Think Global, Roast Local

Jersey companies are roasting their own beans, reaching out to growers, and custom blending, the better to create the freshest cup.

Instead of becoming a teacher, he answered the call of his inner roaster.
HARRY & BEANS Ocean View In June 2001, Harry Gale was on his way to take his teacher certification test when suddenly he pulled the car to the side of the road. He had just graduated from Richard Stockton College, and was planning to become an English teacher. But sitting behind the wheel, he realized, “I just wasn’t ready to teach.”

Instead, he spent the day asking local eateries if they would consider buying coffee from him. The idea had been percolating for a while. In college, Gale had worked for a coffee company in Avalon, where he developed a passion for roasting and blending. When he and his fiancée, Jill, eloped to Hawaii in early 2001, they met a grower and distributor who offered him a job. Despite their dual passions for surfing and roasting, the newlyweds decided not to sever ties to their home state.

In his day of canvassing, Gale got verbal commitments for 120 pounds of beans. Thus was born Harry & Beans (Jill’s girlhood nickname was Jilly Bean). Their first equipment was a 1908 peanut roaster. To judge when the roast was done, Gale says, he’d “listen to the beans crack, smell them caramelizing, and see the skin get smooth and change color.”

Now in Ocean View, Harry & Beans has modern equipment. But the owners still create unique blends for wholesale buyers and deliver in person. “If you’re not meeting your customers face to face,” Harry says, “you’re not getting any feedback.”

The Gales have visited coffee plantations in Oahu and Costa Rica. They sell certified fair-trade coffee from six countries. (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International sets standards for farm labor conditions, environmental practices, and fair prices.) More than half the coffee they roast is organic. Retail only at harryandbeanscoffee.com (609-827-1241).

In Guatemala, a Jersey guy’s“eye-opening experience.”
CRESCENT MOON Mullica Hill Ron and Sharon Vaccarello launched their wholesale business and café in 2004. Like Harry & Beans, they sell a fair-trade certified product tailored to local tastes. This year head roaster Chris Murdaco, 20, visited plantations in Guatemala. “It was an eye-opening experience,” he says. “You see the hard work and dedication that goes into growing coffee.” 141 Bridgeton Pike (756-223-1237; cmcoffee.com).

Twist Stir: Not a dance, but a flavor stick-in-the-mug.
TALK N’ COFFEE Deptford A national wholesaler, Talk N’ Coffee also roasts for its Deptford store, where customers can watch, and smell, the roasting process. President Steve Rohner this year brought out Twist Stir, a swizzle stick with a bulbous end that imparts sweetener-free flavors such as hazelnut, orange, and cinnamon to a single cup of coffee or other beverage. 1353 Route 41 (800-597-bean; talkncoffee.com).

Buy a sack of beans, help a wounded Veteran.
KAFFEE MAGNUM OPUS Millville Wholesale roasters Bob Johnson and Al Caltabiano created American Spirit blends—10 percent of sales through July 31 benefit the Wounded Warrior Project (woundedwarriors.org), which helps severely injured soldiers return to civilian life. “We all benefit from what these soldiers have done,” says Johnson, 62. “When I found out about the poor treatment these guys were getting, I said, ‘What can I do besides moan and groan?’” (800-652-5282; kmocoffee.com).

Real freshness can be oh so startling.
MOONDOGGIE COFFEE ROASTERS Maywood “When we first opened, people complained our coffee was too strong,” says owner and founder Donna Funk. “Actually, it was because our roasts were so fresh. Some coffees can be three months to a few years old. We had to explain that this is the way coffee is supposed to taste.” Moondoggie uses only beans that meet Specialty Coffee Association of America criteria. Many of its coffees are also fair-trade certified and organic. 108 West Pleasant Avenue (888-javadog; moondoggiecoffee.com).

Enjoy a charity concert with your cuppa joe.
AHRRE’S COFFEE ROASTERY Westfield Summit native Ahrre Maros earned the nickname “Coffee Boy” because he kept extolling the virtues of fresh-roasted specialty brews. In 1990 he started Ahrre’s, and in 2000 he launched the Coffee With Conscience concert series, featuring musicians performing to raise money for charities. 104 Elm Street (800-991-7977; ahrre.com). Concerts are held at First United Methodist Church of Westfield, 1 East Broad Street (800-991-7977; coffeewithconscience.org).

Click here to leave a comment
Read more Jersey Celebrities, Jersey Living articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.