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Symphony Musicians Give Little Blue Trailer Coffee Its First Movement

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The family teardrop camper that inspired the Little Blue Trailer brand. All images courtesy of Little Blue Trailer Coffee.

A duet of professional musicians has launched Little Blue Trailer Coffee, a boutique specialty coffee roasting company based in Spokane, Washington.

The brand is inspired by the family camper, while the coffee reflects married partners Chip Phillips and Amanda Howard-Phillips’ keen senses, practical know-how and steadfast dedication to “practice makes perfect.”

“I don’t quit until I get the results that I want,” Chip Phillips, the principal clarinet for the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, told Daily Coffee News. “I can vividly remember learning to play the clarinet in the 5th grade. I just love the feeling of tackling new things that are fun, and seeing results.”

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Chip Phillips at the homemade roasting machine.

Howard-Phillips performs with the symphony, as well, as principal second violin since 2008. Both master musicians are also professors of their respective instruments at Gonzaga University, and have ears keen enough to detect the subtlest variations in the percussive spray of first or second crack.

When it comes to determining roast degree by color, Chip Phillips’ eye is also finely tuned, in part through his his award-winning work as a landscape photographer. Images by Phillips have been featured in a variety of books and publications including National Geographic and Outdoor Photographer.

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Little Blue Trailer Co-Founders Chip Phillips and Amanda Howard-Phillips with their son.

“It’s my strong attention to detail that helps me in whatever I’m pursuing,” said Phillips. “With all three of these things — music, photography, and coffee roasting — it is the passion that got me hooked, not the business aspect.”

Phillips’ journey as a shutterbug was sparked as a kid when his father, an electrical engineer, passed down an old Pentax Spotmatic film camera. Literal sparks also flew as father and son worked on various engines and machines throughout Phillips’ childhood — DIY experiences that ultimately led to Little Blue Trailer’s custom-made 1-kilo coffee roaster.


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Said Phillips, “I have a really good set of plans now, and could reproduce the [roaster] I have now or build a larger one much easier than the first time.”

The beans currently sent through the homemade machine are sourced through Sweet Maria’s and profiled in pursuit of a balance between body, sweetness and acidity.

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“I rarely roast into second crack and personally prefer coffee that isn’t roasted that dark,” said Phillips. “I also don’t like too much acidity, so figuring out where that sweet spot is for each different variety of coffee I roast is what really challenges and excites me.”


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