Small coffee roasters in South Puget Sound (Wash.) fit a consistent profile, according to a recent roundup of area artisan roasteries provided by Tacoma’s The News Tribune. Writes reporter Rosemary Ponnekanti:
They’re almost always young men, with a fanatical interest in coffee and the places it’s grown. They wear black, drink multiple cups a day and use wine-tasting vocabulary to describe their brews. They have a disdain for flavored syrups and an enthusiasm for machines. And their customers – whether buying by the bag or the cup – all seem to appreciate the difference from corporate coffee.
The paper profiled small roasters — those that roast 1,500 pounds a week or less — in the Tacoma and Olympia areas, each of whom shared some insight into their roasting process.
“How you source and how you roast and the size of the roaster matters. We use high-grown shade Arabica beans from Central America, Brazil, Ethiopia, Sumatra. Freshness means a ton in coffee: If something expires in July 2013 then all those neat (chemical) reactions aren’t there. So coffee is better and more interesting when it’s local. The more you drink coffee the more you crave nuance. It’s not as easy to drink bad coffee anymore.”
Arvid “A.J.” Andersen, of the seven-employee Valhalla Coffee Co., told the paper he roasts about eight batches every day just past first crack on a 12-kilo San Franciscan roaster, with a smaller roaster for samples.
“I’m striving for the best roast to fit each coffee. We try and do everything from scratch by hand – we don’t just pull it off the shelf. We roast, mix, brew, pour, stamp the bags…People can taste the freshness; they can also see it.”
“Freshness is an issue in large-scale roasters,” says Carr. “But we roast to order the day before it’s delivered. Our beans come from all over the world; we mix it up, taste and see what’s good. We’re constantly drinking coffee.”
“I don’t buy coffee based on price: I don’t scrimp, and I think that comes through. I also never roast to full capacity for better airflow and taste. And with the automation roaster I do all the profiling.”
“All of us roasters are quite different. We buy the highest price coffee we can get, and are the only one directly sourcing our beans. I travel every year to Central and South America to visit plantations and choose the beans in the field. So we have a spectrum of beans that we love and control over the processing, which has a huge effect on cupping quality. And you can totally taste that. If you go from a Starbucks to a cup of ours you’ll be in shock.”
The full story: The News Tribune