Food & Drink

Growing number of Valley companies roasting coffee locally

To coffee heads, the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans can be intoxicating. That deep, rich and smoky smell can make even coffee haters want to reach for a fresh brewed cup.

It’s an experience that Bryan Feil never tires of. Feil is president and founder of Lanna Coffee, a Fresno-based coffee subscription company that is tapping the growing interest in locally sourced roasted coffee.

Driven in part by the craft food movement, the fresh roasted coffee trend is feeding consumers’ appetites for buying local, discovering something new and supporting a worthwhile cause.

Over the past several years, the central San Joaquin Valley has become home to several coffee roasting companies. In Visalia, there is Slow Train Coffee Roasters and Mavericks Coffee House and Roasting Company. Kingsburg has Goertz Acre Coffee Roasters. In Fresno, Café Corazón and Lanna Coffee are roasting coffee. And in Clovis there is Amber Avenue Coffee Roasters.

Also, coffee roaster and entrepreneur Kirk Schapansky has plans to open a roasting company in Clovis next year called Sequoia Coffee Roastery.

Schapansky, who has been roasting coffee for 25 years, says he fell in love with the smell and the taste of freshly roasted coffee growing up in the Bay Area. He still remembers smelling that first whiff of roasting beans coming from a neighborhood coffee roaster.

“At first, I wondered what was burning, but then it smelled wonderful, like something was being cooked or baked,” Schapansky says.

His concept is to roast his own beans and offer roasting demonstrations, coffee tastings, brewing demonstrations and other interactive ways to let customers learn about the different aspects of coffee.

“People want to learn more about their food and how it is made,” Schapansky says. “And they can appreciate coffee when it has been roasted at its peak of freshness.”

Feil says his customers are looking for something unique, a high-quality product and a good story.

Lanna sources its coffee beans exclusively from Thailand, where it helps support 400 family farmers. Also, 25 percent of its profits are poured back into the farmers’ villages to provide educational and medical opportunities as well as infrastructure for clean water.

“Our customers believe in our mission and appreciate a quality cup of coffee,” Feil says.

Lanna sells its coffee beans directly to consumers through its website and it is served at Batter Up Pancakes, Benaddiction and Mia Cuppa.

Feil says many coffee drinkers can appreciate the skill of a good coffee roaster. Not only does the coffee taste fresher because it has been roasted fairly recently, but you can also find a roaster who produces beans to your liking.

Feil says he prefers coffee beans roasted on the lighter side, meaning the beans are roasted for a shorter period than they are for a darker roast. Although Lanna makes roasts from light to dark, he says the lighter roasts bring out more of the floral notes in the beans. It also has a stronger kick of caffeine than the darker roast.

Recently, Feil was roasting a batch of beans in the company’s roaster. The practice is part art and science. Coffee roasters pay careful attention to time and temperature to achieve the right balance of flavor and degree of roasting. The darker the roast, the more oil is extracted from the bean and more bitter the taste.

Longtime coffee roaster Leland Goertz of Goertz Acre Coffee Roasters in Kingsburg admits that some coffee roasters can take their craft very seriously, aiming for subtleties and nuanced flavors that not everyone can pick up.

“A coffee roaster can take days or weeks before finally achieving what they believe is the height of perfection,” Goertz says. “And then his friends say it tastes like diesel exhaust.”

At Mavericks in Visalia, owner Jordan Brown sources his beans from 15 different countries, allowing him to give his customers a wide range of flavors and roasting options. He has 32 different options. His most popular seller is something he calls Midnight Ride. It’s a mixture of the smoothest and boldest blends of his roasted beans.

“Roasting takes lot of practice to bring out the best in your coffee beans,” Brown says. “If you roast something just a little too long, it can change the taste completely. It’s sort of like cooking a steak – you can start out with the best cut of meat, but if you don’t know how to cook, it isn’t going to be any good.”

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob