Podcast

Tom Baker from Mr Black - Single Origin Columbia

Mr Black’s new Single Origin Columbia expression could just be the flavour varietal your coffee cocktails have been craving

By: Tiff Christie|December 4,2019

Coffee Liqueur and coffee-based cocktails have come a long way in the last few years and many attributes that to Australian liqueur company Mr Black.

But as anyone who appreciates fine coffee will know, it is not a one-note ingredient. There is a huge diversity in flavour depending on the region or the origin of the beans, no matter whether you are drinking it in the day or the night.

The company have just released a new Single Origin liqueur, so we talk to Mr Black Co-Founder Tom Baker about their new expression, coffee terroir and the cocktails you really should be experiencing it in.

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Coffee, liqueur and coffee based cocktails have come a long way in the last few years and many attribute that to Australian liqueur company, Mr Black. Now, as anyone who appreciates fine coffee will know it is not a one note ingredient. There is a huge diversity in flavour depending on region or origin of the beans, no matter whether you are drinking it in the day, or at night. To underline this point, the company has released a new Single Origin liqueur, so we talked to Mr Black, co-founder Tom Baker about the new expression, coffee terroir and the cocktails you really should be experiencing it in.

Thank you for joining us, Tom.

Glad to be here.

Mr Black started in 2012. How do you think the cocktail scene, and especially the coffee liqueur scene has changed in that time?

It's really interesting. Great question. When we started Mr Black, we didn't know it would go so well in cocktails. We were a company that was formed off this really simple idea that coffee is delicious and drinking is fun. So, we just made a product to put those two things together. We walked around to a bunch of bars and said, "Hey, would you like to buy this?" And thankfully, a bunch of them said, "Yeah". But, when we started, this is back in 2012, it was largely the Espresso Martini show. It was, again, especially in Sydney, it is the number one on premise cocktail and people love that drink. Made well, it is a modern classic. Right? And obviously it tastes great with Mr Black, which a bunch of bartenders told us. It was pretty much just Espresso Martinis for us in the early years.
But, what happened was, bartenders at the same time that we were launching Mr. Black, saw craft cocktail movement boomed, and all of a sudden we found, people making modern coffee cocktails, and cocktails that hadn't really existed before, using coffee. That was really the biggest change. Over the years there's been more Mr Black coffee cocktails on menus, and more creative expressions of both Espresso Martinis and of other coffee cocktails. Where, probably six and a half years ago, it was maybe a bit more of a classic, White Russian, Black Russian, Espresso Martini, and Irish coffee, and things. So definitely more creative. I think consumer appetites have changed as well. Everyone's had a classic Espresso Martini. They're looking for something new. I'd say that's probably the biggest change.

Talking about the change in people's tastes, there has been a movement, very strong movement towards bitter? Has that influenced the rise of coffee?

Absolutely. I think the bitter part is important, right? I think, the evolution of a more bitter palate, especially in cocktails is important. But, I think it's just more about, more bartenders developing respect for an ingredient that was previously a joke, right? If you're a bartender in 1998, you wanted to make a coffee cocktail, you look at the bar behind you. There's a lot of things that might say coffee on them, but the truth of it is, none of them are made using very much coffee at all. Right? So you can't make a... I shouldn't bad-mouth other, but you can't... It's very difficult to make a nice bittersweet, complex cocktail with existing coffee liqueurs. But in the last five years, six years, bartenders have just developed a lot more respect for high quality products.
But for the actual intrinsic flavour of coffee, it's gone from being like this joke ingredient, to people actually understanding it, it's not a fake flavour. It comes from a plant, that takes a large degree of expertise to make a great product. It's got all these different flavours you can express about it. So I think that's been the biggest change. It's more people going, "Oh, it's not just some candy, forgotten fake flavour. It's a real high quality, bitter thing." The big difference is, it is something that people love, right? It's a flavour that sits so deep with people. When they see Old Fashioned on the menu, "Oh yeah, it's a great cocktail." When they get Cold Brew Old Fashioned they'd say, "Oh, I love coffee. I'm going to love this drink". Right? Or they see a Mezcal cocktail on the menu and they're like, "Oh, I've been wanting to try Mezcal. It's so cool and smoky, and the new tequila." Or whatever.
But then, if they see something like a Coffee Mezcal Negroni, they're like, "Oh, cool. It's got coffee in there. I know I'll like it." It's one of those ingredients that people love as much as the trade to work with. So that's the sweet spot for us.

