There’s nothing quite as exciting as your arrival on the ground after an early morning flight. Between the lack of legroom and coffee jitters, we were so excited to land in Minneapolis to sunshine and 75 degree temperatures. As we embark on this journey to open up our coffee shop in Burlington, New Jersey, we’ve been doing all we can to expand upon our own coffee knowledge, to perfect the art of roasting, and to surround ourselves with people who are just as passionate about the industry. That’s why we jumped at the offer to join Mill City Roasters at their facility in Minneapolis during one of their commercial roasting seminars. While there, we made arrangements to visit the office and warehouse of one of our green bean coffee importers, Cafe Imports.
After arriving at the airport and renting a vehicle for the weekend, we took a trip over to Cafe Imports. Cafe Imports imports fine specialty green coffee beans from all over the world, with a reputation for supplying among the highest quality of beans through ethical transactions and long-term partnerships. Each selection of coffee beans can be traced back to the farm or cooperative from which it was harvested and processed. These ethical and traceable transactions are crucial to us–there are unfortunately so many farmers that withstand poor working conditions in exchange for unfair pay and we have no desire to be a part of that, even if it means cheaper prices.
Being able to meet the individuals we’ll be working with at Cafe Imports, as well as witness their truly impressive 60,000 square foot warehouse was incredible. Being among the thousands of burlap bags of coffee beans, meticulously sorted through and carefully processed, is humbling, to say the least. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to bring that hard work to the City of Burlington and honor the efforts that have come before us.
In addition to touring their warehouse, we were invited to check out their roasting facility, cupping lab, and catalog room. Their roasting facility was truly impressive, boasting several production coffee roasters as well as a sample roaster. The cupping lab was beautiful, designed to meet the Specialty Coffee Association of America‘s meticulous cupping standards. And don’t get us started on the catalog room! This “coffee library” of sorts was lined with sample tubes of every bean they’ve ever roasted and cupped–a coffee geek’s wild dream. Our Cafe Imports associate, Adrienne, filled us in on how they often reference these beans, recalling past trials and errors, to see how they can perfect their own efforts.
The next morning was another early one as we prepared for a day at Mill City Roasters, the manufacturers of the roaster we’ll be using at the shop in Burlington. Similar to that of Cafe Imports, the Mill City facility was beautiful, featuring high ceilings, large windows, industrial workspace furniture, and multiple roasters in eye-catching primary colors. We were treated to coffee and sat front row to hear owner, Steve Green, speak. We discussed the science of coffee roasting — the things most coffee drinkers don’t even think about. This very science is what makes roasting so intriguing, and we can’t wait to experiment with different roasting profiles in our own shop.
Beyond the science, Steve’s passion for the industry was truly inspiring. In addition to providing guidance in commercial roasting and green bean sourcing, he reiterated just how supportive those within the coffee industry truly are, indicating the role that we, as roasters, play in the grand scheme of coffee production. As roasters, we have the responsibility not only to provide great coffee and service but also to showcase the incredible work of those that came before us, the farmers. “To be able to share in the journey of coffee… that is a truly special thing.” Those words stuck with us through the rest of the trip.
After a barbecue lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers, and veggie burgers, we hopped on several roasters and played around with different drop temperatures and roast profiles. Finally, we ended the day with a cupping and compared tasting notes. Up until now, we’ve only performed cupping sessions with one or two others, but it was a very new experience to compare notes as a group. As we inch closer to opening we plan on hosting several of our own cupping classes, which will be available to the public, so that we can share some of our own knowledge and get people just as excited about what they’re drinking every morning. Let us know if that’s something you’d be interested in!
Between the education and the inspiration, we had an incredible weekend. Both Cafe Imports and Mill City Roasters were warm and inviting, reiterating just how supportive the specialty coffee industry truly is. We’re so happy to be partnering up with them as we grow closer to our big opening. Stay tuned!
“To be able to share in the journey of coffee… that is a truly special thing.”
-Steve Green, Mill City Roasters