Well, we have been at this business for about a year and a half. I am by no means an expert, but I have definitely learned a few things along the way. As I have interacted with customers, friends, and other coffee professionals, I have been able to define my voice as a purveyor of coffee beans.
This may sound a bit cliche, but in the end, I want to be sure that my company said something, something worth saying. Our values, beliefs, and passions are more important than the day-to-day of how we sell coffee. This truth has made me walk away from some accounts, and adamantly pursue others. As we build a community of people who enjoy our coffee, we are creating a culture that says something about who we are.
Here, in no particular order are our beliefs and opinions that propel us forward.
1. Coffee is for everyone. I should say, great coffee is for everyone. I think anyone who has the money, and time to do it, can learn to make barista-quality coffee in their own home. Our company is focused on education of our customers. Our goal, when you come to our booth at the farmer's market is that you walk away having learned something new about coffee. For some people, I get the chance to explain how to properly use a pour-over at home, others I tell them some history about the origin that they love, still others I get to introduce them to freshly roasted coffee and tell them why it is better, while I brew them a custom cup. Whether I sell a bag or not, knowledge is power. The large coffee companies used the ignorance of the average consumer to sell the cheapest coffee they could find. Many people don't believe better coffee is out there, or that they would be able to notice a difference. I know that not everyone will want artfully prepared craft coffee, but I want to be a resource for all those who do, and don't know how to go about it. If I can make your coffee experience better, in any way, then I have done my job.
2. Coffee should be sweet. This is definitely more of an opinion, than a value. But it informs my roasting style and the coffees that I source. I find the most fascinating element in craft coffee is the wide range of natural sweetness that can appear in a cup. From malt, to honey, to caramel, to berries, to bittersweet chocolate, to molasses. I focus my roasting on bringing out that natural sweetness. For me, a perfect cup is one that has a lingering sweetness that is perfectly balanced by its aromatics, acidity, and body. For a great example, try my Brazil: Serra do Salitre. The sweetness in this coffee is caramel and chocolate, with some nuttyness. Think, Snickers Bar. I love coffees that have this dessert-like quality and a super thick body. It's just plain delicious.
3. Coffee should be local. While we can't grow good coffee in Houston, we can roast it here. Everyone should have the opportunity to buy great coffee from a roaster who operates in their town. I know this is not a possibility for many Texas communities right now. But I hope that we are just the first of many companies that will roast coffee for the communities that are around the greater Houston area. So our focus is local; local coffee shops, local boutiques, local farmer's markets. We are also happy to say that we source our beans from a local importer (InterAmerican Coffee) that warehouses their green coffee here in Houston. Sourcing, roasting, and delivering local allows us to pay more money to the farmers for better coffee, while keeping the price affordable for the average coffee lover. This business supports one local family (namely mine), and we all work together, me (Bryan; the roastmaster), my wife (Abby; chief marketing executive and the face of our company at the Fulshear farmer's market), my father-in-law (Dave; roastery maintenance, finance, accounting, and generally anything else that needs doing), and our first "very part-time" paid employee (Tito; self proclaimed employee manager, but so far he only has to manage himself). Tito is a native Colombian and a dear friend.
4. Coffee should be fresh. We firmly believe that coffee is at its best for 2 weeks after it is roasted. After that point, it gradually loses flavor and aroma. After a month or two, it will taste much like any other coffee on the shelf, all of its unique character has been lost. So, for our businesses that we supply, we deliver within 24 hrs of roasting. For our farmer's market customers, I sell roasted coffee that is 48 hours old, which means it is at the peak of flavor and aroma. Buying the best coffees in the world is rather silly, if our average customer doesn't get to enjoy it while it is at its best.
5. Coffee should be fairly traded. We don't want our profits to fall on the backs of underpaid coffee farmers. We do buy some Fair Trade certified coffees, but mostly we buy coffees that are traceable. Meaning, we know who grew it, where, and how much they got paid for it. This is not a guarantee of ethical behavior but it is a great step towards equitable trade. We work with importers that are honest and we do our best to get as much information as possible about the coffee producers. Besides, the best coffees tend to have the most traceability anyway. This is a goal we will continue to work on. We hope one day to get to visit some of the farms that we work with at origin and see their operation for ourselves as well as open a dialog between grower and roaster.
6. In the end, coffee is just a hot beverage. I never want to take myself or my roasting too seriously. We are not curing cancer, we are making coffee. One, small coffee company is not going to drag the developing world out of poverty. But we can make a small difference, in our local community, and in the coffee growing world. I don't want to get in the way of you enjoying your coffee, even if you don't care about it as much as me. That's ok. In the end, if you enjoyed the coffee, than that is all that matters. We hope you'll join us in sharing great coffee with our community.
We are Fort Bend Coffee Roasters, a small craft coffee roaster in Fulshear, Texas, and we want to inspire a love of great coffee in our community.