Now, you were talking about the diversity in coffee and in flavour. You guys have just released a new expression, the Single Origin Colombia. Can you talk a little bit about the strategy behind that?

I think to say strategy, probably implies we thought about it a lot more than what we actually did. The benefit of doing what we do... So we do everything from sourcing coffees at origin, all the way through to sticking the labels on. On any given year we probably have 10 or 20 different coffees... No, more. Probably 20 different coffees coming through our distillery. And we're always making new things, right? We do everything, always trying on new coffees to go into the main Mr Black brand to keep that tasting as good as it can. Every now and again we just stumble upon the coffee that we think is just remarkable, has a real story to tell. Whether that's the farmer, its origin, you know, it's varietal, it's process, or even, how we roast it. There are so many different stories we can tell about the coffee. We just make these delicious liquids. And we thought, well, why don't we just share them with people? You know? And people just think coffee is such a one dimensional thing. Coffee flavoured... It always amazed me. People when they try Mr Black, "Oh my God, it tastes like coffee." You know? What did you expect it to taste like? But, also to make something taste like coffee, it takes three different coffees, and four or five different roast profiles to do that.
It's really interesting to show them something else that tastes like coffee in the conventional sense, but so completely different from Mr Black. That was the bit of fun around that. And we get, it's the weirdest, nichest thing, specialty Single Origin expressions in normal coffee are weird. And then to do that in coffee liqueurs, is even more obscure. But that's the fun stuff. I think that's where all the best stuff's had, in that little obscure section of the world.

Now, you're talking about coffees being sent through to you and playing with them. Do you actually go out and find them, as well, or are they just sent to you?

Absolutely, yes. We do a combination of both. Being a small company. Imagine when we started, we had to work with a local coffee roaster, because, you know, we were a small company. Right?
But, as we've got bigger and bigger, we slowly both worked forward and worked back in the supply chain. So when we started, it was just us, a little distillery. Buy ethanol, get someone to roast coffee, experiment for a year to make the product, start to sell it. Your sales reps, all good. As you get a bit bigger we can go, "Well hold on, let's just move further back in the chain." So, about three years ago we bought a coffee roaster. It's still the same one we use today. I think the most overworked coffee roaster in Australia. I get to roast about 60 hours a week. But, that was a huge change for us where we could bring coffee, the actual process of roasting the coffee in-house. So, that was one step. The next big step for us on that is starting to get to origin.
We don't directly source all our coffees, but at the moment, I'd say the majority of them. We do use an importer for Australia, so they have the direct connections with the growers overseas. But we are starting to slowly increase the number of coffees we direct source. So for our... We actually had our Global Coffee Ambassador, Martin Hudak, was over in Brazil with this legend called Johnny, doing some fermentation trials. Also, with Erik Lorenz from The Savoy, doing some trials on some coffees that we'll release next year. Of a single origin. Coffee's got a very long lead time. We could be thinking at least one or two years ahead on single origin releases, and especially, climate change and all these cultural and environmental impacts. We've constantly been looking at our coffees, profiling them, seeing how the taste changes for the main Mr Black, and we made a lot of it now, right? So it's, kind of, got to stay on top of the flavour.

You would need to actually be wary of crop devastation and various things like that. If you're expecting a certain yield to come in and it doesn't for some reason, I mean that'd be a nightmare to try and organise and coordinate.

