Do you plan on opening a café from the start?
It’s definitely something I’m thinking about down the road.
What’s your timeline for getting started?
It should be pretty soon—two weeks may be a little optimistic but it’s possible. Right now, I’m in what used to be a shoe store. It was a mess to be honest. [Under the previous ownership] it had flooded twice. There was no electricity in the building. I had to take down multiple walls due to mold.
So you got a good deal?
The plan is to just hit up all the local coffee shops, I guess.
My method is going to be cold calling essentially. Giving a lot of product away and hopefully it will speak for itself.
How many have you already made connections with just from reaching out for advice?
Quite a bit. And from working in the restaurant, I know quite a lot of people in that scene, which is really cool. For restaurants though, it’s all about margins, what they already have, and convenience. It certainly gets me into certain places though. I haven’t given samples out to anyone in cafes or restaurants—just friends. Mostly the reception has been positive—I’ve told them to be honest with it. Most of the criticism has been constructive like they like a darker or lighter roast.
Besides fruit heavy, tea-like varietals and blends, what else are you offering?
Yeah, I’ll definitely have more natural [process] coffees than other people. At the moment, one roaster might only have one. I’m also not opposed to blending it which might be a big no-no for some people.
A brighter, light roast with a mild roast maybe?
I also want to offer something called cascara*, which is a coffee tea made from a dried coffee cherry. It’s really bright and awesome. Huge fruit. It has this beautiful ruby orange color. I don’t think anyone would know where it came from. It’s great cold in the summertime, like an iced tea, or hot. You get crazy amounts of berry flavor, really bright lemoniness. Sometimes you can get cinnamon like back-tones which is interesting. I’m going to experiment with it this week blending different types of cascaras with some roasted slightly, while they’re generally not roasted.
Kind of caramelize some of them a bit.
Yea. People roast dandelion root for teas. Chicory. I’m gonna play with it. I never heard of it before.
And back to coffee…
I think there can also be a return to some darker coffees. Not dark dark but up there. I drink all different types. For the most part, most people aren’t limiting themselves to a dark roast or a light roast and I don’t think they should. I want to unite casual coffee drinkers and third wave people. I just want someone to pick up a coffee and say this is great without it having to be too cerebral—but I also want it to appeal to those people as well. But putting milk and sugar into coffee isn’t going to offend me.
We talked a lot about the flavors of natural process coffees.
What other ones do you want to deliver?
I’m looking to bring deeper flavor profiles, notes of toffee, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon.
You see those in darker roasts, but you’re talking milder and even light roasts?
How do you get them? I wouldn’t expect to see them in a light roast?
There’s a couple ways you can do it roasting. You can kind of tease them out by lengthening the roasting time. A big philosophy is, for delicate beans, to go very hot and really quick. I’m simplifying but that’s generally it to get those delicate, floral, lemony flavors—you go fast and quick. What I’ve been finding is that if you tease them out a bit, if you lengthen the roasting process, you get some really interesting flavors.
*P.S. & Co. cafe by Rittenhouse offers cascara.
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Brion, great story, “New Philly Coffee Roaster”. It felt like I was sitting in on a conversation with you, very personal and informative. Hope you’re well!
Thanks Joe. Same to you. I’ll see you, Nem and Gil at the farmers market at Headhouse soon.