For the past few months, Upper Valley Coffee Roasters cofounders Andrea Franklin and Chelsea Lynes have been roasting tiny batches of organically grown, single-origin coffee in their West Newbury garage. They've marketed their beans to a handful of local customers, who either swing by the roastery for pickup or arrange for a home drop-off.
But this week, Franklin told Seven Days, the roaster will make its first retail delivery, to Bradford's Bliss Village Store & Deli. She hopes to add accounts at other area co-ops and food stores in the coming weeks.
Like many other artisan coffee companies, Franklin said, the business grew out of a love for coffee. But high-quality roasting machines were pricey. So, last year, after moving from San Francisco back to her native Vermont, Franklin teamed up with her father, metalsmith Rich Franklin of Vermont Country Iron. "We built our coffee roaster from scratch," Andrea Franklin said. After research and design, the fabrication project took most of a year.
Now, the machine turns weekly with beans that run the gamut from bright, fruity coffees from Central America to chocolaty varieties from the Pacific Rim and South America.
Whether a roast goes dark or light depends on the bean, Franklin said: "We try to roast in a manner that they'll taste best, rather than going toward a traditional-style French roast." Still, she added, "We're aware that there are consumers who prefer the more traditional style."
While the roastery has yet to be certified organic — and thus cannot label its coffee as such — all the beans come from organic farms. "There are a number of plant diseases affecting coffee-growing regions right now," Franklin explained, and "organic coffees are more resistant to disease." Every bean, she assured, has been purchased at a rate that ensures a livable wage for the grower.
Ready for a cup of joe? An online retail platform is in the works, but, for now, Franklin's roasts will be available at select retailers throughout the Upper Valley, or order via email. Learn more at uppervalleycoffeeroasters.com.
When Matthew and Bryan Little started Brothers Coffee Company, a Burlington-based service that brings beans to subscribers' doors, they had in mind certain sobering facts about the booming coffee industry. About 50 percent of the world's coffee farmers currently live in poverty — more during the off-season — and female laborers rank the lowest in wage income and management positions.
Supplying coffee lovers with an ethically sourced brew from a single featured roaster is the priority for Brothers, which launched last December. Subscriptions start at $18 a month for a 12-ounce bag of beans, and $1 from every subscription goes to Grounds for Health, a Williston-based nonprofit that screens women for cervical cancer in impoverished coffee communities.
Matthew, 25, said that he and Bryan, 27, "tell our subscribers exactly why we selected each roaster, and why their story is so cool. Eventually, we'd like to expand to help[ing] small roasters with great ideas get off the ground."
Two months after launch, Brothers is already serving an international clientele. Highlighted roasters, said Matthew, are chosen because they respect and invest in their growers, enforce a sustainable operation and have an undeniable passion for coffee.
"Labels aren't tell-alls," Matthew continued, noting that familiar tags such as Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade don't tell consumers as much as they should. "We seek labels backed by a soul and a story."
That makes Vermont an appropriate base for Brothers, he added: "People here love their coffee, but they also want transparency; they like to support the people in their community."