Last Thursday, September 29, was National Coffee Day, and to celebrate, I attended an open house hosted by a local coffee roaster. It seems strange to say that, not only because I’m relatively new to the entire coffee-drinking thing, but also because saying “local coffee roaster” feels a bit like saying “local jumbo jet manufacturer.”
In-house roasting is the new big thing in coffee. Seattle tourism options now include a trip to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, a 15,000-square-foot shrine to the daily Pacific Northwest ritual of consuming bigger-than-Venti beverages. But roasting is no longer the exclusive domain of the market giants. Thanks to computer-controlled small-scale roasting equipment and a public thirst for espresso that seems to have no end, even local, single-location coffee houses are able to serve up their own custom blends.
In my part of the country, Mela Coffee Roasting Company embodies this drink-local trend. At last week’s opening of their new roasting facilities, the team the runs the roasting operation—just four people!—personally guided coffee lovers past burlap sacks of newly arrived green coffee beans, through the cupping room where the flavor profiles are reaffirmed on a daily basis, and finally to the Diedrich roasting machine that allows Mela to produce its own coffee stylings.
Mela serves up this brew at their local café, a typical coffeehouse complete with hipster breakfast options, an assortment of pastries, local art on the walls, and frequent music performances.
If you can’t make it down to the café for your daily fix, restaurants and stores all over town serve up Mela’s standard product lines. In that way, they aren’t that different from a can of Folgers. But as local coffee roasting enters the mainstream, some coffee-serving businesses are asking more from their hometown roasteries. Beyond their official blends, Mela has developed custom flavor profiles for a handful of local businesses, including for a competing coffee shop about thirty miles down the road.