It's huge. I think a big part of it is... That's why you do have trusted partners. The importers, you know. We've got some great people that, with everything you start off and you work your way through some crooks, and some people that let you down. And then, we've been in business for six and a half years now. We've got some really trusted partners that we work with, that can supply us the coffees we need, at the right time. Yeah. We can plan years in advance on what we need.
It's a really peculiar thing. Making a coffee liqueur, making a coffee for roasting, and for conventional, non-alcoholic consumption. You know, the types of coffees we look for, how we profile them, how we roast them, how we brew them. It's all really different. It takes quite a while to work with your different suppliers to go, "I know this is what people generally want, but this is what we need," You know? And that's, it takes a while to develop that relationship and that trust with both growers and with importers, as well.

So, what sort of things are you saying you need that, perhaps someone who is just making straight coffee, wouldn't necessarily look for?

I mean I don't want to give away the recipe, but it's like a... the way we make Mr. Black, we have three like three broad kinds of coffee, right?
We need something that's quite enlarged component of those coffee flavours. So there's dark, medium roast, caramel and chocolate flavours. We need a coffee with a really large amount of acid in it. So it's got those bright, fruity, sherbety notes when we add it in there. Acidity is something that's so often forgotten in spirits, obviously, often use it in cocktails, but in liqueurs acidity is ... it's just this forgotten thing. Generally, people just make them so cloying, they forget about the role of acidity. So having quite a high acid, high fruit flavoured coffee in there is quite important. So sourcing ones like that reliably, at the right price, can be quite difficult.

Would those beans normally be thrown out?

No, they're normally are quite revered, the coffees we use for that. We generally use coffees from Ethiopia or Kenya. Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees due to a number of reasons, both political instability and climate change, are becoming quite high in costs and quite scarce. Yeah. As price goes up, quality can decrease in all those things. So finding a reliable supply of lovely acidic fruit forward coffees that really give Mr Black the zing it needs. It can be a challenge, but we get there.

Now, if people are familiar with the zing of the original Mr Black, why should they be excited about the Single Origin Colombia?

We don't say the Single Origin is better or worse than Mr Black. It's just sort of different and very specific. What we tried to do with the Single Origin was make something that, not quite the opposite of Mr Black, but if Mr Black, sort of classic flavour profile that hopefully most people know and love today, is that dark roast, bittersweet. We always say it's got a bit of grit to it. It's got a bit of tannins on it. Tannin's the wrong phrase, but it gives that sort of grit in your mouth, which is brilliant for making cocktails with. Because it means you can make a Mezcal Coffee Negroni and taste the coffee in it. Right? If that's the classic Mr Black flavour profile, the Single Origin is the opposite of that. It's much lighter, much more fruit forward, more vibrant. It's got a lot lighter notes in there, which means it doesn't make a particularly nice Coffee Mezcal Negroni, because it'll just get wiped out by every other ingredient in that drink. It works far better in lighter style drinks. Paired up with Vermouths or sherries, and lighter flavour profiles then Mr Black, which tends to work better with distilled spirits.
I love all my children equally, but the Single Origin's been really nice. It's got about 10% lower sugar than Mr black, obviously because it's got a lighter flavour. It's all about retaining that balance. And, it's probably easy to pick the individual tasting notes out of that. Out of the Single Origin. It's really less complex. In Mr Black, there's a lot going on. It's very intense and that coffee, yes very rich. It's just this big, visceral coffee experience, where the Single Origin is a little bit more nuanced. A little bit livelier. That's probably the difference between the two. Dark, roasty Mr Black verses, light, bright, Single Origin.

If someone were to get the Single Origin, what cocktails should they be tasting it in, first?

I personally love it with Tonic. I think if I was to have it... I was having people around in my house, I would give them three wine glasses. One, I would just give them the Single Origin by itself, so they could just try and really experience the lovely flavour of that coffee, and how different it tastes to Mr Black. The next one would be, fill that glass up with some ice and some Tonic, wheel of orange, delicious, refreshing, that sort of natural coffee funk. I use funk, not in the bad way, but in a kind of a nice ferment-y way, comes through. It's obviously, it's a honey processed coffee, which I'm sure we'll talk about. That sort of comes through, and it really accentuates with a bit of carbonation, from when it lifts that natural funk flavour, which is absolutely delicious. Then my personal favourite cocktail to make is what we call the Couture Old Fashioned. It's all blended, vermouth, rum and Mr black. It's just a gorgeous drink. Recipe's on the website.

