| By Laurie Britton |
Whether you’re thinking of embarking on a new adventure to open your own coffee shop, or you’ve been brewing for quite a while, working with the right roaster to source your coffee beans (and everything else that goes along with it) is one of the most important decisions you will make. It will most certainly affect the experience your customers have and ultimately make or break your business.
Here are a few essential tips to keep in mind so you know what to look for when searching for a wholesale coffee roaster to partner with for your coffee shop.
Quality is important in any industry, but coffee is especially complex and sensitive. Knowing and understanding all that goes into producing and procuring excellent quality coffee takes a lot of research, time, and effort, so make sure you choose a roaster who has done their homework and doesn’t cut corners. Once coffee beans are harvested, the only possible outcome from human interaction in every process thereafter until it gets to you is degradation. Basically, this means there are a million ways to screw it up royally before it reaches your shop and also your customer’s cup.
First off, when it comes to quality, look for a roaster that sources specialty coffee beans that have been graded with a high score. In order for coffee to be considered high-quality specialty grade, aka “specialty coffee”, it must meet the minimum standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). These standards ensure that the coffee is free of certain defects that greatly affect how the coffee will ultimately taste. While the minimum score for green coffee purchased set by SCA should not be lower than 80, Cafe Virtuoso ensures quality by purchasing green (unroasted) coffee that has a minimum score of at least 84.
Secondly, choose a roaster that is USDA certified organic. Organic coffee beans are also a higher-quality product because they’re free of harmful pesticides that taint the coffee that you and your customers ultimately consume. Not to mention, you can rest easy by knowing you’re buying beans and supporting healthy and ethical growing practices that do not pollute the soil and groundwater, and also cause serious health problems for the farmers. Cafe Virtuoso is proud to be the only 100 percent certified organic coffee roaster in San Diego.
Finally, when it comes to quality, choose a roaster that knows how to properly roast the coffee. Extensive training and expertise are necessary so that each individual variety of coffee is roasted to best bring out the natural characteristics to fully develop the tasting notes of that particular bean. Some coffees need to roast a bit longer or shorter than others and not knowing this can result in under-roasted beans which turn out sour and lack body, or over roasting, which will result in coffee beans that are extremely bitter and taste burnt.
Our head roaster Greg Luli is an SCA certified roaster and instructor who also happens to hold a Ph.D. in microbiology. This has allowed him to combine his knowledge and skills to master the complex art and science of specialty coffee roasting. It has also helped us achieve recognition as one of the best San Diego coffee roasters.
Certified Expert Training and Service
A top-notch roaster will not only provide you with amazing quality wholesale coffee beans but also excellent customer service when it comes to coffee training and espresso bar design, coffee equipment selection, service and maintenance.
Look for roasters that can provide you and your staff with expert training that adheres to industry standards and best practices. The Cafe Virtuoso training staff are SCA certified instructors who will ensure that your team has the solid foundation, skills, and tools needed so that you can serve a consistent product of the highest quality to your customers.
Many roasters will be able to point you in the right direction for purchasing coffee equipment, but make sure to choose one that will also install and provide wholesale coffee service, as well as teach you how to clean and maintain it properly for consistent quality and longevity. You could have the best and most elaborately expensive equipment on the planet, but if you don’t have proper training how to use and maintain it, your coffee will be disappointing at best for your customers.
Coffee Bar Layout and Design
Many people, when opening a coffee shop for the first time, make the mistake of relying on an architect to help them design their coffee bar layout. Most architects don’t have experience with the layouts and designs that work best when it comes to having an efficient coffee bar. There’s really no way for them to know above and beyond what looks aesthetically pleasing unless they themselves have the first-hand experience of working behind a coffee bar. At Cafe Virtuoso, we have that experience and don’t just know what looks fantastic when designing coffee bar layouts for our customers, but we also understand all of the aspects that go into the best overall functionality and most efficient coffee bar workflow.
Coffee Bar Supplies
A good coffee roaster will also be a one-stop-shop for all your coffee bar supplies. Your coffee shop will need top quality syrups, powders, barista milk alternatives, brewer and espresso cleaning supplies, and any other products you might imagine in order to have a fully-functioning cafe.
If you’re interested in learning more about Cafe Virtuoso or serving our coffee, we’d love to connect.
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Certified organic from day one, Laurie founded Cafe Virtuoso in 2008 with the vision of bringing a level of quality to coffee and tea previously unavailable in San Diego. Her passion and dedication ensures each business decision is based on being socially and ethically responsible and is acutely involved in every aspect of what it means to be truly sustainable.