Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t heard of Rook Coffee yet. Cofounders Shawn Kingsley and Holly Migliaccio opened in 2010 with a tiny coffee roaster in a self-described “300-foot shack” in Oakhurst. The chain now has 12 coffee shops in Jersey. But they’re very regional; 11 of those are in Monmouth County. The 12th, which opened last month, is 20 minutes south in Point Pleasant (Ocean County).
Rook first made a name for themselves with a proprietary rapid pour-over method. If you go into a Rook store looking for “coffee,” your options are pour-over and, well, pour-over. “[There are] no lattes, no espresso machines,” says Marc Hindman, Rook’s director of brand strategy. Instead, they have a “proprietary pour-over method that allows us to brew a super-fast pour-over” of your choice of single origin beans.
But now it’s the cold brew, the overnight brewing method said to yield a smoother, richer, more complex cold coffee, that is taking off. Rook recently rolled out nationwide online sales of their New Orleans Style cold brew, AKA cold brew spiked with roasted chicory. It isn’t terrible timing. Cold brew sales grew 370 percent between 2015 and 2017, and they haven’t stopped. According to the National Coffee Association’s 2018 trends report, cold brew is even edging out its older, tamer step-cousin, iced coffee: in 2016, we drank 19 percent more iced coffee than cold brew, but by 2018, cold brew outsold iced coffee by 42 percent.
Rook’s New Orleans Style cold brew has developed an almost cult-like following. “Around here we say it’s like melted coffee ice cream,” says Hindman. “It has this chocolatey note to it—creamy, rich, and decadent.”
Putting all that goodness into a retail bottle isn’t exactly new. Blue Bottle Coffee “New Orleans-style” and Brooklyn-based Grady’s can already be found on grocery store shelves. The trend is taking root elsewhere in New Jersey, too. Somerville-based Cheech’s Own Coffee sells their Auroroa cold brew coffee concentrate online, and Newark-based Law Coffee sells an at-home DIY cold brew kit. Rook joined the growing ranks this year. “Holly and Shawn made a conscious effort not to grow the business in terms of, like, ‘Let’s get 50 stores tomorrow,’” says Hindman. “They were very smart from the start in terms of controlled growth, nothing too aggressive.”
But customer thirst persisted. “For years we had people asking ‘How can I get Rook?’ We have people who’ve moved out of the area, tons of kids in college who aren’t right down the street in winter asking ‘When do I get a Rook in my town, on my campus?’ Opening a new brick-and-mortar [shop] is expensive,
says Hindman, “so we said ‘What if we could just ship it to your house?’”
Rook has been shipping ground coffee for years now, says Hindman, but cold brew was different. “The shipping challenge immediately is how to keep it cold,” he says. “We brew it with cold water in a temperature controlled environment, bottle it, and store it in an 800 square-foot walk-in [refrigerator]” at their home base: a combined roastery, cold brew house, and corporate offices. “It’s the size of a city block in downtown Long Branch,” says Hindman.
Rook avoided using preservatives in its packaged cold brew. “We don’t want it to affect the final flavor or body,” says Hindman. And the glass bottles you’ll find in-store have no insulation. “We decided to go with a 32-ounce PET plastic bottle. It’s flexible, so it’s not going to break, and there’s an insulated liner to make sure it stays cold.” As for shipping itself? “Anywhere in the country, it should take no more than three days.”
Rook Coffee Roasters has 12 locations in New Jersey. You can purchase their New Orleans Style cold brew, four 32-ounce bottles of concentrate online. The concentrate comes with instructions for dilution.Click here to leave a comment