Q+A with Catherine O’Shea
April 4th 2016
Sarah Morris

We popped across to Bristol for a Q+A with Clifton Coffee Roaster - Catherine O’Shea. Ranked number 4 in the country.  UK Barista Championships

What does working as a coffee roaster with Clifton Coffee involve and how did you come to work here?

My job involves quality control and developing coffee profiles, as well as frequently tasting new and repeat orders of coffee.

I started working part time in a coffee shop as a student in Edinburgh and just really got into coffee - I had a training session at a local roasters and it blew my mind and thought I’d like to do this for a living! I got a job there bagging coffee beans and did that every single day for 6 months. I eventually got trained up as a barista then a year after that became a manager of the cafe I worked in. After a couple of years of doing that I entered the UK barista championship and I came top in Scotland 2 yrs in a row. That spurred me on to become a roaster and after 5 years in Scotland I moved to Bristol and Clifton Coffee to become a roaster here.

What do you love so much about Coffee?

I love coffee, I miss making coffee as a barista now. I’m full time as a roaster. It’s a really nice, creative process, I love making a really high quality cup of coffee with great ingredients, good quality beans and lovely milk from the local dairy. It’s very satisfying when you have the perfect recipe and produce a really good cup for someone to enjoy and to get great feedback.

Is part of the appeal providing a really nice experience for people?

Yeah, giving someone something that’s special and that you've put your time and effort into. I love providing a tasty treat for people.

Do you cook too then?

Yeah, I’m really into cooking and baking, I used to have a cake business. Cats Cakes! Baking and cooking is similar to roasting really as you’re working with gas, temperature and timings, which you constantly have to adjust. I love the timing aspect. I love the proper challenge of making a big full on spread for my friends as I like having to figure out the timings to make it all work and come together. I’m passionate about going to restaurants and trying new food too.

Do you go for a coffee on a Saturday morning or are you sick of it by then?!

No, I love it because after years of making it, it’s really nice to go and sit and relax and enjoy a lovely coffee in a nice creative space.

What if the coffee sucks?

I know everyone won’t have quite such high standards but I tend to go to places that I know do a great cup of coffee. There are loads now that do it well as the value of having high quality fresh beans and well trained baristas is getting much more common. There’s the care and passion there needed to do it well.

But saying that I can kind of just tell just looking at the beans they use and there are places I might just go for a cup of tea!

Do you guys try to support the businesses you supply as much as you can?

Yes, I try to go along to most of them as much as I can and look for feedback on our coffee and check if we’re doing it right and support the local coffee scene.

*We had a short break to listen to the first crack of the coffee beans that Cat was roasting whilst being interviewed! They smelt absolutely amazing*

What inspired you to enter the competitions?

I worked with a really inspiring woman who took the same career path - she recommended that I entered and I just went for it. I didn’t expect to get to the semi-finals that’s for sure! It was so nerve wracking. I much prefer being a judge now than being on that side. I drank 30 espressos in one day when I was judging once, I don't think I’ve been the same since!

In the UK Barista Championships you basically get 15 minutes to make a variety of coffees and present according to the sensory and technical judging criteria - it’s great for any barista to get involved as you learn so much and even the networking side of it is great. It forces you to think and learn more about where your product actually comes from and how it’s origin effects the taste.

Do you have a favourite coffee?

I love Kenyan Coffee, blackcurrant and jammy ones.

What’s next?

I’m enjoying learning every last thing about roasting - I still have a lot to learn. I’d also love to head out to see the country of origin of some of my favourite coffees and that’s in the pipeline so it’s all very exciting!

Thanks so much Cat.

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