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Meet the Team: Matt Slater, Director of Coffee

Five Senses CoffeeBen Bicknell 20 April 2020

“This is a coffee farmer, this is a roaster, this is a barista…now form a community!” – so might our Director of Coffee declare.

Cutting his teeth in amongst the ‘80s and 90’s UK DIY music scene, it would be no surprise to hear Matt Slater utter this sentiment. The stridently independent, collaborative and ethical stance that embody the punk DIY movement became an influential driving force for Matt, leading him into the welcoming arms of an altruistically focussed specialty coffee community, and more recently to the Fives Senses Coffee family as our Director of Coffee.

Matt on the Five Senses MICE stand. Photo: Tim Grey

Coffee and music have gone hand in hand throughout Matt’s band life with the ‘makeshift espresso’ a staple sobering re-energiser on tour – equal spoonful’s of instant + sugar that you could stand your spoon up in….not the best sensory experience but it did the trick!

Whilst saving to go backpacking around the world in the year 2000, Matt found himself at the home of Yorkshire Tea, Taylors of Harrogate, answering customer service calls from old ladies about burst tea-bags. However, he also made a discovery that would change his coffee world for ever… Taylors of Harrogate was one of the largest coffee roasters in the UK with an amazing buying team who pretty much wrote the book on sustainable and ethical coffee buying.

Inspired by the parallels of collaboration in music but within a global coffee community, Matt’s course along his coffee journey was set firm and saw him help build the foundations of importer Falcon Specialty, open Leeds first specialty coffee roastery North Star with his wife Kim and some close friends (who are still at the helm and doing amazing things in the UK @northstarroast – check them out!), before taking over the gig as International Director of Re:Co Symposium for World Coffee Events and the Specialty Coffee Association.

Re:Co is like the TED Talks of coffee – pulling together a global roster of experts to speak on the leading topics facing the specialty coffee community. Collaboratively generated content, independently published and woven into a global community? It was a gig with a Matt-shaped hole in it. Working alongside industry luminary, Peter Giuliano, the role with Re:Co fed Matt’s collaborative spirit.

“Peter was one of the many inspiring people I’ve been lucky enough to work with. His generosity, knowledge and passion personified the community we were aiming to support… our people all across the coffee value stream.”

Re:Co was also where Matt’s journey with Five Senses began when our own Ben Bicknell was invited to present on our experience setting up the Tiga Raja mill in Northern Sumatra. As the two continued to speak about the challenges and opportunities facing our industry, it became clear that the ethical, collaborative ethos driving Matt was the same mission threaded through Five Senses Coffee.

After several years amidst the high level perspectives of Re:Co, Matt was keen to get back to his hands-on, DIY roots. In early 2019, Matt, his wife Kim and their 3 kids made the big move from Leeds to Australia and we were lucky enough to have him join us as our new Director of Coffee following on from the excellent work of the fine folks Jacob Ibarra and Jen Murray.

This gig isn’t a small one – overseeing our green coffee sourcing and supply chain management, our QC team and our two roasting teams whilst also bringing a global perspective to our coffee program. Matt has hit the ground running and we’re very lucky to have his enthusiasm for specialty coffee, for community and his heart for humans flowing into Five Senses.

When he’s not cupping new samples in the lab, kicking out the jams on his son’s drum kit or hitting the beach with the fam, you might find him brewing his signature AeroPress recipe, probably serving up a favoured Kenyan coffee with “acidity that explodes in your mouth like John Bonham busting out some triplets!”

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