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Born in a Barn: The Impressive Digs of Coffee Lab International and Vermont Artisan

VAC

The entrance to the Vermont Artisan Coffee bar and Coffee Lab International. Photo by Top Kat, courtesy of Coffee Lab International.

If driving along Route 100 in North Central Vermont between Waterbury and Stowe, you might notice a big red barn and silver silo that’s by no means out of place for such a pastoral setting.

A closer look reveals the words “coffee bar” displayed on the front of the barn. Look closer still, and you’ll find one of the most impressive specialty coffee production and education facilities in all of New England, if not the country.

vermont artisan coffee

Photo by Top Kat, courtesy of Coffee Lab International.

Longtime specialty coffee professional, educator and consultant Mané Alves technically swung open the doors to the 15,000-square-foot facility near the end of 2017. Now the custom-built barn is housing three existing coffee businesses and one new one.

Alves founded Coffee Lab International in 1995, providing a wide range of laboratory and consultative services to coffee companies of all sizes. That eventually led to the creation of the education-focused CLI School of Coffee. In 2001 came the specialty coffee roastery and tea-packing business Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea.

silo

Photo by Top Kat, courtesy of Coffee Lab International.

All three businesses now live in the facility in Waterbury Center, where Alves has for the first time taken advantage of the new build to open a cafe. It didn’t hurt that the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters is located just 3.4 miles south of the coffee complex.

“The fact we are so visible from the road brought in many customers [who] before would never have tasted our coffee — the cafe is now our best retail client,” Alves recently told Daily Coffee News. “The building and the different businesses in it are giving us a level of authenticity we hadn’t before. The community has been tremendously supportive and we have been cross-using our coffee with many other local food artisans — from beer and whiskey makers, to maple syrup and hemp.”

vermont artisan coffee bar

Photo by Top Kat, courtesy of Coffee Lab International.

Reflecting a long-term vision, the facility was also precipitated by forces of nature, as the business’s previous home was damaged due to flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Alves said his goal was to come back stronger than ever, offering a first-class facility for coffee analysis, evaluation and roasting, among other services.

Inside the barn is a range of roasters for both production and training purposes, including a 3-kilo Diedrich that roasts sample coffee kits for Q Instructors, a 5-kilo Probat, a 15-kilo Giesen, a wood-fired 15-kilo Ghibli roaster, a 60-kilo machine from Renegade Roaster Design Group, and a new 90-kilo Ghibli.

coffee roasters

Six roasters now live within the VAC/CLI facility. Photo by Top Kat, courtesy of Coffee Lab International.

Keeping all those machines humming inspired some inventive approaches to energy reduction and efficiency within and outside the barn. A wood-pellet system in lieu of traditional fossil fuels heats the facility from within, and a 20-car solar carport sends electricity back to the grid.

With four functioning businesses under one roof, the facility does require some operational efficiencies, too, as the roastery and cafe share some common seating and other elements, Alves said.

“A barn is a traditional American design — there were basically two types to choose from that are traditional in Vermont,” said Alves. “The challenges were to place all the different businesses inside and make them work. We concentrated the coffee bar on the south part of the building — best exposure and more sun — and our offices are just above that. From these two levels, you have a vision of the whole plant.”

solar carport vermont

The 20-car solar carport. Photo by Top Kat, courtesy of Coffee Lab International.

Vermont Artisan Coffee and Coffee Lab International are now open at 11 Cabin Lane in Waterbury Center, Vermont.

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