For the past four years, Shearwater Coffee Roasters has been roasting greens that are produced at origins where quality is high and organic certifications are official prior to their gliding along the surface of the Atlantic on their journeys to Port Jersey.
This migration finishes at the Shearwater roastery in an industrial park in Trumbull, Conn., where owner Ed Freedman and his staff of roasters and packagers roast them with care, 20 pounds at a time in a Diedrich IR 12, for wholesale to area cafes, restaurants and independent and chain groceries. They’re also sold online and to folks visiting the on-site tasting room.
Next month, a new wing of the company is taking flight, as it opens the doors to the first Shearwater Coffee Bar in the neighboring town of Fairfield.
The 1,200-square-foot space amid the pedestrian shopping hub known as the Brick Walk in Fairfield features floor-to-ceiling windows and a modern industrial feel designed by Freedman’s daughter, Amber Freedman, an architect based in Boston, Mass. Shearwater’s certified organic coffees are sourced through Organic Products Trading Company, Royal Coffee New York, Olam, InterAmerican Coffee and others, and are roasted to the light to medium range, ended well before second crack and falling generally within the 50-60 range on the Agtron scale.
These will be brewed manually one cup at a time on an extended pourover bar with counter seating for patrons to watch and ask questions as baristas work. Chemex and Kalita Waves are the tools of choice there, while a Curtis 1-gallon Twin G4 brewer handles batch-brews and a Curtis Gold Cup single-serve machine cranks out faster single cups.
Given that Shearwater offers its wholesale clients equipment sales and service in conjunction with Cimbali USA, whose headquarters is also in Fairfield, the espresso station at the Shearwater Coffee Bar will be anchored by a debonair black Faema E71, which Freedman believes is the first one installed on the East Coast. Food options will be intentionally limited to maintain clear focus on the coffee, though fresh local pastries will available, as will chocolate plates from a local Belgian chocolatier, for the dessert crowd.
“It’s all about coffee and espresso,” Freedman recently told Daily Coffee News. “We purposefully did not build a kitchen, I don’t want baristas making sandwiches and pouring soup. It’s about coming here for our coffee and our espresso drinks and our cold brew.”
Retail shelves will display pourover brewers, grinders and other associated home brewing gear. “We’ve got a great demographic. Fairfield County is affluent, upscale,” Freedman said. “People have taken to wine and craft beer. Now I’m trying to make coffee the next big thing.”
All coffee bar employees will be trained extensively at the roastery not only on drink prep and tasting notes, but also on roast profiling and theory, sourcing, processing and more, in order for baristas to be able to provide a fully engaging and educational experience for customers. Said Freedman, “It’s not only a place you can come get a cup of coffee, espresso, latte or cold brew; it’s a place you can come to learn more about coffee.”
Freedman sees this as potentially being the first of several cafes in the long term, with the hope of creating a refined experience akin to Blue Bottle Coffee‘s cafes in New York or George Howell Coffee cafes in Boston. Freedman acknowledged that with over a dozen single-origin coffees on offer to an audience of locals and commuters that are familiar with the concept of specialty coffee but are not used to having it so close to home, not every profile will be as insistently bright as can be gotten away with in metropolitan markets where high-end coffee is more established.
“Most of the consumption is a darker roast from Starbucks,” Freedman said of local consumer habits, noting that Shearwater’s darkest is probably lighter than Starbucks’ lightest. “We’re able to transition people away from that French roast, overly-roasted char to our medium-dark, and then get them exploring lighter and lighter roasts.”
Freedman described Connecticut as having been a bit of “a laggard market” to this point, but that this is a reality that seems ripe for change.
“This isn’t Brooklyn or Portland. We’ve been the land of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, and it was a big reason I set up the roasting business,” said Freedman, estimating that Shearwater will top 60,000 roasted pounds this year. “There was a dearth of quality, third-wave roasting here. The area has embraced it, and I’m hopeful that they’re going to embrace our coffee bar, too.”
The Shearwater Coffee Bar is scheduled to open in June at 1215 Post Road in Fairfield, Conn.