Now, you mentioned the honey flavoured beans. Yeah. What difference, I mean you talked about a little bit of extra sort of funk to it, but does that help with the lightness? How does it?-

So, honey processed is this great thing, right? People always...not always... Forget... People don't know. Coffee is not beans, right? It's not a bean. It's the seed of a cherry. So you go to coffee plantations, you get the quite large trees, high quality coffee's generally shade-grown. These large trees, with these long branches that grow these cherries on them. The coffee bean is actually the seed of that cherry and so these have to be picked by hand, and the process of getting the seed out of that cherry and drying that seed develops a lot of flavour in that coffee. So one of the ways you do this is by washing the coffees.
You literally just use a mill and a lot of water, and you just strip off that... everything near the pulp and the skin. The skin when dried is called cascara. You might have heard that before. So you're stripping all that off, get the seeds, dry them on beds, put them in bags, ship them to my distillery. That makes a washed coffee. And, generally the coffees we use in Mr Black are like that. Gives very clean flavour, but doesn't really allow for development of flavour during drying. The other way of doing it is, you pick these whole cherries, you let them dry out. The whole cherry. Just let them dry on beds like raisins. Right? Imagine there's all the sugar in the there, a lot of heat. They ferment and it's called a natural coffee. And that makes really funky ones. Delicious. Good environmentally, because it doesn't use all the water. So it’s growing in popularity in places like Ethiopia. There's a process in the middle called honey process where you take the skin off, but leave the pulp on, and that makes them very sticky. Hence, the name "honey processed". So, it's a really hyper nerdy coffee thing, and so its nice that we can just shine a light on this whole part of the coffee industry that people didn't know about. Ironically, when we actually made it in our product, the product does kind of taste like honey. But even though it says honey on that, we didn't make it so it tastes like it. But, ironically, it does. So just to add to the confusion. So, if you kept up with that, it's a process about how coffees ferment when we pick them, which makes it taste the way it does, which is super cool.

It's been two years since you last released a Single Origin. The first one you did was Panama. Why the length of time?

The honest answer is, we've been so busy making enough Mr Black, and scaling up the production process of Mr Black, without losing the quality of the liquid, that we just haven't had time. Fundamentally, that's the reason. The businesses is going really well. We're in, I think, 14 markets around the World, including the U.S. The highest selling Australian spirit in North America. Over 5,000 accounts, about 10,000 around the world now. So, growing production of the liqueur without losing the quality is really tricky. If you want to make more gin, you buy a bigger still, right? If you want to make more coffee liqueur, you can't just increase the size of the vessel. Continuously. Right? Because it's not just about how big the vessel is, it's how quickly extracted, how quickly you get the ground out. There's so many other factors that go into it. We spent two years learning how to make more of our product, yet making it taste better than ever before. That's the reason. And now, we still haven't really worked that out, but, we just thought we'd do a Single Origin, just because. That was the reason. We've spent so much time scaling our production.

Now, Single Origin is limited release. How many bottles are you actually making available?

5,997.

That's very precise.

That's how much coffee we got. We were shooting for the 6,000, but total yield was just under.

And how are they being distributed?

So you can order it directly from our website, bars and restaurants. Anyone can just order it through their normal wholesalers. But, excitingly for this one in the U.S., this is the first time we've launched a Single Origin overseas. So, it's available in the State of New York through Astor Wines. A very close friend of mine works at that store. It's a prolific Manhattan liquor store. He came down in Australia in January and we made the product with him. So it's not exclusive to them, or whatever. It was just to put the New York flavour on this one. It's available in New York, and obviously they ship nationally in the U.S., as well. So, really exciting. But there's only 600 bottles in the U.S., so if you want one, I think they're probably mostly gone. So if you want one in the U.S. Astor Wines, get on it. Yeah.

Now tell us a little a bit about the process. You're working directly with farmers in Colombia. How did that connection come about? How has it been to work with them?

