This week, in a coffee-scented office, I sat down with Bryan Bestrom of Swiss Mountain Coffee to talk about what makes the best bean, and how the coffee magic happens.
I got started in office coffee service back in 1980 and that was delivering coffee to offices, and that created a passion for coffee. Then in the 90s I learned the roasting aspect of it, bought a small roaster and roasted for a while and then took about a 7 year sabbatical from coffee and got into the transportation business after selling the coffee business that I had and I looked at it over that period of time and watched the industry grow and I really wanted to pick a particular segment of coffee whith a specialty grade back then it was a small market, a growing market, and since then specialty grade coffee has become over 15% of the total coffee consumed in the US. Our customers are getting really nice peru, fair trade organic, Sumatran fair trade organic very nice product, with the Indonesian product we roast it a bit darker so you get a full body flavor. That way we give the opportunity at a fair price to the consumer in having a good specialty grade coffee.
Fair trade product goes through an organization called fair trade USA. There is a huge push now to go farm direct which is the direction we’re going. We do do some fair trade but what we’re finding is the farm direct trade is actually the direction we’d prefer to go. Dealing directly with the farm making sure there are no extra entities in between us as a roaster and the farmer growing the product. The processes that you see with farm direct is you have the farmer who grows the product, then a mill/processor, from there there’s an exporter to our importer and then we get the product from the importer. With fair trade they do the negotiation and buying of those particular products and they take a commission out of it. Hopefully our intention is to eliminate that commission and provide that directly to the farm. The other interesting thing is with organically grown, the small micro lot farmers that are handpicking the product are not making the amount of money to be able to afford the USDA certification. I really do prefer nature friendly over organic as well. We have forest alliance coffees. All coffees are grown differently; you can get a shade grown organic you can get a forest alliance, commonly in itself you will find there’s not a lot of coffees on the general market that are shade grown. It’s really up to how the farmer’s treating the land that’s most important.
How do you look into the growers from which you get your coffee?
We have really good relationships with five importers here in the United States, and then they go to the different farms and create the relationship directly with the growers. We have a great relationship with Ben from Honduras.
The roaster we have is an infrared roaster, it allows us to not use as much fossil fuels (it runs off of natural gas and) it provides a gentle roast.
How do you experiment in making a new flavor?
Currently Doorganics uses single origin coffees, that makes it simple to keep them organic. When we do blend coffees we cup the coffees and take our time with the cupping of the coffees and look at the different characteristics of each. A lot of it is knowing the base and then experimenting with different quantities. Just as your grandmother would have done in making new cookies.
I’m kind of moody that way. It depends on the day, it depends on the season, it depends on the products I have in. I get spoiled. If it’s a long week I might grab a dark Sumatran to get me going. Weekends are fun, I might look at a peru or the Honduras because it’s real mellow and easy to drink. As they cool off they are very easy to drink as well. If it’s a Saturday and I’m tinkering around whether it’s here at the office or at home the coffee can cool down and yet it’s still very much drinkable. The Honduras makes a great iced coffee.
Are you partial to the French press?
Doesn’t matter. If you’re gonna look at the different methods I’d say your pour over coffees with a paper filter provide a cleaner cup, if you like a lot of taste then I’d look at a French press because that will suspend the coffee more.