If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you would have already read some of the wonderful writing of this cupping panelist.
As you can tell from her posts, Frith is truly passionate about coffee. She’s been working with Merlo for over ten years in different roles, sharing this knowledge and passion with our team and the general public.
If there’s one thing we know about Frith, it’s that you’ll learn something new about coffee (and tennis – one of her other passions) every time you see her.
So with that in mind, we decided to shed a bit more light on one of our original coffee cupping panelists.
What’s the most interesting or best coffee you’ve ever tasted?
I was lucky enough to attend a cupping with some coffee farmers a few years back and there was a Mexican coffee on the table that I have not been able to stop talking about since. It was unbelievable – so many flavours, it was like an explosion. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish, so I had to try and mime my excitement to the farmer. I looked totally ridiculous and it was quite funny for everyone else, but I was just so excited. It really opened my eyes to what is possible in coffee.
How do you drink your coffee at home?
If it’s just me I’ll make an Aeropress. I like that it’s no fuss, minimal clean up. On the weekend I’ll brew up a Chemex or use my Moccamaster to make a batch. I make cold drip in summer to dilute into iced coffee. There’s a lot of equipment in my tiny kitchen, but no espresso machine. I love cafes and appreciate great baristas, so if I’m going to have an espresso coffee I’ll go out.
What are your top tips for people brewing coffee at home?
Don’t be afraid to experiment! It’s your coffee, so do what you like. Things like dose (the amount of coffee), grind size, but also the temperature of the water you’re using and how long you let it brew for. And buy small amounts of coffee so you can use it when it’s fresh and at its best. I love ordering new coffees to try, so keeping the quantities small allows me to rotate through a range of single origins.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your coffee journey?
Ten years ago when I started there weren’t a lot of visible women at the higher levels of the coffee industry – all the back of house folks and industry experts I saw were men, and the women were generally on the floor, serving customers.
Like Billie Jean King said, “you’ve got to see it to be it” so I’m really excited that there has been a shift where we’re seeing more and more women in roles like roasting, green bean buying and owning their own companies.
I think diversity creates innovation and the industry will be better off having a range of people from different backgrounds and perspectives having their voices heard.
Are you noticing any new trends in coffee?
I’ve loved the trend toward recognising and celebrating the work of coffee growers. I come from a farming background myself, so I have a great affection for people who work on the land.
I think that’s where the greatest innovation is coming from – farmers taking control of how their crop is treated before being exported – and we’re seeing a lot of experimentation in terms of the types of coffee trees being planted and the way the cherries are processed to be ready for market.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about coffee tasting that you’d like to share with others?
Enjoy it! It’s easy to become a bit inward looking and pompous, and I’ve certainly caught myself acting like a bit of a fool at times over the journey. But I try to remember that I’m just one little link in a big old chain – the whole history of coffee and all the people who have grown and picked and roasted and bought and sold and drank the stuff – and my part is infinitesimally small and really very fun.
I think the most important thing I try to tell people when I host cuppings is to just relax and have a good time, enjoy the experience. Use all your senses and take it all in. Don’t worry about being judged for having a silly opinion, say what you think. Life’s too short for worrying about whether anybody else is tasting raspberries.
What are you hoping to experience in Australia’s coffee scene over the next few years?
For the industry in general, I hope we continue down the path of sustainability that we’re on. Everyone is a lot more conscious now of the waste we produce, and I’m excited at the potential for growth in that area.
A few weeks back I saw that down in Victoria someone has setup a shipping container to grow high end oyster mushrooms in the chaff produced by roasters. I love that kind of thinking – we need big solutions, but also smaller, clever things like that. (PS. Please buy a reusable coffee cup. PPS. Please clean it before you give it to your barista.)
You’re very active on social media – who are your favourite coffee accounts to follow?
This is such a tough question! There are so many great accounts, I follow farmers, roasters, baristas and miscellaneous coffee nerds from all over the world.
A few good starting points, off the top of my head…
For beautiful café shots by a professional photographer: @shim.cafe
To know what it going on in the coffee world at large: @wcoffeeresearch
For a best of craft roasters and specialty growers: @roasterscraft
The best coffee merch ever: @departmentofbrewology