Softly spoken yet engaging due to his incredible knowledge about his craft, Paul Golding is Paradox Coffee Roasters’ Head of Coffee. We meet at a coffee cupping session at Cabukee Café, Paul guiding us through the sensory delights of smelling, observing and tasting different coffees, each one so different to another. Believe me, coffee just ain’t coffee, folks!
‘Head of Coffee’ is a position with clout, entailing coffee buying, blending and decision-making about roasting so that the blends work, the resulting brews enjoyed by coffee aficionados across Australia. As part of his role, Paul travels to plantations all over the world to check out coffee beans, negotiate with growers and suppliers before arranging shipment of green beans back to Australia.
“What path did you take to get a job like this?” we ask him, fascinated by the romance of visiting far-flung places on a company budget, together with the blend of knowledge and skills required to do his job.
“My first job was as a crocodile handler,” he laughed, the irony of ‘distance travelled’ in his career apparent to everyone.
After completing an Environmental Science degree, Paul worked as a tour guide and education officer, first for a crocodile park, where handling and skinning crocodiles was part of his role, before moving on to be the Activities Manager of a well-known Central Queensland resort.
“I’d read lots of adventure books as a kid, enthralled by the notion of travelling. Working in hospitality, I was gripped by the romance of coffee, how beans from exotic places were traded throughout the world,” he tells us. “As I built my knowledge base as a barista, I funded my first trip to Mexico to check out coffee, all getting ready for my dream job.”
Sixty-two trips later, Paul reminisces about his first paid coffee trip to Papua New Guinea, when he was working for Toby’s Estate.
“I remember us driving into a village in the mountains, about 150km from Goroka in the Highlands,” he says. “When we stopped the car, we were met by men with bows and arrows.”
He pauses as we draw breath.
“They escorted us into the middle of the village and performed a welcome ceremony for us,” he adds, smiling as our faces give way to palpable relief.
“It was the early days of direct trading,” he says. “You can’t really buy direct from farmers in PNG,” he adds. “They sell their coffee in cherry form, so you need someone in the chain to sort and grade it.”
Our conversation meanders through changes he’s observed in the industry, different production methods, far flung countries and coffee technicalities before we arrive back at the beginning of our journey, the cup of coffee in front of us, so many stories awaiting beyond its rim.
It’s all about meeting the market, about anticipating (and sometimes even creating) trends.
Paul talks the breadth of clients’ coffee preferences, from strong, fruity and crisp through to richer, rounder and softer milk chocolatey flavours.
“You have to think about what people like,” he says, “and decide on a blend that fits the local market. Because coffee is an agricultural product, it changes from year to year in flavour, so you have to change the recipe of the blend to keep the taste the same.”
“So, how do you drink your coffee, and which one is your favourite?” we ask.
“My first coffee of the day is a hand ground single origin, put into a Chemex with water poured over,” he says, smiling. “Espresso is a reduction built for strength; the big hit, or ready to be diluted with milk,” he adds.
“My personal favourite is Picasso Baby, the flagship blend which I created. It’s delicate and complex with crisp acidity and amazing fruit flavour and depth,” he says. “I drink it black.”
“Paper Moon, though, is the blend that is best for the business because it has the broadest appeal and versatility. It’s rare to find a coffee that’s great with milk yet fragrant and delicate as a black coffee. Paper moon is all of that… it just turned out that way.”
“Of single origins, Kenyan has the broadest appeal. I like naturally processed coffees – Ethiopian, Colombian, Guatemalan or Costa Rican, though it’s getting harder to say which country I prefer.”
“Coffee is a fleeting experience. It’s very seasonal. You may have only ten bags of a particular bean and then it’s gone. The next year, with different weather patterns, beans from those same bushes may have a different flavour,” he adds.
It’s the nature of the bean, born of soil, seasons and hard work, the art of coffee being the impossible mission: to capture the essence of the ground, roasted bean’s aroma in every single cup. All that…to give us our daily cup of joe.
Paradox Coffee, The 4217, 10 Beach Rd., Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
Ph: 07 5538 3235 Open: Mon – Sun 7am – 2pm