Island shops practice the art of roasting coffee
Wake up and have a cup of coffee. It’s a routine in which more than 2 billion cups of java are consumed every day nationwide in a variety of styles — with milk, sugar, flavored or, as a one-fourth of those consumers prefer it, black.
Although there are coffee shops and drive-throughs in virtually every community, most Americans start their day with coffee at home before heading out. But exactly what are they drinking?
Coffee connoisseurs say they want freshly roasted coffee beans from a particular locale for their caffeine consumption. And they insist they can tell the difference between canned coffee and freshly roasted.
Coffee roasters buy beans from brokers who work with farmers in countries around the world. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of coffee, but many warm climate areas produce coffee.
Humans have been consuming coffee since the 10th century when Ethiopians first noticed its energizing effects, but not until the 15th century did people in the Ottoman Empire document experimenting with and drinking coffee. Over time, they learned to select and handpick the coffee “cherries” or the flowers from at least 5-year-old plants, when the fruits have turned from green to red. It continues to be a labor-intensive job. One coffee tree produces about 10 pounds of coffee cherries, which is equal to two pounds of beans.
Workers remove the pulp surrounding the berries and dry the inside seeds. Then they hull, sort and store the beans.
Candi Storey last year opened Fika Java & Juicery, 613 University Blvd. in Galveston near the University of Texas Medical Branch. The name Fika (pronounced fee-ka) refers to the Swedish custom of social breaks during which people gather for coffee or tea and a few nibbles.
The shop serves organic teas, smoothies and light food, but coffee is the focus. Storey and roaster Casey Martin each have a passion for good coffee and began preparing coffees for themselves with a small roaster.
The consumer response was overwhelming — other people were looking for freshly roasted coffee, too — and Fika began branching out with different selections from international locales.
Storey and Martin roast daily, several times a day, choosing beans from Ethiopia, Colombia, Guatemala and Brazil. They also use Brazilian beans for the cold brew coffee, a method of brewing coffee grounds over a 24-hour period at room temperature. Cold brew is not the same as iced coffee; much of the natural bitterness in the coffee beans are removed in the cold-brew process, Storey said. Cold brew also can be served hot.
Fika doesn’t offers syrups or preservatives in its coffees.
“We serve it the way it is roasted,” Storey said. “That pulls out the flavors.”
Not far away, on a downtown corner at Church and 23th streets in the island’s downtown, is Galveston Coffee Roasters.
John Alvarez and his wife, Dru Borges, have been selling freshly roasted coffees at that shop for almost two years. They’re working on moving their roasting equipment, which is on the mainland in Santa Fe, to the island. Houston native Alvarez had been in the coffee business for 25 years in Hawaii, where he met his wife.
The couple left Hawaii seeking another beach community to set up their business. They chose Galveston for their retail location. Their clientele at the corner shop is a good mix of locals and tourists.
The shop sells 35 different flavors and arrays of coffees and prepares six different types daily for guests to sample for free. But it doesn’t sell lattes or mochas.
“Over-flavoring coffee is just covering up the taste of a bad coffee,” Alvarez said.
Borges infuses flavoring into the beans after roasting, giving them cinnamon, pecan, hazelnut, coconut and vanilla aromas.
“It really doesn’t change the taste that much, it is really the aroma and the essence that is flavored,” Borges said.
Alvarez frequently mixes beans for custom blends.
Dr. Jessica Rochkind, a University of Texas Medical Branch physician whose husband owns an insurance agency next to the shop, stops in periodically to buy her favorite bag of beans, she said.
“I like the Galveston blend,” she said, selecting a bag labeled G-Blend, a light roast, full-bodied, smooth-tasting bean with rich flavor.
Roasting the coffee beans requires them to be heated to about 175 degrees and then air cooled in the roasting chamber. During the 20- to 45-minute roasting process, the beans change color from green to yellow and then brown. The darker the brown, the deeper the flavor, from light roast to medium to dark, Alvarez said.