I live in Seattle, Washington. Seattle has certain stereotypes associated with it. Some are unfair – we don’t all live in houseboats, it doesn’t rain a lot here, we’re not the worst sports city in America – but some are perfect, especially the idea that we drink a whole lot of coffee. We do, as evidenced by the many cafes in almost every corner of the metro area and the seemingly local phenomenon of ‘bikini baristas’.
I’m a bit of a coffee snob myself, so you can imagine that when the online coffee ordering company Coffee Bean Direct asked me to check out their gourmet roasts shipped by vehicle to you, I stood up. eyes to the sky so hard that I was dizzy. I mean I have a micro roast a block from my house, we are the town that spawned
But never the type to turn down free coffee – and as the guy who will always give small businesses a chance to impress me – I agreed to try their stuff. They sent me a box with some standards (Colombian, French roast and espresso) as well as a kind of wild card in their Maple Bacon coffee. My face quickly changed from rolling eyes to raising eyebrows. I like bacon almost as much as I like coffee. Over the course of two days, I tried a little of each. The maple bacon might have been ideal for the rustic guys in their salmon-filled cabins in the woods, but it wasn’t for me. The other tip, however, was: great aroma, balanced acidity, and flavor better than Starbucks. It was good coffee and I had to find out more about them.
CEO Andrew Esserman founded Coffee Bean Direct ten years ago. Esserman had a background in marketing, but decided he was tired of paying more for a latte than a sandwich. He wanted to use the Internet to cut out the middleman and provide people with fast, fresh coffee at a fair price. Since then, the company has moved once and expanded its current location twice to meet demand.
Esserman’s company is based in Stockton, New Jersey, a place I visited several weeks ago on a trip to New York. This is a small location in an industrial office park in an area of New Jersey reminiscent of the origin of the name Garden State. The office itself is labyrinthine yet still comfortable and has as many adorable and very friendly little dogs as there are people. These same staff take pride in taking care of orders or customer concerns. When a caller calls the business, they are likely to be talking to a real human being.
In addition, he takes pride in using fair trade beans, which means that farmers, cleaners and others involved in the production and shipping of raw beans are fairly paid and the environmental impacts and negative cultures are minimized. This in itself is very Seattle, as most of the independent roasters here follow the same philosophy.
The business is not just a drop shipping business like many web based mail order businesses. CBD is a real coffee bean roaster, which I know to be as much an art as a science. The production facility (which, it should be noted, is mutt-free) is state-of-the-art, with multiple hoppers and roasting ovens to accommodate both small and large orders. Coffee is available to customers as ground or whole bean in one-pound, five-pound, and twenty-five pound bags, each wrapped only when an order is received, meaning they are not sitting on shelves losing flavor.
Freshness is an obsession with roasters. “We’re crazy about it,” company vice president Greg Shefler told me as we tasted the (quite excellent) Colombian roast Supremo. “You can taste it when you prepare it. Most coffees on store shelves stick around for days and weeks. Coffee loses flavor the longer it is exposed to air, so fast shipping is key to freshness, and that’s our goal.
Coffee, of course, isn’t for everyone, and that’s why the company recently expanded to America’s other hot beverage of choice, tea, with a division whimsically named TattleTea. Like its coffee efforts, the tea is fresh and shipped as quickly as possible. It comes in all of the most popular varieties – oolong and Ceylon are there – as well as a few more exotic blends, such as Assam Tonganagaon GFBOP black tea, whatever it is. Although I am not an expert when it comes to tea, I do know of one who called it “excellent”.
On a whim I asked if I could make a custom mix – half Colombian Supremo and half French roast, something that I thought would taste great in my favorite French press. They produced a five-pound bag in a matter of moments and noted that custom mixes can be made by anyone at any time. “We want people to make mixes that are personal to them,” Shefler told me in his office with walls adorned with as much ’80s geekery I’ve seen in any corporate office in Canada. Seattle. “We’re happy to put them together, even though they’re weird.”
Regarding the weird, I asked about the maple bacon flavor. “It’s great when you get used to it. He’s a big seller for us. I’m sure it does, because when I got back to Seattle I used it in a slow cooker pulled pork recipe that I love. It added a perfect both smoky and sweet flavor that I would recommend.
Coffee Bean Direct recently signed an agreement with Amazon to increase its already impressive distribution and plans to expand again in the near future if necessary. “We’re busy all the time right now, but we want to get our coffee to as many people as possible. If we have to make room, we can here. I didn’t ask whether or not the partnership would deliver coffee by drone, but a blogger can dream, right?