Look, up in the sky over Washington D.C. It’s a bird, it’s a plane — it’s a Ryan Jensen coffee company!
Jensen, the owner of Peregrine Espresso, which has three locations around DC, has just installed a 15-kilo-capacity Loring Falcon roaster in a new roasting facility for the purposes of launching Small Planes, a new roasting company.
“I don’t know how those all happened. I don’t think there’s an intentional continuity there,” Jensen told Daily Coffee News of the flock of flight-related names. “We’re not really bird people.”
Head roaster for the new company is Evan Howe, a former Peregrine employee Jensen roped into the project late last year as experimentation began on a 1-kilo North roaster purchased from Mill City Roasters. Howe later pursued more in-depth training from Coffee Lab International in Vermont. The Loring Falcon was installed in Small Planes’ 5,000-square-foot manufacturing nest about two weeks ago, and Howe is now getting his bearings on the new machine as the company prepares for takeoff.
Peregrine and Small Planes are two fully independent LLC’s both owned by Jensen. The spacious new production facility will help with both companies, though, as it provides office and storage space for both, as well as training and cupping labs. Said Jensen, “I think probably within the first couple months we’ll occupy a good two thirds of it maybe, and then we’ll just have room to grow.”
The move to bring roasting closer to home came not out of any dissatisfaction with the Counter Culture coffees Peregrine has served with pride since its 2008 founding. Rather, it is simply because while they may not be bird people, Jensen and company are certainly coffee people. Small Planes will provide greater intimacy with the product they all enjoy and with which they’re all thoroughly engaged. Jensen said they’ll probably introduce a Small Planes-roasted coffee for batch brew at first, keeping Counter Culture on the menu for at least the rest of the year before reevaluating at that point.
“We have a great relationship with Counter Culture,” Jensen said. “Being a former Counter Culture employee myself, we have a lot of close, personal friendships.”
The first pallets of green coffee for commercial-scale roasting arrive this week, sourced through the Lancaster, Pa., office of Collaborative Coffee Source, an importer both geographically and philosophically close to Small Planes in terms of coffee quality and the fair treatment and compensation of producers. With Peregrine retail expansion plans on hold as they get the new roastery “off the ground,” as Jensen put it, the path ahead is simply to start turning out roasted goods that balance a faithfulness to origin characteristics with an accessibility of both price and taste.
“We’ve always wanted to make sure that if someone walks in the doors and says ‘Just give me a cup of coffee,’ that we’re not charging them $5 for it and it’s not going to be some super bright Kenyan coffee that’s just not in line with their expectations, in a bad way,” said Jensen.
Small Planes’ first task will be to fill that niche for Peregrine. Jensen said the plan is to grow from there into some more adventurous offerings, selling exclusively to Peregrine at first, with a more concerted push into wholesale sometime after Labor Day.