When I was growing up in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, coffee was either good or bad depending on the quality of the brewing, the freshness of the grinds or how long or short the coffee sat on the burner. In those decades coffee companies attempted to differentiate their brands with slogans like, “good to the last drop,” rather than by flavor nuance (heavy body, bright, fruity, acidity, nutty) as we do today in the specialty coffee industry.

What the reader needs to know to understand how specialty coffee came to be out of a morass of ordinariness is this: when great attention is paid to planting, cultivation, harvesting, sorting, grading, processing, shipping and eventually, roasting and packaging, the beans’ flavor will represent the terroir or regional climate, soil and varieties planted. At the highest quality levels, coffees do differentiate themselves and one country’s coffee cannot be easily substituted with coffee from another country.

In the mid 60’s I was living in Greenwich Village and hanging out in coffee houses at night. There were three coffee bean stores in Manhattan that sold coffee beans from different countries of origin: Zabaar’s, McNulty’s, and The Coffee and Tea Store on the Upper East Side. On the West Coast, Peet’s, Freed Teller and Freed, and Capricorn Coffees were selling coffee when I started my roasting career in Aspen, Colorado in 1969. There were also roasters that roasted for the Turkish, Italian and Puerto Rican populations. I call them the “ethnic roasters” because they independently promoted their wares as better than the canned coffees of the day. These pioneers were into flavor. They helped define the concept of Artisan Roaster and set the stage for my work to come as a coffee roaster.

At Thanksgiving coffee is a means to an end. It is a medium by which we strive for excellence. We have been building our concept on the basis of great flavor for 36 years. Flavor is our foundation, the giant stone blocks at the base of our company culture. We love the taste of our coffees because we understand the inner qualities of coffee and have learned how to bring out the flavor in the roasting process. It also helps that we have come to understand some of the botany and chemistry of flavor. Did you know that there are over 1600 identified chemical compounds in a single green (raw) coffee bean?

The two browning reactions that take place in the roasting process are the caramelization of sugars and the Maillard reaction (combining of the sugars with proteins and fats). We know about these chemical reactions, and like a good potter who works with clay and knows their glazes well, we use our knowledge of the roasting process to coax the best flavors out of the coffees we roast. Of course knowledge is power, but it is not a guarantee. Good karma, which comes from a passion and love of the life force, and a decent dose of serendipity, helped me become an Artisan Roaster. All of my scientific knowledge and life experience has made it possible to produce coffees that demonstrate the best characteristics of each country we buy coffee from. It is this caring and attention to detail that brings out the artisan in each of us.

Specialty coffee has become the coffee that cares, not just about the product but also about the people who produce it and those who consume it. We are proud to say that after more than three decades our coffee is “Not Just a Cup, but a Just Cup.”