Yeah. This connection was actually developed through one of our importers. So this is why it's great having proactive partners in your supply chain, in everything, right? Every element of the Mr black, and it looks like one product on the shelf, but there are so many people. From our amazing glass suppliers, our label supplier, the coffee suppliers, that go into making this thing look and taste as good as it does every time. And they approached us and were like, "Look, we know you're in the market for something really special for your first Single Origin release. Have a try at this." We loved it because we want to tell a process story around coffee, around that honey processing. Just to shine a light on this wee, little part of the world.
Columbia historically hasn't had a reputation as a specialty coffee grower. Columbia and Brazil and largely known, and Vietnam I would say, for volume. So for us it was a bit like, here's this family that's been farming coffee in Columbia for 65 years. They'd been growing specialty coffee for 13, they're innovating in terms of process, and they've got something really cool. Let's shine a light on that. That was the reason why we decided to work with those guys on this coffee. It was an introduction for our lovely importer on this one. And as we start to grow our network and we have some more farms we work with, we'll start to cultivate more relationships ourselves.

Tell us a little bit more about the family. Have they been growing coffee forever?

Literally 65 years on the same farm, which is remarkable.

Is it a big farm?

In the scheme of thing? No, no. I think this is what's always interesting to talk about, how coffee differs around the world, right? So sometimes if you... I think maybe wine making is a good analogy for booze people, right? You do have some wine makers that, the size of their vineyards would be like the size of a small city. Right? In the hundreds of acres. That's how you produce hundreds and hundreds of thousands of hectoliters of wines that taste very similar. Right? Your large new world wine makers, like Jacob's Creek and all that. And the processing plants look like Gotham city and all that. Then there's also other guys that have tiny little single vineyards, and then there's some bits in between. And coffees can often be quite similar. So if you look at the huge farms in Brazil or Columbia, especially Brazil, a single farm in Brazil could match the output of some whole countries of coffee production. These monoliths like Columbia, Brazil, Vietnam, and even India to a certain extent. These farms where they produce coffee, it's just in a scale you can't comprehend. We don't use, obviously, coffees from those farms in Mr Black. But, that's what supplies the world with that coffee that we all know and love. Here from Nescafe, the Starbucks, all that type of them. The types of people we work with and source coffee from are not that.
Are they small farms? In the scheme of the world? Yeah, they're tiny, tiny little things, but still probably, certainly quite large. The family has been growing coffee in Columbia for 65 years, and been growing specialty coffee for the last 12 or 13 years. So, it's quite interesting looking around the world and seeing places that used to grow commodity coffee, see the value and the benefit to their communities of growing specialty stuff. Right? Because you can get a higher amount per kilo for your coffee, you can invest more in production, increase your yields, employ more people, pay people a fair living wage. So specialty, for a lot of farms, is definitely the answer.

Now, you were talking about some of these larger farms and the idea of vineyards producing similar grapes when they're in large. Do you think that the benefit of these smaller farms is the terroir? Is the fact that what they are producing is going to be a little bit different in flavour than the bigger boys?

Yeah, I think it's... I'm not saying the big farms can't...It's like Jacob's Creek, I'm sure, make some delicious wine, and the fact they can make 6 million hectoliters of wine that tastes the same and quite delicious, is real triumph of craft, process and science, and all that. And that does happen in the big ones. I think when you have smaller farms, and in general, smaller production, I think Mr Black would be a good example of that in our in business. It really allows us to express a really specific thing that doesn't need to work for everyone, but can really please some people. So Mr Black, with it's low sugar, bigger coffee flavour, probably is not going to appeal to your average Kahlua or Tia Maria drinker, right? It's just got a lot less sugar in it. It's got quite intense coffee flavour. But, the people that love it, couldn't ever drink anything else.
I think that's the same with most things in production. When you're smaller, it means you can create something that does a really good job for some groups of people, as opposed to trying to appeal to everyone. So natural, funky, then ferment-y coffees probably would, you'd get complaints if you put them in your Nescafe, but work really well if you have a slightly more developed palate, and looking for a new expression of a flavour that a lot of people understand really closely because they drink it every day. So, different. Not necessarily better, but different.

What flavours do you think do actually compliment the Colombia?

