As I move in closer to my little black coffee brewer from 2003, a Christmas Gift from ASP, I catch the first aroma of my own, flagship blend - Breakfast Blend. I breathe it in and realize that after all this time it’s finally happening - a perfectly balanced, light, drink-it-all-day coffee I can call my own and share with the world. After literally hundreds of cuppings (a very structured and scientific process of tasting different coffees), and ten of thousands of miles traveled, I have my first signature blend that hits all the requirements I impose on each of my coffees, i.e., a pleasing smell, a complex flavor that expands on the tongue, an explosion of flavor and body as it eases down the throat, a surprisingly consistent and fulfilling aftertaste that lingers inside the mouth and patiently invites you to take the next sip.
Think that’s a challenge?
Here’s the really hard part - finding that level of complexity, body and taste and bringing it to market at half the price of similar coffees. I’m not saying it’s easy to do it at $15, $17 or even $20 dollars, but it take a lot less time and effort, ladies and gentlemen.
From the very beginning of this journey to find the perfect bean, I would taste, like it, and then be crushed by the price tag. I’d say to myself “Can’t do that to my customers. There has to be a blend that embodies the flavor and complexity of expensive specialty coffees but at half the price.” The reactions I would get from other roasters ranged from “Good luck with that” to “You get what you pay for” to “Not gonna happen”.
A lot of time went by after those initial cuppings with more and more disappointment at the pricing structure in the coffee business for exotic beans wether they were from Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia, Columbia or Vietnam. Some really good at $16 dollars and some really bad at $20. But there wasn’t a bean of quality at my impossible price point and word was getting around that the Captain Ahab of the coffee business was actively looking for his white whale and was sailing to a port near you.
Two years went by, then three, then five and I was at the point of bowing to the connoisseur bean gestalt that demanded 16-20 dollars for a level of taste. I had failed. I had gone everywhere and tasted everything (not a bad way to spend your time, by the way) under the sun, the moon, the stars yet I was bereft with what was shaping up to be a quixotic reality hitting me square in the face.
And then I went on a tour of coffee shops last summer that took me to northern California, Long Beach, San Diego, Las Vegas, New York City, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York State, Pennsylvania and Ohio and I met a ton of great people and drank two tons of great coffee. At one of those stops I met a person with not only the same passion I held for the elusive bean but who claimed to have solved the problem. I was stunned. “You have the beans?” I asked. “I have the beans” they said.
From that moment on I mixed probably fifteen hundred bean combinations over the next three months and arrived at five blends that I am very proud of - Breakfast Blend, French Roast, Decaf, French Vanilla and Hazelnut. A sixth blend is coming, as well, and that one might become my personal favorite.
Am I trying to reinvent the wheel? No. I have too much respect for coffee people and the coffee business in general. Great people, all, and true connoisseurs and craftspeople. What I am trying to do is offer a 20 dollar coffee experience at half the price. I believe I’ve done it with these five blends with many more in development.
Here's to the perfect mug!