March 6, 2012

CUSTARD OR BUST: La Colombe Torrefaction

Last coffee roaster on the tour. I was super excited to see these guys because on of our favorite employees, Matt Waxman, is from Philadelphia. Matt wrote me an awesome note about a year ago telling me about this coffee he loved from his home town. He brought us some samples to try. I loved that he was engaged with this stuff and promised we’d go next time we were in Philadelphia. So this visit was a long time coming.

We saw a bunch of stuff here we’d never seen before. These guys do a serious amount of coffee volume. They sell primarily to restaurants and hotels, very different from the cafe-oriented roasters we’ve visited in the past. See that green thing Rolando is looking at? That’s their coffee bean silo. Really impressive scale, I’d never seen anything like this. I think Rolando and I liked those factory tour shows when we were kids. You know, the ones where they teach you how candy is made. So this stuff is always exciting to see.

We saw a bunch of other things we’d never seen in the past.

See Rolando in that picture? This is serious stuff. You might have to enlarge the photo. We’d never seen anything near this scale of production. Most of their coffees are blends. This was unique for us as well. They roast all of the beans in their blends at the same time. The other roasters we’ve toured roast each bean (e.g., Columbian vs. Brazil) separately, then mix them post-roasting. At La Colombe they roasted them all together, at the same time.

Here was another thing we hadn’t seen before. They “de-gas” their beans. After roasting and grinding they allow the beans to sit out for 3 days to allow carbon dioxide to escape. We’d never seen anything like that before. Most of the roasters we’ve toured raced to bag the beans as fast as possible. This was a totally different mindset.

While most of their coffee has been blends, they now have a sub-label called Atelier that is focusing on single origin coffees. These are what we’ll likely feature at Clover if we bring them in to the guest slot. Although I’m sort of thinking I’d be interested in what folks would think of La Colombe blends in the guest spot. We’ve played in the past with the idea of sharing really different coffees with you all. You might remember after a trip to Michigan and drinking my grandmother’s Folgers I was thinking of bringing some onboard the truck.

The aesthetic sensibility was refined and well developed. Really simple, really classy. The stores were exquisite. Sort of a french/ european vibe. Very carefully thought through.

A final adventure. They were playing with beans from Haiti and trying to roast these beans with their skin still on. Rolando and I hadn’t seen beans like this before. We tasted them. The skin was sort of papery, not very flavorful.

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