Figured it was about time we posted something about our "new" roaster.
Since we abandoned our own roasting operation and sent the FRS back to Palo Alto, we've been serving and selling beans roasted by 19 Coffee down in Washington, PA.
Why 19 Coffee?
It would be easy to say that the coffee is good. But it's much, much more complicated than that because, well, we're Aldo Coffee.
Dave (sales/marketing) and John (roaster) are both ex-La Prima. But in opening 19, they went in a different direction than La Prima. Every single coffee offered by 19 is traceable to origin. Some are Fair Trade Organic, others Rainforest Certified, most others are passive organic and there's even a more-or-less Direct Trade coffee (Colombia Rosa Florida - the farmer's son goes to Pitt and much of the green coffee from the finca is warehoused in Pittsburgh).
When we knew we were going to stop roasting ourselves, we had some choices to make - do we stay local or go back to featuring many of the top roasters across the nation?
In our case, in this market, it seemed "local" was a better play than national brand. We were selling far more whole bean when we were roasting here than we ever did when selling Intelligentsia and Stumptown even though the prices were similar.
If we were to choose local, it had to be good local. And it had to be a roaster willing to work with our idiosynchrocies. We don't do dark roasts. We sample before we buy. We want input on green suppliers, especially regarding ethics/sustainability. We want input into roast profiles. We private label. We post-roast blend our own "house" blend and espresso.
Do all that and we'll happily pay a fair price for the beans. And so far, 19 Coffee has worked with us on all the above.
And we're happy to work with them over and above what a typical retailer would do. We've put them in touch with importers we've worked with. We've sample roasted 'spec' coffees on our home equipment and cupped them at 19's facility. We've given input on their espresso blends and identified coffees that make good single origin espressos. We've talked about working on brewing training for their customers.
It's an interesting collaboration so far. As there are only two of them (Dave and John) and they're growing their business, which is only a few months old, we have in essence taken on a role of an adjunct laboratory and testing facility. Although those kind of independent retailer/roaster relationships may exist, they certainly don't around Pittsburgh (all of the significant Pittsburgh area roasters operate their own shops, making such a relationship all but impossible).
The result so far has been a lot of delicious coffee. We've been able to expand our offerings to five or six different origins, each with different "hooks" (body, sweetness, spiciness, fruitiness, etc.) so that more customers can find a coffee that fits their taste preferences, even without us offering a dark roast. We retain our emphasis on seasonality. We maintain our goal of serving only coffees that represent sustainable growing practices while being traceable and tasty.
We look forward to our relationship with 19 Coffee growing in the coming months. We're happy that there's a local roaster who shares our commitment to ethics, quality and taste. We hope you share our enthusiasm and plan to stop by the shop or visit us at Firehouse Market to taste some of 19 Coffee's offerings brewed by us.