While coffee competitions certainly seek to advance the credibility of specialty coffee, they most certainly also seek to connect its community.
And it is exactly this second aspect that I have truly come to appreciate. It was this past summer at Beanstock Coffee Festival in Vancouver where I had the pleasure of meeting Conor Conway. Watching him perform at the Canadian National Barista Championship and getting to chat with him one-on-one left me with no doubt that I HAD to feature his work here on my site. And so to kick off this New Year, I am thrilled to introduce Epoch Chemistry as our Coffee Roaster of the Month for January 2023!
Not only is their story incredible but their coffee is too. And as a fellow-Canadian, I am always thrilled to share the stories of other Canadians, and especially from Atlantic Canada which might not always get the hype it deserves like other well-known coffee cities. So let’s get going:
Hey Conor, so great to get the chance to connect with you! So, tell us a little more about yourself. What’s your backstory in coffee?
As a professional musician coffee has always played a role in my life. My journey to specialty coffee began with barista jobs in my teens, retail management, and a love for specialty single origin tea. Epoch Chemistry began in 2019 with us spending a full year in conceptualization and education. With coffee as my main focus, everything else began to take a back seat to the journey of coffee excellence.
So how did you get started in coffee?
My first real job in specialty coffee was founding Epoch Chemistry. Study, constant reading, tasting as many coffees and asking bold questions has brought me to where I am today.
So tell us a bit about the history of Epoch Chemistry. How did it begin? What equipment do you roast on?
This all began with two founders: Matt the Architect and Conor the Alchemist. What began as a humble specialty cafe journey morphed through the pandemic to a private tasting experience, roastery, multi-location cafes, and a behemoth of retail equipment and international coffee roasters. Our coffee for production is roasted on a Stronghold S9X. We make use of an Ikawa sample roaster for profiling our samples, and a Stronghold S7 for competition.
So can you tell our readers, why the name Epoch Chemistry?
Epoch is a period of time, for us we interpret this more as a moment in time. A moment in time we take together, to share experience, celebrate connection and engage community. The chemistry, well of course coffee is chemistry, but more it’s the chemistry between people. From producer to exporter, roaster to brewer and every person in between.
My first opportunity to connect with you in person was at Beanstock Coffee Fest back in August 2022 during the Canadian National Barista Championship. Can you tell our readers what that experience was like? What drove you to compete in this competition? What were some of the things you took away from competing?
Competition is in my blood, I honestly can’t do anything unless there is a competitive edge to it. As much as I’m a cheerleader for everyone else I am fiercely hungry to be the best. From music, video games, cooking, coffee I don’t see the point of doing something unless you’re trying to do ONE aspect at least well. Coffee competitions are an absolute blast. Tons of prep, drinking incredible coffee and challenging yourself to improve even the most minute of tasks / flow. The competition circuit in Canada is passionate, one I am proud to be a part of.
Some key takeaways from my first year is to keep it light, comfy, and repeatable. Focus on the actions that really matter, and read read READ the rules. You can cater your routine to the rules without sacrificing who you are as a barista.
So with home being Moncton, NB can you tell us a little bit more about what the specialty coffee community is like there? What do you love? And with you being the first-ever New Brunswicker to qualify for the Canadian National Barista Championship, how does that help to advance the coffee culture?
New Brunswick, and Moncton in particular is truly a special place. That top quality maritime hospitality, a super vibrant acadian community, and some of the best seafood and nature in the world. There was no specialty scene in town before us. We often joke that our area is so over saturated in Tim Hortons that they outnumber the people. We really had to create unique taste experiences to retrain our community on how to interact with a more transparent, frankly better roasted coffee. For me to qualify and go to Nationals was a huge moment for our 1st and 2nd wave communities as well. It brought a ton of attention to our shop and had people deliberately slow down more to interact with our slow service, purposeful style of brewing.
I love raising my family here, owning a business here, and continue to put our region on the map.
Can you speak more to the overall coffee culture in New Brunswick?
The culture here is friendly but under serviced. They haven’t had a chance to enjoy the coffee culture of larger cities, but they absolutely deserve it. Our friendliness doesn’t necessarily extend to our customer service and we are passionately trying to rewrite this narrative.
How is Epoch Chemistry helping to shape and grow the coffee culture in New Brunswick?
We run 12 tasting sessions a week, picture an approachable mini barista routine. Invite only Master Tasting series exploring the most exciting new age coffees, and a ton of sensory and cupping classes.
You mention on your site how important it is with your business model to focus on education and experience. How have you sought to educate and inform your customers who I am guessing aren’t as familiar in this part of Canada with specialty coffee?
We have to take the whole experience of brewing a cup for yourself and distill into approachable bite sized pieces. We continually challenge ourselves on language used, outcome from each part of our tasting experience, and pace at which we teach. Great sales is simply well informed sellers – education is the key. For us, we also have a heavy focus on consistency. Being excellent once is not actually excellent. To repeat it time and time again is the only way (in our opinion) to truly become excellent.
Specialty Coffee is truly for everyone, they just have lacked the right opportunity to try it.
As you look ahead at the next few years for specialty coffee (and especially in Atlantic Canada) what excites you? What changes/innovations/opportunities do you see on the horizon?
We are here to play. I have spoken to countless professionals around Canada and Internationally who have trouble elevating coffees in their cafes but have no problem doing so in an e-commerce setting. We have proven that even in tiny markets like Moncton, with the right focus on education and culture, you can really bring a community forward. The next few years I hope we have a chance to spread our wings further in the region by supporting more specialty cafes to open, inspire and grow the tasting room, and continue to compete for that top spot in the region, let alone the country. We want to be the best.
So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
Currently devouring all the new Gesha Village arrivals. This week on espresso we ran the Oma Honey Gesha, we offered in blanched (over stainless steel balls) or traditionally extracted. A dynamite coffee from FWD Coffee.
You have a tag-line that you end your ABOUT section with and it caught my attention. You sign off with IN PRAISE OF SLOW. I am curious, what does that mean to you? And how do you as a coffee roaster & café seek to embody that and to live that out in the context of your café/roastery and in your own lives?
Oh man, I am so happy you noticed this. Slow is a mentality, not a reflection of our service or deliveries. You can create purposeful (slow) moments with only 3 minutes in the morning. It’s about being present when you brew. Being present when you are in community. Creating new habits around a beautiful affordable luxury like specialty coffee. We offer a slow service cafe with 50+ frozen pour over options, hand grinding, and truly crafted coffee mocktails.
We take tons of time for reflection in our days and weeks, and truly believe in the work to live model of life. Even though we are super busy we love to slow down, make that coffee together as a team during a crazy production day, and enjoy a few minutes of honest reflection. A fun way we display this notion is that there are chess boards set up on every table in our cafe. We also do not offer wifi to our patrons 🙂
It’s been great getting the chance to connect up and share your story as our first Coffee Roaster of the Month for this New Year. Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Thank you for your trust in our coffee! We are so excited to share some new approaches to sourcing with our partners at FORWARD Coffee, and we LOVE to chat. If you have any brew questions, inquiries for education, or just want to vibe please hit us up!
Find their beans: If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting.
I just want to say a huge thank you to Conor at Epoch Chemistry for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in not only Moncton, NB but also Atlantic Canada. Check out his site, grab yourself some beans and enjoy!