When roasted to faithfully convey flavors indicative of its region of cultivation, coffee provides an opportunity for a sort of primer on that region — a brief introduction to the land and its people, at least as far as this agricultural product is concerned.
Patrons that sip Guatemalan coffee at a new shop in Bellingham, Wash., called Primer Coffee could potentially be treated to an even deeper level of transparency, as one of the owners, Edwin Martinez of the Guatemalan-American coffee importing company Onyx Coffee, is also a coffee farmer.
Tumbling through the Diedrich IR12 roaster in Primer’s offsite production warehouse are greens brought in not only by Onyx but by Latorre & Dutch Coffee, widening the options beyond Onyx’s fine Huehuetenango coffees to include coffees from Africa and South America.
“Each roast profile is going to be a little bit different,” Primer manager Angela Bryant told Daily Coffee News. “They are all towards the light/medium specialty roast, but the goal is to really bring out the most sweetness that we can, and really highlight the fruit flavors that are inherent in the coffees themselves.”
Bryant, a longtime family friend of Martinez, got started down the path of a life in coffee upon visiting the Martinez family farms in Guatemala when she was in high school.
“I got to tour his farm down there, and thought it was the most fascinating thing ever,” said Bryant, who later pursued café work as a barista and then manager through various shops prior to being invited on board with Primer.
Now Bryant oversees the carefully curated specialty products as they are ground on a Mahlkonig EK43 then extracted under Curtis Seraphim water stations in Chemex, Kalita Wave, Hario and Aeropress brewers, while Mazzer machines grind for espresso drinks pulled through a 3-group La Marzocco Strada in Primer’s clean, bright, Scandinavian-inspired interior that minimizes distraction from the dark, fragrant and flavorful cups.
Primer Coffee quietly soft-opened in Bellingham in November of last year, gradually ramping up to its official grand opening celebration that ran throughout the month of March. Looking ahead, there are a few more pieces to the Primer puzzle waiting to be fit, including finishing the buildout of a backroom bakery and the development of a catering program for weddings and events.
Said Bryant, “The last piece is wholesale, and dialing in a process to ensure that we’re getting our coffee out there but that it’s also being prepared and treated well.”
Primer hopes to balance a sense of community and approachability with some customer education as well, offering both quick and simple service for folks just looking for a hot cup as well as an enlightening experience for people looking to delve a bit deeper into the product and the processes behind it.
“We’re so new for where we’re at,” said Bryant. “There’s a lot of work to do.”