Barismo Coffee Roasters has never had a problem asserting itself, as exemplified by the years of tenacious blogging founder Jaime Van Schyndel invested in the Barismo website, even before the company started roasting. Now the brand is poised to assert itself over two additional retail outlets, both of which are existing cafés about to be reimagined. One of them, Dwelltime, was always a Barismo at heart, while the other, Voltage Coffee and Art, had Barismo in its veins.
From its 2012 inception, the Dwelltime coffee shop at 364 Broadway in Cambridge, Mass., has been the Barismo flagship café, more or less. The first-rate bar was funded in part through partnership with an outside investor, hence its distinct brand despite majority ownership by Barismo. Meanwhile, on Kendall Square, Lucy Valena, the owner of the Voltage Coffee and Art shop that had grown to become one of Barismo’s biggest wholesale clients, was looking to transition out of the café ownership game. In one fell swoop this winter, both of these will be revamped and rebranded into pure Barismo bars.
Barismo’s original branded location still stands in East Arlington, a laboratory-style coffee bar at 171 Massachusetts Ave. that once also housed its first roasting machine. From modest beginnings on a pair of heavily-modified 3-kilo-capacity Taiwanese roasting machines, Barismo’s production line now centers on a 12-kilo Probat in an offsite facility in nearby Somerville, in a space at 14 Tyler Street adjoining the Aeronaut Brewing Co. brewery.
Discussions about Barismo’s acquirement of Voltage were already underway when the idea to buy out their partners in Dwelltime came to light. Regarding Dwelltime, Van Schyndel told Daily Coffee News, “We got a lot of press, a lot of awards and success with it. We got to that point where we were talking about acquiring Voltage, and it’s hard to carry three micro-brands. It didn’t really make sense.”
Voltage is undergoing an interior remodel — fresh paint, new gear, modifications to the service counter, and a revamped menu — to adhere more to the vision of the roaster. Former owner Valena is now on board with Barismo as Resident Artist and Experience Coordinator. With a studio art degree from Hampshire under her belt, Valena has been integral to the redesign, redecorating and rebranding of the new locations. “She’s bringing the art and the funk to what we’re doing,” said Van Schyndel. “The success of the shops over the last three months has been attributed to her starting to interject on the customer service and the feel and the vibe of the shops.”
Having traveled with Van Schyndel to origin and experienced the company’s services from the client perspective, Valena is also in a unique position to speak to customer’s needs. “She does a little bit on the wholesale side as a customer ambassador. She represents the roastery,” said Van Schyndel. “She knows a lot about the farms, she knows a lot about what it means to be one of our accounts, but she also has an incredibly creative brain.”
Creativity is certainly a valued quality at Barismo, which has quietly devoted much of it into an innovative brewing method. There’s a patent-pending technology under development behind closed doors at Barismo, about which Van Schyndel remains very tight-lipped. “Our industry is one that’s great at copying, but not so great at attributing,” said Van Schyndel, who prefers to keep his breakthrough a secret rather than wind up a flash in the pan. “You can be really high profile and then not make any money off of it.”
The proprietary method purportedly yields a radically clean brew — almost 100-percent free from fines and particulate, which according to Van Schyndel grants a shelf life much longer than the resultant brew of any other known method. “There’s going to be a lot of skepticism and cynicism, because that’s what our industry does. We hate it before we adopt it,” said Van Schyndel, although he’s confident that the innovation will be rapidly adopted for its flexible applications, including the ability to put the pure brew on tap either hot or cold.
Van Schyndel’s ultimate vision is of an entirely beer-like coffee bar that allows career coffee professionals to remain on bar, serving coffees they can be proud of, well after they’ve aged past the point of withstanding the physical rigors of high-volume espresso and pourovers. “I’ve been doing this for twelve years,” said Van Schyndel. “There’s only so much wear and tear that the body can take. So I’ve been stressing a lot about what’s the sustainability of being a barista into your forties?”
With the acquisition of two additional retail cafés, it’s a question Van Schyndel apparently hopes plenty of Barismo workers eventually consider. The Barismo founder reports that by Christmas time, all cafés will have Barismo signage in place, and by the end of the first quarter of 2016, the trademarks and patents for the new brewing technology will be secure enough to officially pull the curtain on Barismo’s brewing development.