We're all about "micro," "craft," "artisanal," and "small-batch" these days.
Whether it's cheese, tomatoes, or beer, we've made the swift from large-scale industrial homogeneity to locally produced unique products.
Sure, it's also a bit of a political statement -- we're fighting against the corporate powers that be -- but, at the end of the day we're all about the food and handmade products just taste better.
Fort Lauderdale is about to get its first local coffee roaster in the coming months. Calusa Coffee Roasters is planning on opening in June. Owner Steven Hodel recently initiated a kickstarter campaign to assist in funding.
After experimenting with beans at home for the past three years, Hodel decided to jump into the business himself.
While the storefront will not house an actual coffee shop -- there are issues with the city code and sit-down establishments at the location -- Hodel plans to sell small batches of coffee, wholesale beans, and cups of brew to-go as soon as the space opens up.
Even though customers won't be able to hang out, everyone will be invited to watch the roasting process.
"We eventually want to get to the point where you can pick-up a cappuccino or espresso and take away specialty drinks," says Hodel.
The long-term goal is to get into local restaurants and stores as well as his own sit-down shop.
"I'd like to get into the airport and other tourist destinations," says Hodel. "I want visitors to be able to take a taste of Florida home to wherever they're from."
For 20 years, Hodel owned a travel company (housed in the same location of the shop) specializing in Central and South America, which exposed him to the world of coffee. With the automation of the coffee industry came the opportunity to move into another industry.
"I've seen coffee farms all over the Americas," says Hodel. "It was always something I wanted to do, but now I have the time."
Hodel learned to roast in Costa Rica through his many visits to individual coffee farms. He also spent time with a roaster in Vermont. But, according to him, that even though it's a complicated process, it's not difficult to learn to do-it-yourself.
"Some people roast out of pans, others use popcorn poppers, or you can buy little home roasters," says Hodel. "Roasting coffee is much like wine, somewhat complicated, almost like an artist. It's all about trial-and-error."
Although there are many methods for roasting, it all comes down to the quality of the beans themselves.
Hodel is sourcing beans from origin (i.e. individual farms) as well as specialty importers. To start, he plans to go with what he knows by using mostly Central and South American products from countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia. Over time, he'd like to branch out to coffee from across the world.
He expects to sell a 12 ounce bag for about $11.99, or $16.99 a pound.
To help with the start-up costs -- mainly the expensive special order Diedrich Roaster out of Sandpoint Idaho -- Hodel has launched a kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $22,000. With 21 days to go, he's still currently under 100 bucks.
To donate, visit kickstarter.com.
Hodel is excited to get into what he thinks is "an interesting business," but his main aspiration is to expose people to the beauty of freshly roasted java.
"What I've noticed is there is a lack of small batch roasters in Florida, "says Hodel. "I don't know of any in Fort Lauderdale. I want people to know what good fresh roasted coffee tastes like."
Calusa Coffee Roaster is located at 161 E Commercial Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Visit facebook.com/calusacoffee.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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