Where are you getting your beans from?
I’m dealing with all different regions, but I’m mainly going through small purveyors that deal directly with the farmers and pretty much micro lots. I’m trying to do as many micro lots as possible.
How does your selection compare to say Green Street or Reanimator, who [when I talked to them for this Philadelphia City Paper piece in 2011] who told me of scouting beans at warehouses in New Jersey when they were first starting out.
I’m almost positive that they’re using some of the same purveyors that I’ll be using.
The only difference is starting out I’m able to go through micro lots that only have very limited quantities, where they’re probably at a point where they probably have to buy with an attitude of meeting pretty big needs, their wholesale accounts and stuff like that.
And when you say a micro lot how much does that mean?
It depends on the region and how small the farm is. Really what I’ve been doing the last couple of months is calling as many purveyors as possible, telling them exactly what my needs are. What my philosophy is. How I’m going to roast. They’ll give me a few ideas of what might fit and then I’m doing a lot of sampling and testing. A lot of small farmers will be working on 1 hectare or less. And established cafes—say they’re using Counter Culture—the roaster they buy from generally won’t touch that, because they need to go to a bigger farmer who can give them a bigger variety.
But that’s what I’m interested in. I want mine to always be changing. I really like the seasonality approach where it’s going to change and that’s okay. The smaller farms are both a good and a bad thing. If the crop gets screwed for a year, they could try to pass that off. So you have to be diligent in checking the product when it comes in. On the other hand, they can put a lot more care into.
More care, crazier flavors.
How do you make those purveyor connections when you want to start roasting? I imagine the internet is a big help.
Yea, calling them up, going through internet forums. Purveyors will send a sample bag. There’s kind of like a whole dossier, either online or a pdf they send to you on these farms now, depending on how good the purveyor is. There are pictures. There’s video. They literally tell you about the farmer who owns it. Obviously things like processing method, altitude.
And talking to a lot of the other local roasters, literally emailing them or just going into their shop, saying, here’s what I’m doing, how did you do it. Asking them roasting questions, etc. La Colombe has a been huge help. The guys at Green Street—I emailed them awhile back. They’ve been really great. Philly Fair Trade as well. What I love about Philly is that there’s this community instead of this competition. In New York City, and even on the west coast, there’s so much of this cutthroat competition where they’re out to eat each other alive.
What’s the capacity on your roaster?
It’s a ten pound. It’s a little bit smaller than the other ones being used by roasters around here.