Edwin Lee - Founder and Head Roaster
Growing up in the once sleepy sea side town of Sai Kung, Edwin Lee, founder of Colour Brown Coffee, has since become a pioneer in the Hong Kong specialty coffee scene and often recognized by his peers in the industry as being part of the first generation of third wave coffee connoisseurs. “For over 9 years, I worked with the media group TVB and in that field, long hours are common. That was when I started drinking coffee regularly but not for the enjoyment of it – it was just a means to keeping awake and alert.”
“I remember walking down this street in Sai Kung nearby to where I lived and seeing a vacant shop for rent. Back then, the area wasn’t yet popularized and so rent was fairly affordable. I agreed to rent the space from the landlord before I even knew what I was going to do with it but it was going to be one of two things: a shop that sells collectable figurines or a coffee shop. I chose the latter which marked the start of Colour Brown Coffee.”
Since the beginning, I’ve been roasting my own beans and my first roaster, the 1kg Feima, can still be found at one of our shops in Jordan. It was a drum roaster with convection heat and fully manual controls that forced me to really understand the complexities of roasting to bring out the best qualities of each coffee. That location was our home for 10 years from 2005 to 2015 before rent finally went up and we decided it was time to move closer to the city to Jordan and more recently our second location within a bookstore in Tsim Sha Tsui.
What are you roasting with?
I still use my original 1kg Feima at times. It’s highly manual but if you’re able to understand and control it, you can get some exceptional roasts. Most of our production nowadays is coming from a Proaster THCR-06 10 kg roaster. It’s very similar to the Feima in its operation and quality but just with a larger capacity.
What is the most important thing to you as a roaster?
Freshness. We want to be sure that everyone who tries our beans are tasting it at its optimal freshness which is why we’d rather roast many smaller batches throughout the week rather than large amounts at a time.
Do you enjoy roasting more or brewing?
If I had to choose then probably brewing because it allows me to interact, share and learn from my customers. Roasting is so important though because it’s the start of our process and determines our style.
Can you tell us about Coffee Power?
Coffee Power is a division of Colour Brown Coffee we started that organizes competitions like latte art and roasting around the city. It’s become a platform that allows professionals in the industry to meet international coffee experts and exchange new ideas.
What's your favorite way of drinking coffee?
It depends on the time of the day but my routine is usually an espresso in the morning, filter in the afternoon and a milk based coffee in the evening. For filter, I like the V60 because it’s stable and it’s the most common home brewing device so it’s easy to share recipes.
What's your go-to v60 recipe?
It differs depending on the beans but I typically start with 15g of coffee to 225g of water (1:15 ratio) and water at 90°C.