
To understand more about why roasters should offer roastery tours and how they can plan for one, I spoke with Head Roaster at Cafes Belleville and 2019 Roast Masters Champion, Mihaela Iordache.
The benefits of offering a roastery tour
As more people grow to love and appreciate coffee, specialty roasters are seizing the opportunity to showcase the extensive work that goes behind crafting a cup of coffee through the use of roastery tours. These tours are intriguing experiences for consumers, who are able to see the transformation of raw coffee into their favourite beverage.
Mihaela Iordache is Head Roaster and QC Manager at Cafes Belleville in Paris, France. She also helps organise Frog Fight, an annual event that brings together the coffee community. She tells me that, among other things, roastery tours offer an opportunity to share knowledge about coffee.
“The biggest positive outcome of a roastery tour is the fact that you get to actually share coffee with people who might not know as much as we know about it,” she says. “It is an opportunity to talk more in depth about the production, roasting, and the extraction side of things.”
Think about it this way: it’s like how some people enjoy watching the behind-the-scenes of their favourite film to understand how it was produced.
“Often, no one knows to what extent it is a complicated and complex system unless you work in the coffee industry,” Mihaela adds.
A roastery tour is a fun and engaging way to share information. For those consumers who are curious — but don’t necessarily want to invest too much time learning the ins and outs of coffee roasting — a tour can give them a good overview of the process.
Aside from the educational aspect of a tour, it’s also about forming a connection with your consumers. When consumers participate in a roastery tour, they engage with the people who are responsible for roasting and brewing their coffee.
As a roaster, you also benefit from the opportunity to share your brand story with guests during the tour. In a way, your roastery tour could potentially open doors for your brand to be a memorable part of their coffee experience.
How to plan a roastery tour
In the case of Mihaela’s roastery, the idea of offering a tour was already bubbling away in the back of her mind before the roastery was even built. As a result, the space is optimally designed for a tour experience. This is partly inspired by the French culture of customary vineyard, Château, and perfumery tours.
“Similar to wineries and perfumeries, we wanted the roastery to look like a place where you are in awe of the product that the roastery serves,” Mihaela tells me. “We wanted to build on a visual space that — when people leave the street and enter our roastery — it feels like they have entered into another world and we will have 100% of their attention.”
A roastery tour is much more than just pointing things out to your tour participants. A helpful way to think of it is to imagine it as a performance.
Mihaela shares an analogy of going to an orchestra where people are so deeply immersed in the performance that their attention is solely focused on the performers. So, how might you design an experience that forms a connection with the audience and keeps them engaged throughout the tour?
“I think a lot of the appeal behind a rostery tour is the storytelling that comes with it,” Mihaela says. “For example, we call our green coffee room the treasure room. We explain why coffee is a treasure and why we should think of it as a treasure. At the same time, we also share our vision of roasting and packaging.”
During the roastery rounds, she also explains exactly what is happening at every step of the roasting process, introducing any staff members who might be working in the area. At the green coffee room, she usually talks about coffee sourcing and the roastery’s focus on building long term relationships with coffee producers.
Mihaela suggests that roasters need to dramatise their stories and play on emotions to keep people curious and engaged. There are many ways to tell a story, but you need to focus on making yours unique.
“You want to make sure that you have a story that people haven’t heard in exactly the same way,” she adds.
What to keep in mind when giving a tour
For Mihaela, the agenda of the tour is often based on the participants. Her tours usually have a general structure that covers an introduction to the production or roasting space, the green coffee room, and the cupping laboratory. She personalises the experience according to her interaction with the tour participants.
As there are different types of personalities and interest levels amongst tour participants, it is important for roasters to know how to keep their audience engaged. One way to do so is by paying attention to which information draws a reaction. Some groups might be interested in the design of the space, while others may be drawn to the technical aspects of coffee roasting.
“For someone who comes to a roastery tour, they must be interested in coffee and have curiosity towards it,” Mihaela says. “We try to figure out where that curiosity comes from and give a story that accentuates that angle.
“At times when there is a silent group, it can be difficult to read what is happening. So, I try to engage with them through sharing my own experience and memory with coffee, and that usually helps.”
Above all, Mihaela advises that it is important to organise and plan out the information that you want to share. The way you deliver the information can be more spontaneous.
“Essentially, we tend to always touch on these elements: why we have a space that is designed the way it is, why we roast the way we roast, and why we buy green coffee in the way we buy it,” she says.
During a roastery tour, Mihaela mentions that there is a fine line between sharing and preaching information. Her advice is to go into an interaction with curiosity about what the participants have to say, too.
“For us, we really thought about making sure that we are sharing, not judging, not preaching and never speaking negatively about anyone else,” she adds.
All in all, the most important thing to do is to make sure that the participants have a good time during your tour. Every business strives to earn a customer’s loyalty, and the ability to create positive experiences for consumers is what keeps them coming back.
On a roastery tour it’s important to keep visitors engaged – and few things are more eye-catching than striking coffee packaging.
Stand-up pouches are a good idea for those who want their bags to sit neatly on the shelf, but five-sided flat bottom are also a great idea. Not only do they look great, they offer five printable surfaces on which roasters can market their coffee.
At MTPak Coffee, we can help you design the perfect packaging for your coffee, using recyclable or compostable materials, sustainable printing methods, and low-VOC water-based inks.