Beans means business for Fergus

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Seil’s Fergus McCoss has ‘bean’ and done more than most folk will ever scribble down on their bucket list.

Fergus has already lived in Holland, China, Argentina, Nigeria, Germany and Majorca, played rugby with a decent league team, worked in a shipyard, built his own furniture and, while serving as a deckhand, brushed shoulders on super yachts with the rich and famous including Star Wars’ George Lucas and Prince Charles’s other half – Camilla.

But now he is back home in Argyll at Kilbrandon House where he is turning his passion for coffee into a bean roasting venture called Hinba, already satisfying the tastebuds of coffee connoisseurs as far away as America.

Hands-on Fergus has transformed the carpentry shed next to his family home into a roastery and, since launching in April, has already gone through 210 kilos of beans from around the world.

Bags of his roasted beans are on the shelves at Balvicar and Kilmelford stores, Taste of Argyll in Oban and at Poppies near Dunbeg and will soon be hitting the streets of Edinburgh from a coffee van. And online customers are growing, too, with word spreading across the Atlantic to the US and other distant shores.

Fergus, a self-confessed foodie, got canny about coffee on his travels and says it was in Central and South America where he was introduced to the real thing. To add to his talents, he also speaks fluent Spanish.

Legend has it that Hinba was an Inner Hebridean island, possibly Seil, where Brendan the Navigator visited bringing tranquillity to its shores in a time before the Vikings struck.

‘It seemed the perfect name for the business. I’d like to think drinking my coffee will bring people the same joy and peace,’ said Fergus, who hopes to host taster events soon and hopes his roasted beans will become the Argyll’s cup of choice.

In his roastery, as well as sacks of speciality green beans, there is a control unit that shows up multi-coloured lines on a screen tracking the detailed process of roasting – the crucial timing, temperatures, and amount of air that passes through the big black and gold-coloured roaster.

All those elements will affect the flavour of the roasted beans, accentuating one or the other tasting notes, whether it is dark chocolate or orange, caramel, pastry, biscuit, prune syrup or hazelnuts – to name but a few.

‘We call it bro-science,’ explains Fergus. In other words, roasters talk to each other about their experiences with different beans and flavours and try it out for themselves, adding their own tweaks.

When it comes to ‘cupping’ or tasting samples of pre-roasted beans that are green, Fergus trusts his own taste but will happily turn it into a whole family affair, hauling in whoever might be passing the roastery door at the  time.

Scores for aroma, fragrance, flavour, acidity, sweetness, balance, after-taste and more are given to the sample brews before any decision is made to move on to a bigger batch brew.

‘It’s good to be home on Seil. It’s a great place to be inspired and roast beans, and the air is so pure that there’s nothing nasty here to dull the taste,’ said Fergus.