A special roast is needed, especially when serving coffee at 35,000ft

MY CLUB • May 2018

My Club: Steven Macatonia

Steven Macatonia
Steven Macatonia


Having travelled the world in search of high-quality coffee, Steven Macatonia, Executive Club Member and co-founder of BA’s new partner Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, reveals to The Club which island stole his heart; why he keeps returning to Rwanda, and his favourite Scottish hangout

How did travel influence your desire to launch Union Coffee?  
On a trip through Latin America, co-founder Jeremy Torz and I saw the devastating impact of plummeting world coffee prices on the region. We thought there had to be a better way to trade that allowed farmers to achieve a sustainable price. That was Union’s starting point. 

Out of all the countries you source from, which is your favourite to visit?
Rwanda, if I had to choose. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, especially the more rural areas. For me, it’s also personal – our approach to working with rural communities means I’ve seen how the quality of life has improved for many Rwandan families.

What has been your stand-out travel experience?
I’m privileged that working with coffee allows me to go deeper into a community’s ethos than can be achieved on a typical holiday. Coffee-producing countries have a fascinating culture. My strongest memories are of Torajaland, on South Sulawesi, Indonesia (pictured below). The country has a gorgeous mountainous landscape, and the farmers were so welcoming.

Where is at the top of your travel bucket list?
Although Ethiopia is recognised as Arabica coffee’s birthplace, Yemen is considered the first country where coffee was cultivated commercially. Political instability has made Yemen too risky for travel, but it’s top of my list of countries to visit. Yemeni coffee has a distinctive, almost wine-like flavour, and I’d love to discover more about the farmers’ processing techniques.


Where in the UK is your favourite café?
Brew Lab café on South Street, Edinburgh. It’s tucked away and I’m particularly fond of the cosy, but intentionally wrecked, exposed brick-style interiors. The V60 (individually prepared filter coffee) is deliciously sweet, and I must mention the lovely chocolate-custard doughnuts. 

What are the challenges of bringing great coffee to passengers at 35,000 feet?
Flavour and taste perceptions change at altitude, so our experienced baristas went on test flights to do tastings. As a result, we roast the coffee we serve on board to very specific flavour profiles and use a slightly different coffee in the BA lounges

What does British Airways mean to you?
The brand stirs the emotions when it comes to recognising our great British heritage. As an Executive Club Member I enjoy earning Avios, especially on the direct from London Gatwick to Lima. It’s an even greater pleasure now that I can enjoy excellent coffee on board!

Interview by Hannah Ralph

Union Hand-Roasted Coffee will soon be served on board BA flights and in lounges. 

This article has been tagged Food + Drink, BA