Clean Coffee in the Dirty South: An Interview With Cameron Heath of Revelator Coffee Company

By Dani Goot, Roasters Guild Executive Council

The first time I met Cameron Heath was when I stood next to him at the U.S. Roaster Championship at the SCAA Expo (now SCA's Global Specialty Coffee Expo) last year in Atlanta, GA. We were both pretty stoked to be in the top 12 and a bit shocked at the same time… Well, I was anyway.

I loved seeing Revelator Coffee Company grow and taste their coffees along their journey. They always keep me coming back for more and excited to try what’s next from them. The person behind roasting these delicious coffees is also one of my newest buddies. I had to know more about Cameron and figured I would let you all in on it too!

Full Name: Cameron Tyree Heath

I wish I knew the origin story of my name, I know at some point it was going to be “Cameron Christopher Heath.” I guess someone thought it looked too good on letterhead and bailed on that name.

Astrological Sign: Virgo

I don’t dive too deep into astrology, but from what I’ve been told Virgos are methodical, cautious and judgmental (AKA low-key jerks). I would say that hits the nail on the head. Plus, sounds like the perfect sign for a coffee roaster.

How long have you been a member of the Roasters Guild?

Three years. I haven’t been in the coffee industry for very long, only four years. I wish I had a cool origin story of slinging milk-based drinks for years and cultivating a love of the industry from there. Instead, I started off working in a warehouse in Raleigh, NC, putting bagged coffee and allied goods in boxes. After a while our apprentice quit, so I just slid into his place. I think I only got the gig because I looked at the roaster half a second longer than most folks there.

Where do you currently live? Birmingham, Alabama

Like most of the Revelators at HQ, I’m a transplant – from Raleigh, NC.

When I think about the good and bad of Birmingham I’m always comparing it to home since I’ve only been in B'ham for less than two years. Birmingham has a rich history in regards to civil rights. It's interesting to see landmarks you’ve read about in history classes all your life and be like, “Hey, something really wild happened right where I’m standing years ago.” That’s for sure an over-simplification of that situation, but it’s just awesome seeing that era kind of clash with the new crop.

Dislikes: There are no seasons here. If someone told me that the epicenter of global warming was Birmingham, AL, I would believe it. During my first summer roasting in Birmingham I was pretty sure I was going to die of a heat stroke from the humidity. It doesn’t take long for you to acclimate to that, just have to sweat until you can’t sweat anymore for a season.

What roasters have you roasted on? 

Ambex 30kg, Ambex 90kg, Giesen 15kg & Probat sample roaster. There was this little plastic sample roaster I wasn’t allowed to use when I was an apprentice, in hindsight I’m completely okay with that.

What are you currently roasting on? What you like about the machine and why is it special to you?

Giesen 15k. Man, what’s not to love about that machine. First off, it’s my first roaster, something is so satisfying about someone being like “Hey, this is yours to take care of... don’t mess it up.”

If I tried to tinker around with my previous roaster, the head roaster would not have been very stoked about it.

I love the variability of control with the Giesen, from airflow to drum speed – all of which can be manipulated with a push of a button. It allows me to manipulate a profile with such ease, I can really focus on development.

While at the Roasters Guild Retreat I met this Yoda-like roaster that roasted on a 1k Giesen and he really opened my eyes to how you can approach roasting on a semi-automatic roaster.

What coffee roasting professional influenced you the most and why? 

Joe Marrocco. My first coffee event was Coffee Fest in Atlanta, GA. I don’t know how I found out about Joe, but I’m sure I got lost down a roasting rabbit hole on YouTube or something... I mean, the man is featured in almost every informational roasting video.

Anyway, when I found out that he had some classes/seminars I made it a point to sit in on every class he was leading and just be a sponge. I was in awe of his knowledge and how much he cared about the craft and supporting others in the industry. At that point in my career that was mind-blowing to see someone with such passion for roasting.

Being able to rub shoulders with Joe and let him know how much I learned from the hours he has spent educating is great. I think I ran into him once at last year's Expo in Atlanta and opened the conversation something like “HEY MAN! YOUR VIDEO ABOUT AIR FLOW CHANGED MY LIFE!” (I had a lot of coffee that day). He most likely was freaked about me fan-girling.

I don’t know, the dude is great and inspiring. Everyone knows and loves Joe. I hope one day I can inspire some lost new roaster on YouTube one day.

Are there any roasting techniques that you would like to share that work best for you?

By no means do I think I’m reinventing the wheel, so I have no qualm with giving away my tricks of the trade. When I approach a roast the things I’m all about:

  • Low output temp
  • High development
  • Ten-degree differential from drop to output (...Stole this one from my dude Ron at Madcap. Thanks, man!)

From there I just use my fundamentals to highlight certain parts of a roast. Fortunately for me, Revelator is able to source some really nice and fresh coffee so my job isn’t terribly hard.

What part of coffee roasting do you want to learn more about?

I want to learn how the big dudes do it. Being a mirco-roastery, sometimes I feel like I’m digging a grave with a spoon on heavier production days. I would just want to see how the other half lives, ya know?

How does being a POC in a predominately non-POC part of the industry feel to you?

Dang, hitting me with that heavy question.

I never think about this but I feel like it’s on everyones mind. This all started with Lem (Butler) winning the U.S. Barista Championship, thanks Lem – cranking the spotlight on us brown folks in the biz.

I don’t know, I’ve been to Expos and Retreats, I haven’t seen myself represented at either event. What does that stem from? I would have no clue, I would have more of an idea if I was in the industry earlier on. It’s obvious to me that there is a gap that needs to be filled.

...I guess my overarching thought on this is “But does my roast suck or not?”