I had my first cup of coffee from Notes whilst standing in the queue to attend Nelson Mandela’s memorial service at St Martin’s in the Fields. I am remembering it now for the first time as I am writing this. The time it took the barista to make a flat white was just enough to ask about who roasts their coffee and I was happy to hear they recently started roasting their own and she kindly scribbled “Fabio” on one of their cards for me before I set off to pay my respects.
However, it was only when Notes’ coffees were mentioned to me with real excitement by someone that knows their ways around coffee more than most, that I remembered that I crossed paths with their produce ever so briefly a couple of months prior.
Name: Fabio Ferreira
Been roasting since: Since 2013
Learnt to roast on a: Probat
Now roasting on a: Loring
I drink: IPA
Favourite coffee: It depends on the season but at the moment, our Workye Shallo
Coffee Party Trick: I break out the Chemex when we have guests over
My home brewing secret: Filtered water – try Waitrose’s Essential brand
“Come in, come in. We are just sorting out a problem with our lights” Fabio greets me at their small roastery a couple of blocks behind King’s Cross station.
First, I struggle to understand how they can roast from such a small space but then I realise they have a much larger storage unit right next to the actual roastery. The roastery itself is spotlessly tidy with a Loring roaster (my prediction is you’ll be hearing that name often in the next couple of years) set behind a glass wall so the customers of the coffee shop next door can have a first hand view of the roasting process.
The whole time while we are talking, Fabio alternate between testing coffee with a refractometer and tasting it. It is clear Fabio likes to do things accurately. Behind us Rob Robinson, Fabio’s business partner and co-founder of Flat Cap Coffee is feverishly finishing a new menu for Notes.
Fabio tells me his story whilst cleaning the lens of the refractometer.
“I came to Europe on holiday in 2004 and tasted some of the coffees available. In Brazil, a lot of coffee is produced and consumed but, at that point, very little could be considered speciality coffee. My family has been involved in the coffee industry but I wasn’t necessarily interested in it for myself. However, upon my return from Europe, I found myself scouring Brazil for the best coffees and becoming more and more interested in it”.
When Fabio came to live in the UK in 2007 (after clinching the Brazilian Coffee in Good Spirits title), he knew he wanted to work in coffee, but as he says, “the language was the problem, you know”. This means, for a short while, the likes of Nando’s in Covent Garden, had a champion barista sorting their coffees for them! Frustrated, yet not deflated Fabio befriended Rob.
Rob spent one year as a franchisee of an established coffee business, but after meeting Fabio as a customer frequenting his cart at the time, they decided they could do better together and launched Flat Cap in the summer of 2008. This went well and two years later, along with the owners of MDC Music, Alan and Marion, they transformed the music store to their first Notes Cafe.
It was in 2013 that Fabio learnt how to roast and now, with Candice Madison at his side, they are producing some really remarkable coffees. Candice was their first full time employee at Flat Cap and, not only does she roast great coffee, she sings the whole time while she is doing it. She was also a judge at the UKBC.
I ask about future plans and Fabio excitedly tells me about the beer they developed in collaboration with Ilkley Brewery. After some serious experimentation they produced a beer they are happy with that will be available end of April / beginning of May. If their coffees are anything to go by, it will be a very pleasurable summer indeed.
Head across to their website to see if there is a Notes coffee shop or Flat Cap cart close to you.