Diverging slightly from a career in restaurants and foodservice, Daniel Westiner has created his own small-batch commercial roasting operation, Other Animal Coffee Roasters, in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood.
The roastery concept has been developing in Westiner’s mind for a period of years, forming in earnest after Westiner managed the opening of Talula’s Daily, an upscale, food-focused cafe concept spun off from the farm-to-table restaurant Tulula’s Garden. Westiner was deeply drawn to the coffee program, working with representatives of La Colombe to develop custom blends for the new shop.
“That was a really great way for me to further my knowledge,” Westiner, a home roaster for the past six years, recently told Daily Coffee News.
Westiner is roasting with an Artisan 6 fluid-bed model from Washington State-based Coffee Crafters inside a former shoe repair shop. Early in the venture, Westiner got a boost from two-location local grocer Green Aisle Grocery, which promotes mostly local and transparently produced products. “They are kind of like an incubator for local products,” Westiner says. “They sell Blue Bottle, Rival Brothers and Reanimator, but they came to me and asked if they could have samples.”
Westiner is currently working with a small handful of importers, including Cafe Imports and Royal Coffee, with a focus on small lots and seasonality. “I look for a few different things,” Westiner says of his sourcing approach. “I’m looking for interesting characteristics in terms of sweetness and acidity. I like a balanced acidity with a really well-rounded sweetness — something that could be well-rounded in a blend, or something that could be unique in a single origin.”
Other Animal currently offers single-origin coffees from Ethiopia, Panama and Guatemala, as well as a house blend (Analog), an espresso blend (Patchwork), a decaffeinated blend (Kind Eyes), and a cascara tea. Westiner says he intends to keep his rotating line of coffees small and refined.
“With the Analog, I wanted to have a blend that would work for a variety of different palates — whether there’s a little milk in a cafe, or whether it’s at home with a french press,” he says. “It’s approachable but it’s sturdy enough to be interesting on its own.”
The single-origin offerings tend to offer more complexity, and Westiner presents them in the context of seasonality. “We’ll certainly be changing with different harvests,” he says. “However, there are certain regions I’m driven to more than others. Ethiopian coffees will be a staple in my roaster, and I tend to go toward South and Central American coffees, as well.”
Westiner says his roasting style skews a bit on the light side, but he is not pushing those boundaries. “There’s been a trend of roasting pretty aggressively light, and I think there’s been some pushback from that,” he says. “I want something a little more rounded and balanced.”
Other Animal’s first month mostly involved setting up shop and ensuring its smooth operation, but Westiner is now more active in seeking various wholesale accounts. He’s specifically interested in working with quality-focused multiroaster cafes. Philadelphia is naturally fertile ground.
“Within the past four or five years, the scene has exploded here,” says Westiner. “What makes Philadelphia unique — the coffee scene is really inclusive. I feel like people are not quite as brand-loyal as they are in other places. There are all kinds of ideas being shared, and it makes for better coffee awareness. The roasters win, and the consumers win.”