Lloyd Meadows (Tortoise Espresso): Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #83

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Lloyd Meadows (Tortoise Espresso): Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #83

Coffee Insurrection
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what’s your job?

My name is Lloyd Meadows, I live and grew up in Castlemaine; a regional town in central Victoria, about an hour and a half’s drive from Melbourne. I own and run a little specialty coffee shop called Tortoise Espresso, that I opened almost 4 years ago.

2- When and why did coffee become important to you?

I started working in coffee when I was 14; I was able to get work at a local market stall before I was ‘technically’ allowed to. From here I started obsessing over latte art, watching countless videos on Instagram, waiting for the weekend to try out new patterns and improve on the ones I knew. Amidst the latte art videos, I began watching other coffee and espresso videos – people weighing doses, talking about acidity & different varieties of coffee.

Keep in mind this is a market stall in a country town – I don’t think I had even heard the term ‘dialing in’ before. When I was offered a little office kitchenette to run as a coffee window, my obsession grew even further. I can remember binge watching all of Chris Baca’s vlogs, watching his journey opening a coffee shop and delving myself deeper into the world of specialty coffee – and what that really meant.

3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than “just a cup of coffee”?

I went down to a pop-up in Melbourne run by Sub-Zero Coffee, who specialized in buying world class coffees and individually dosing & freezing them, meaning they could amass a menu of over 50 coffees, that could be ordered and served on demand. There, I had six of the most incredible coffee’s I had ever tried.

I remember the first milk-based coffee just tasting like a strawberry milkshake, and the second tasting like passionfruit, but it was the ‘Symmetry’ espresso, produced by Jamison Savage in Panama, and roasted by Ona coffee, that stood out to me the most. I think I have bought a bag of the same profile from every harvest since.
4- What’s your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?

After going to this Sub-Zero pop-up, I knew that frozen coffee, and having a menu of different coffees was something I wanted to bring back to my coffee shop. At the time of writing this, we have 60 different coffees on our menu, and maybe 20 or so more coffees floating around in the bottom of our freezer. It means every day when I get into work, I can have whatever coffee I feel like. Crazy, infused, yeast-inoculated milk coffees from Colombia? Super bright, acidic, Scandi-roasted espressos? Clean, washed, 90+ scoring Panamanian geisha? I’m like a kid in a lolly shop when I open the coffee freezer, and it never ceases to excite me.

5- What’s your favorite brewing method and why?

Impossible question, that’s like asking me who my favorite child is! However, I will just say that milk-based espresso coffees are criminally underrated in the specialty coffee industry.
6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?

Again, an extremely hard question to answer. I do remember one morning when I was working at Abacus Bar & Kitchen in Melbourne, Kirk Pearson (of Sub-Zero Coffee fame) made me a milk coffee using that same ‘Symmetry’ profile from Finca Deborah in Panama, which was pretty spectacular. The geisha from this year’s harvest from Finca Takesi in Bolivia, roasted by Seven Seeds was also absolutely mind blowing!

Lloyd Meadows

7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from? Why?

I am really enjoying coffees from Colombia at the moment. The plethora of coffee varieties grown there, combined with the innovations in processing make for some very exciting lots of coffees. Rodrigo Sanchez at Finca Monteblanco, Jairo Arcilla at Santa Monica, and Diego Bermudez at Finca El Paraiso are some names that stand out to me in particular.

8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).

Tim Adams Specialty Coffee based in Queensland, , and Zest Coffee Roasters here in are two roasteries I’m really enjoying currently.
9- What’s the most important things you’ve learnt while working in the business?

I think I’ve learnt how important passion and excitement are in coffee. I worked at another place in Melbourne, and a bunch of us joined the crew to help bring on a frozen coffee menu, which we were all really excited about and it was a lot of fun to start. But it was a really hard place to implement a specialty service like that, and people were really unreceptive.

I think we all got a bit burnt out after only a few months. However with my own smaller place, it’s really easy to adapt the business to keep up with my passions and interests. I know this isn’t always an easy thing to do, but finding parts of coffee that really interest and excite you, and working on those is a great way to stay motivated and happy in your work.

10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new challenges for hospitality?
Part of our business ethos is about slowing down, hence the name ‘Tortoise’, and as a part of that, we don’t offer any disposable takeaway cups – and encourage people to stop and sit down to enjoy their coffee. I think this was the biggest hit that the business took, having to change some of our core values to get around restrictions. I think we’re starting to see a shift back now but for a while people were still really hesitant to bring keep cups or drink from dine in cups.

11- How do you see the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?
I hope to see it as that – much more of a specialty experience and less of a commodity product. I would love to see people’s perception of coffee to be more like it is with wine now. More focus and emphasis on producers, varietal, and fermentation. I really hope that there’s less of a divide between the producer and the consumer, and that people will take time to honour and respect all the work through the supply chain.
12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully running a coffee shop just like what I talked about above. I hope to see Tortoise Espresso continue evolving and changing with me based on where my passions lie. I’m also hoping to start competing in barista competitions, so maybe me in 10 years will have a trophy or two!
13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to start this path?

Get into water chemistry! I’m only just brushing the surface of how different water – and their mineral compositions affect the flavour of coffee, but it’s absolutely blowing my mind, and it’s really exciting. It’s the quickest and easiest way to make your coffee taste better! Try to stay passionate about coffee – it’s such an easy industry to get burnt out in, but there are always new things to learn and get excited about.

Lloyd Meadows

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