My favourite cocktail we had, is called La Finca. Recipe's on the website. It was created by our Global Coffee Ambassador Martin Hudak, but the addition of sherry and coffee, they chase so many similar flavour notes. It's just a gorgeous thing. Like Mr Black and sherry cobbler is just such a lovely drink to have. I think sherry is also having a real resurgence in general, but specifically in cocktail. I strongly recommend sherry based drinks with coffee. Just stunning. Can kind of see how those light, fruity, funky, bittersweet notes would pair really well with both dry and quite rich sherries.

Were there a lot of cocktails that were made for the release of the Colombia?

There were not a lot. We think in general... I'm a simple guy. We're sort of famous for having maybe five or six reliably very good cocktails when we do events. So, when we did the Single Origin, we gave the brief to our brand ambassadors while we can come back with something that really showcases the liquid, and doesn't try and pretend it is something else, you know? So this one in the Negroni, it wouldn't be right. You know, it's not bitter enough. Doesn't have the flavour to carry it. Let's not do the Negroni style drink. And one of the drinks they came back with, which was absolutely my favourite, was La Finca. And the reason why I said this again, it was made by Martin Hudak, our Global Ambassador, but that was the blend of Mr Black, Amoroso sherry and a honey syrup. And you can see how those three flavours really accentuate the flavour profile in the Single Origin. So you've got the sherry, which gets that sort of funky oxidative, lovely cherry flavour, which again, very much comes through in Single Origin, but then getting that honey syrup in there, both pays homage to the honey process of the coffee. Same name, different effect. But does also accentuate that natural honey note in Mr Black. So, those three things served with the frozen grape in a wine glass, on a big lump of ice, it's both refreshing. It's quite light in ABV, it's not too boozy, but with real intensity of flavour. That would be, by far and away, the most popular drink that we did. We had launch parties here in Sydney, Melbourne and New York, and it would outsold everyone for the one that drink was just exceptional.

Now you talked about honey syrup and sherry. What other flavours would work well with Colombia?

I think we found dark rum... I mean dark rum and coffee is not controversial. Right? There's a reason why a lot of coffee liqueurs use rum. It tastes good and it comes from where they grow coffee, generally. But those lovely skewed fruit, yet quiet estry notes of rum, pairs really well with a Single Origin. We find a lot of rums just don't have the grit to stand up to Mr Black Original. We find it knocks out a lot of the rums, especially those darker, sweet style sipping rums, but it just goes beautifully the Single Origin. The viscosity of dark rums and those lovely fruit forward flavours, and raisin flavours, go so well with a Single Origin.

Now, you're talking about the launches and how well that particular cocktail went at them. What has the reaction been to the Colombia so far?

It's been amazing. I mean, again.... It's all... We don't launch too many new things. I know a lot of distilleries pump out hundreds of different new products every year, and that's not us. As we mentioned, this has been two years since our last new product, so I think people were just excited to try it. I think, a lot of people are expecting not to be able to taste the difference. They think, "Oh, coffee liqueurs." It's the same process." And kind of hoping that it does, and then they're really pleasantly surprised when it's this completely new expression of coffee. And even people without a particularly sophisticated palate can still tell the difference, which is amazing, right? Like a lot of people, if you don't have a sophisticated palate, it'd be quite difficult to tell the difference between two Rieslings or two Single Malts, or pull them apart. But, with our two coffees, same process, same extraction time, just different coffee beans. You can tell the difference, which is awesome. I think it really speaks to the world of flavour in coffee.

You talked about the fact that you've been ramping up your processes to be able to present the world with more and more of Mr Black. Does that mean that we're going to see the Single Origins come at a faster pace from now on?

Absolutely. It's going to be a permanent thing we offer, but the coffees will change.
I have this amazing vision for the future where you could go into a liquor shop in Austin, TX and find a Single Origin that had never made it to Australia. Because we are constantly getting presented with these amazing coffees in both very small and very large batches, and now we've started to free up a bit more production time and just practically get a bit quicker, operationally a bit better at executing these things. We'd like to start putting more out. There are so many remarkable coffees out there. I don't think we should stick to the one blend. Life would be boring if we did that. So, we'll be a permanent part of the portfolio, but the coffees will always be changing, and once it's gone it's gone. We won't use the same coffee from the same farm, twice.

