For quite some time now I have come to hate the word ‘passionate’. Estate-agents are passionate, dog-walkers are passionate, everybody is passionate about something. It has become totally overused. But when you meet Philip of Run Rabbit Run Roastery, there is only one word that will do and that is… passionate.
Philip started out as a journalist before making a brief foray into the restaurant business, which is where a love affair with coffee started. After checking out the scene for a while, he took the plunge in February 2015, roasting from his father-in-law’s garage and operating an espresso bar in De Waal Park over weekends. A few months later a chance meeting with blacksmith and sculptor Conrad Hicks provided a new opportunity. Conrad wanted someone to occupy the foyer of his building, the iconic Bijou Theatre in Obs and, as they say, the rest is history. There is a sign on the building, but little else to alert you to a coffee experience. “For the moment I think of my business as the speakeasy of coffee roasting: some have heard of it, a few know where it is, but a crew of dedicated locals have made it their own.” And their feedback is what drives the current experimental phase forward.
His view is that coffee roasting is treated either as a straightforward robotic act, or if taken seriously a skill that marries the worlds of science and sensory experience. And learning how to roast coffee properly is very much an apprenticeship process. Like a wine-maker, he needs to develop his taste-buds, his senses for what will make a good roast and what will make it better. There is a complex chemistry at work in roasting – you need to learn the smells, the sights, the tastes. And know the difference between a defect in the beans or defect in the roast. And, as he says, “there seems to be no shortcut; no convenient diploma course or even a definitive roasting bible to cling to. One simply has to roast crap-loads of coffee.”
As such Philip is not rushing this process. He has allowed himself a somewhat vague timeframe to become a ‘good’ roaster, after which he is confident the product will speak for itself without too much of the usual marketing fanfare. Philip is to be found at the Bijou Theatre until 12.30 every day, when he starts to make deliveries, or in De Waal Park most Sunday mornings, where he provides deck chairs, dog and human biscuits (separately) and some pastries. Service is good and the coffee is great – but feel free to give feedback!