They say money makes the world go round but we all know that without coffee, money is just bits of coloured paper. Java, Joe or jitter juice – it doesn’t matter what you call that morning cup of life, but what does matter is how well it’s made. Sam Swinburn and his team at Meke have been filling the Ibiza breeze with the scent of freshly roasted coffee since 2012, supplying the island’s top cafés and restaurants with quality beans sourced from sustainable and ethical farms across the globe. Now coffee lovers and aficionados alike can stop by the company’s eponymous café in Santa Eulalia to enjoy a freshly brewed cup with an organic snack before grabbing a bag of beans to take home.
Sam first landed in Ibiza in 2003. “I had no expectations,” he says. “I just arrived here and thought it was amazing. I hadn’t experienced that feeling anywhere else.” He made the permanent move from his home in New Zealand in 2010 and after two years searching for a decent coffee, Meke was born from a needs-must basis. “I realised pretty quickly that I couldn’t live here without decent coffee,” he laughs. “So, I had to make it myself.” He sold his house and with the leftover money, bought a one-tonne coffee roaster from Holland. “We had to get a crane to bring it to the warehouse,” he recalls. Alongside his brother, sister and two good friends, Sam built what is now the island’s specialty coffee roaster, and the only one that can guarantee sustainable, ethical and traceable beans as well as a damn fine brew.
Coffee has become so much part of the human experience that it can be easy to forget it comes from a plant. At Meke, everything starts with the bean. Sam sources beans depending on what’s been freshly harvested around the world. Towards the end of the European summer, El Salvador and Guatemalan harvests are available, along with some Kenyan and Dominican Republic strains. Early in the year, it’s time for Colombian and Honduran beans, while the middle of the year is when Peru’s flavours hit the market.
Working with three trusted coffee suppliers who source directly from farms, Sam is able to ensure that all Meke beans have come from sustainable and ethical sources, with around 50% derived from organic plantations. “Making sure there are sustainable practices at origin is equally important to me as organic certification,” Sam explains of the Meke ethos. “Smallholders can’t always afford certification but they still practice organic methods. We’ve met them, we know their processes and philosophy – after that, the important thing is the flavour profile of the coffee.”
Sam visits the farmers whenever possible, having had his first plantation experience in Indonesia in 2008 “Seeing the process of the coffee producers made me realise they are actually artisans,” says Sam. “Drinking a coffee at origin is a completely different experience. You can taste exactly how it is from the tree.” Further trips to meet farmers in Colombia and Brazil are planned for this year. “We’re going to be doing more buying directly, It lets us guarantee the quality of our coffee, consistent supply and close the circle of the bean to cup experience.”
The flagship Meke Café in Santa Eulalia is the final stage of the process where the espresso, latte or cortado you order can be traced back to a single farm or group of farmers. Taking your coffee in a café is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures, but having one at home comes in at a pretty close second place. The team at Meke can advise on the various domestic coffee making options from basic French presses to hi-tech drip filters and single shot espresso machines, not to mention the right takeaway blend to suit your taste. “My main tip for people wanting really good coffee at home is to buy a coffee grinder,” says Sam. “Grinding the whole beans just before you make the coffee changes everything.” And just in case you were wondering, Sam personally prefers drip coffee into a thermos for day to day brewing.
Sitting alongside the arches of the Santa Eulalia town hall, Meke Café occupies a sun-dappled corner where a couple of outside tables allow for excellent people watching over coffee and a light bite to eat. Inside the vibe is urban rustic with wood bar stools upholstered in coffee sacks standing in front of the gleaming espresso machine. A relaxed buzz drifts over the space and the casual friendliness of the barista belies the seriousness with which the coffee is made. Each shot is freshly ground and then loaded into the machine, brewed and weighed before being served in any number of styles. Glass domes house vegetarian sourdough panini, frittatas, cakes, muffins and cookies. For those who don’t drink coffee (who are you?) or if coffee accidentally turns into aperitivo (it happens), there’s also organic artisanal soft drinks, natural wines and craft beers. A further outlet in Palma means you won’t lack a decent caffeine hit when island hopping. Life without coffee is unthinkable but here in Ibiza, life without Meke coffee is unliveable.