Are you going to be doing exclusively overseas releases in the future?

Yeah, absolutely. We've already got a few in the works, for both retail and for bar customers. So we've been approached by a number of restaurant group, for instance. So imagine you're a...I don't want to name names, but you're a quite a large restaurant group with a home in Southeast Asia.
Maybe they're like, "Could we go explore some specialty coffees coming out of Thailand, or out of Indonesia, or out of the part of New Guinea, and could we get some geographic influence, bespoke blend for us and things like that, which is super exciting, as well. Because there are so many people shining lights on coffee growing regions. There are so many spots in the world outside of your normal specialty coffee circuit. They're producing phenomenal coffee. And, when you buy coffee from them, it helps them get better. Right? So, absolutely. Some more regional releases on the way. And also, it's all of the way the world's going, especially in North America. Retailers love having products bespoke to them, right? Look at the rise of the barrel program in the U.S. Right?
Pretty much every major retailer goes to Maker's Mark, goes to Jack Daniel's and selects their own barrels, has their own release, and we kind of see that, a part in coffee, is a retailer could have their own blend. Give their consumer something a bit different alongside the Mr Black. But again, we still feel like the world of coffee, we haven't quite saturated yet. And there might be a little bit more room for us to get Mr. Black out there before we start doing too many new things. But, definitely potential for more, for sure.

Aside from special releases, what's nest for Mr Black? What is the major push over 2020?

I'm excited that we've really expanded the business throughout Asia at the moments. Mr Black's pushing out really well through Taiwan and Japan, as well as Singapore and Hong Kong. The UK has been a remarkable market for us over the years, largely driven by the phenomenal mixology culture over there. And a really high standard, the bars and specialty coffee culture, but the U.S. is by far and away the part of our business growing the fastest. It's just breathtaking. There's something about the flavour profile in Mr Black, that sort of medium dark roast, slightly sweet, that really works with the American palate. They love coffee. Previously haven't had a lot of high quality products to work with, but the average standard of American bars is really high. We talked about that Negroni test. How many bars can you walk in? You walk in a lot of dive bars in flyover States in the U.S. and ask for a Negroni, they'll make you a good one. You ask for an Old Fashioned, they'll make an excellent one. That real boom in high quality spirits there, it's a great piggyback for us. The U.S. is insane.

Are you surprised that no one over there has come out with something similar to you?

Am I surprised no one else has done what we're doing? Not particularly. It's not by accident we taste really good. It's really hard, and takes a lot of dedication, and process innovation to make a specialty coffee liqueur with the depth and character of Mr Black, without amounts of sugar, just to get something on the shelf. So, no. It doesn't surprise me. I could see a lot of people just being like, "Well, we just couldn't be bothered. This other thing we make sells really well. Who gives a shit anyway?" I could imagine that. Absolutely. But, I think that's how innovation happens, right? You get some small little grubby upstart like me, that thinks coffee could be better than what it is, and deserves more respect than a yellow and red bottle and candy flavours. We can do better than that.
So no, it doesn't surprise me. It's also interesting, when we started Mr Black six years ago, we were the only cold brew coffee liqueur. Now, there's Jägermeister, Jameson. Kahlua has their range of cold brew cocktails. So, it was in the category of PBR and La Colombe, all these big booze companies now jumping on the wagon. It doesn't surprise me at all. I think it's amazing. If it helps people experience coffee at night where previously they couldn't, it's all a good thing and ours, as always, tastes the best. So I'm fine with that.

All right, well look, thank you Tom for your time. And if people want more information, they can obviously go to your website.

Check the website, sing up for mailing list, follow us on Instagram.

Which is mrblack.co. Thank you very much.

Pleasure. Thanks so much.

For more information on Mr Black Single Origin Columbia, go to mrblack.co

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Tom Baker from Mr Black - Single Origin Columbia

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