Coffee company connects Maine cup to Costa Rican farm
By Johanna S. Billings, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 30, 2015, at 6:37 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 30, 2015, at 9:51 a.m.
EAST MACHIAS, Maine — In a two-car garage along Route 1 in East Machias, a car shares space with a large coffee bean roaster.
One bay of the garage is the headquarters for Bold Coast Coffee, a 1-year-old company owned by Troy Quimby, Jake Berry and Kathy Harmon.
In addition to the roaster, the garage bay is filled with other machinery, such as a bean grinder and equipment for packaging. On pallets on the floor are 150-pound burlap bags full of unroasted beans. Large, blue trash-can-sized bins and smaller 5-gallon buckets line the walls and cover the shelves, as do packages of the coffee that are ready to go to market.
“It started as a hobby,” said Quimby, a Down East native, who also is chief financial officer for DebtX, a Boston-based commercial loan and financial management company. “I wasn’t finding coffee I liked in the area.”
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He started roasting his own coffee, getting green coffee beans from companies that specialize in working with home brewers.
It took him about six months to become proficient, he said.
“During that time, I actually did, maybe, 400 or 500 roasts. I did a lot of small roasts,” Quimby said.
He shared the coffee with Berry and Hanson and together the trio decided to form a corporation to bring the coffee to the marketplace. The farm purchase came later, with the idea of bringing the coffee directly from the farm to the cup, said Quimby, who has a house on Gardner Lake.
“I love coffee so much that I bought a farm in Costa Rica,” he said.
Quimby described the acquisition of the farm as a “merger” because the farmer is staying on and continuing to run the 31 acres. Quimby’s job is to give the farm “a presence” in the United States.
“We reached out across the ocean and hold each other’s hand,” said Quimby, who went to Costa Rica in May, specifically looking to buy. He spent a whole day at the farm, negotiated with the owner and then spent another whole day on the farm before closing the deal on Labor Day. He wouldn’t say how much he paid for it.
Beans for the business have come from Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. Quimby said the company will continue to purchase Guatemalan and Mexican beans from independent sources but will be getting all future Costa Rican coffee from the new farm.
Quimby said all the farms the coffee company deals with tend to be small.
“We work with farms that pretty much only hand-pick the coffee,” Quimby said.
In February, Quimby and Berry will travel to Costa Rica so they can witness and learn more about the harvest, they said.
Berry said the harvested beans are a light greenish brown. They don’t turn dark brown until they’re roasted.
“We purchase the bulk, unroasted green [coffee] beans,” Quimby said.
Berry then roasts them in the garage, which belongs to Quimby’s parents, Jerry and Ann.
“The complex part of coffee is the roasting itself,” Quimby said. “Roasting is an art.”
A good roaster not only knows when to turn the heat up or down but also can get the same results consistently across batches, said Quimby, who taught Berry to roast.
“I kind of got into this at [Quimby’s] request and really have been enjoying it,” Berry said.
Berry said the business started with a roaster that could handle only two pounds of coffee at a time. He quickly realized they would need something larger.
They purchased a Diedrich roaster capable of handling 50 pounds at a time, though Berry said he gets better results with 40-pound batches.
“[With 50-pound batches] you get some beans that are burned and you get some beans that aren’t roasted enough,” Berry said. “We really try to prioritize the quality.”
Roasting takes 10 to 15 minutes, after which the beans are released into a circular dish with paddles to move the coffee around as it cools for another 10 minutes.
Although the firm has a coffee grinder, Berry generally does not grind the coffee sent to market.
“We encourage people to buy whole beans and grind them themselves,” said Berry. “It gives you the freshest, best-tasting coffee.”
Berry also said not to drink coffee within 24 to 36 hours of roasting it. This gives the coffee time to “repose” or build flavor. It’s “surprisingly bland” when used too soon after roasting, he said.
Berry said some people think freezing coffee will keep it fresh, but freezing actually degrades it. To keep coffee fresh, simply keep it out of the sun and at a moderate temperature. It will last six to eight weeks this way.
A 1-pound bag of whole beans in medium or dark roast sells for $14, while the ground coffee goes for $14.75, according to the company’s website. A pound of ground Mexican decaf sells for $14.75.
Bold Coast Coffee is available at select grocers and specialty stores from Machias to Brewer or can be ordered online at www.boldcoastcoffee.com or by calling 207-263-3360.