In South Florida, where Café Cubano still dominates alongside the ubiquitous Starbucks and Dunkin’ brands, specialty roasters are few and far between.
“It’s just sludge with sugar and milk,” Amy Miller, who represents the business end of South Florida’s newest roaster, Argyle Coffee Roasters, says of Café Cubano. “I grew up on it and love it, in a way, but there’s not a whole lot else around here.”
Miller says she and her roaster husband Manny Carrera are hoping to play some small part in changing that, by focusing on consumer education through an open-door policy and through relationships with local shops. The couple officially launched Argyle this summer in a downtown Fort Lauderdale warehouse, following several years of day-dreaming while working other jobs and, more recently, a year of training and business development.
Argyle’s primary business is wholesale, including numerous private label accounts. “We also do a lot of public cuppings and workshops so people can have an idea of what we do and why there is an added value to that bag,” says Carrera. “We just like to sit down with people and talk about coffee.”
The couple says that conversation can be a bit of a challenge in South Florida, but they credit Miami-based Panther Coffee for making it easier. “They’re kind of the big cheese,” says Miller. “We respect that because if it wasn’t for Panther, nobody would know about some of the things we’re talking about with coffee. Without Panther, it would be a big uphill battle.”
Costa Rican-born Carrera is hoping to shine a light on interesting coffees from his native country, and in the process defy the occasional stereotypes that Costa Rican coffees are generally flat or unspectacular. He is working with importers who have a similar mind to support Costa Rican farmers, and he hopes to eventually trade directly with farms with whom he has existing relationships, when the purchase volume allows.
Argyle’s muscle is a Diedrich IR24 roaster that the couple miraculously found for sale online in nearby Miami Beach. The machine had been sitting neglected in a garage for about 10 years and required extensive refurbishing, including replacing components that had been eaten by inches of built-up chaff. “That was a labor of love,” Carrera says.
As for the Argyle name, don’t believe any tall tales. “We thought about coming up with a fake story, like Manny has a grandfather who wears argyle socks,” Miller says. “But we don’t want to have something published that’s a lie. We just kind of like Argyle. It’s not location-specific, and it’s generic enough that it can be used for a long period of time.”