Name: Zak Langley
Job title: Roastery manager
Company & location: Modern Standard Coffee, Scotland
Education: I went to school in Essex and completed my GCSEs, but chose not to pursue further education as I was keen to get on the career ladder from an early age.
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? To be honest, my career in food & drink was completely by chance. I was in between jobs and saw an ad for a production assistant for Modern Standard Coffee. I didn’t really know much about the industry initially but was keen to learn. There’s so much people don’t realise about coffee.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): As speciality grade roasters, we source and buy some of the highest quality coffee on the market. My job is to ensure we draw out the natural flavour notes of the coffee, whilst maintaining consistency from batch to batch. As we source seasonally and each harvest differs, I create specific roasting profiles for our core espresso and filter range. As part of our quality control and dedication to great tasting coffee, we perform a ‘cupping’ for each batch. This is essentially a method for evaluating the different characteristics of the beans and the roast profile.
What does a typical day look like for you? To keep our coffee as fresh as possible, we roast to order and therefore plan a week in advance. The mornings are spent planning the most efficient way of roasting and packing our orders, then weighing out the green coffee into buckets to set myself up for the day. Each batch is roasted, tested, packed and labelled then booked in for delivery. If there’s time, I experiment with some new coffee samples or bespoke blends our customers might like. At the end of each day, we update our stock management and all the machines are cleaned and prepped for the next day.
“There’s a lot of hard work and processes that need to happen before you get a nice cup of coffee”
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. As I wanted a change of career, I was searching online when an advert popped up for a production assistant close to where I lived, so I applied.
From application to getting offered the role, it was very quick! The interview process was very different to previous roles as it was much more personality-orientated, rather than focusing on qualifications and previous experience, which was refreshing. Ultimately I think my enthusiasm and willingness to learn got me the job.
What’s the best part about working for a food company? I can’t speak for other food companies or products, but working in coffee is very rewarding. I love being part of a small business and a product that’s seeing growth year on year. People are wanting more transparency on the coffee they’re drinking and the impact on the farmer, and they’re beginning to understand/taste the differences in quality. It’s exciting!
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? I don’t feel there’s a misconception about working in the industry per se. I believe there’s a disconnection and lack of understanding between the consumer and the end product.
There’s a lot of hard work and processes that need to happen before you get a nice cup of coffee. From the farmers to the shipping to the roasting and finally the barista, it’s a long process that isn’t often appreciated.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Don’t be afraid to start from the bottom and work your way up. It’s very easy to let your ego get in the way of what could be a really good career.
Hard work and the willingness to learn are crucial and I’ve been very lucky with Modern Standard.
What’s your ultimate career dream? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe ask me again in five years!
I’m very passionate about the quality of the coffee I produce on a daily basis and it makes me very happy knowing someone’s probably at home now, having a cuppa and thinking ‘corr yeah that’s a great coffee’.