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16.5-Year-Old Retailer Summit Coffee Now Roasting in North Carolina

Summit Coffee Lead Roaster Evan Pollitt (left) and Co-Owner Brian Helfrich.

Summit Coffee Lead Roaster Evan Pollitt (left) and Co-Owner Brian Helfrich.

Summit Coffee is scaling up operations for peak flavor.

In other, less punny, words, the longtime North Carolina-based coffee company is getting into the roasting game in a big way, putting the finishing touches on a 2,200-square-foot production facility in Cornelius, N.C., that will include two San Franciscan roasters, a training center and a cupping lab. The facility will also be Summit’s distribution and wholesale headquarters.

Summit Co-Owner Brian Helfrich and lead roaster Evan Pollitt, who has been the company’s director of coffee since last year, are currently in the process of obtaining SCAA roaster certification, and  the company will officially begin roasting and supplying its own two stores, both in Davidson, N.C., later this month. Helfrich recently told Daily Coffee News that the Summit roasting HQ is loosely modeled after that of Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee, from which Summit has been sourcing roasted coffees for nearly 17 years, since its retail beginnings.

At the Summit roasting HQ in Cornelius, N.C.

At the Summit roasting HQ in Cornelius, N.C.

“Our strategy for the past several years has been calculated growth,” Helfrich says. “There’s a focus on entrepreneurship across our entire business, with a targeted eye on diversification. At the same time, we’re very cognizant of not growing faster than we’re comfortable with. We want Summit to expand; we also want to maintain the stability of the entire company.”

Helfrich and the Summit team are currently sourcing green coffee from Sustainable Harvest, Cafe Imports and Keffa Coffee, and plans include four year-round blends with specific origin associations, plus a “Benchmark” series of seasonal, single origin coffees. The year-rounds include: a house blend called Basecamp, which Helfrich says will continue a chocolate, nutty approachable profile; a Kilamanjaro blend that will likely be a bit brighter and sweeter, and will always include an East African coffee; and a darker roast called Alpamayo (another mountain name, in Peru), that will feature South American coffees.

“We then plan to introduce all of our single origins as part of our Benchmark series,” Helfrich says, adding that the Benchmark name, like many of the company’s location or product names (Summit, Basecamp, Outpost, etc.) is a play on a mountaineering term. “We will only offer a single origin if it meets our standards for this series. We will start with approximately five different benchmark coffees, and will vary that based on the seasons.”

 

 

 

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