Is it easier or harder to accomplish your goals with so many other specialty roasters?
Both! Overall though, I’d have to say it’s primarily easier. The fact that most vendors we work with are used to working with smaller scale specialty roasters, and have systems in place to facilitate our needs, is a major plus. The competition is also a good thing as it makes us constantly strive to improve our program on all fronts. Maintaining the quality of the product, customer service, fair pricing, and a reputation for honesty and integrity are all vital components in making it in this industry, and of utmost importance to us.
What’s your favorite aspect of working in the coffee world?
Easily, the people. Both within the industry as well as the home enthusiasts. Coffee seems to draw in a rather eclectic and interesting crowd and these tend to be the same kind of people I’m most comfortable with and drawn to. Being surrounded by those that share the same passion as I do is as good as it gets.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Finding the proper balance of doing what I love to do and making a living at it. I’m not really a big fan of cold calling potential accounts and giving a sales pitch. Rather, I really work on building a reputation for quality and service in the hopes that potential new accounts will seek Velton’s Coffee out. This definitely makes for slower growth, but I’m okay with that – there’s no real rush here. Meanwhile I make sure that all of my existing accounts are happy and well taken care of.
Who else in the specialty coffee community do you look to for inspiration, guidance or advice?
There are so many roasters, baristas, equipment providers, green coffee buyers, producers, periodicals, and blogs that I touch base with regularly that I’m hesitant to begin a list of names, I’d hate to leave anybody out! I’m always happy to help others that come my way for ideas or advice as I know so many have been helpful to me in these early years of the roastery. I especially love to talk with other small-scale roasters as we tend to face many of the same hurdles and challenges. We may be competitors, but if I can see that they’re good people chasing similar ideals, passions, and commitment to quality, I can’t help but root for them to be successful. I’ll do what I can to help them realize their dreams too.
What do you think makes the Seattle coffee scene unique?
More than anything it’s the history. Coffee (and espresso in particular) became entrenched here in a way that is almost comical; there really wasn’t anything happening elsewhere in the country that was even remotely comparable at that time. The fact that Starbucks blossomed here in that time and environment can’t be ignored. The coffee scene here became one of darker roasts, bigger drink sizes, and flavored sweeteners (needed to mask the bitterness of the dark roast). This presented a bit of a challenge for those wanting to get back to having it “be about the coffee,” but inroads in recent years have certainly been made. Seattle’s coffee culture is now a rather unique blend of old school, new school, and those trying to bridge the gap by presenting both. I’ve been in coffee for 24 years now and I have to say, it’s been fun to both be a part of and to watch.
What’s a typical coffee consumption day for you, drink by drink, from when you wake up to when you go to sleep?
My wife likes to have her coffee ready the moment she gets out of bed, so my first cup of the day is usually off a Mr. Coffee that was set up with a timer the night before. That’s my “wake up” cup. I then have two to three pourovers throughout the day, usually with a Kalita but sometimes via Chemex, Aeropress, Clever, Hario V-60, woodneck, French press or other brew device. There’s often some new samples or roast profiles that need to be cupped or tried as espresso as well. I generally try to cut off coffee consumption by 3:00 p.m. or so in order to make sure I can get to sleep that night.
If you brew coffee at home, what’s your preferred brewing method, and why?
As stated, it’s the Mr. Coffee basic home unit. What I like about this is it gives me an idea of what many of the home coffee drinkers out there are typically brewing on, and how my coffees taste brewed as such. I bring home an assortment of blends and single origins (and yes, I pre-grind it at work before I bring it home) and see how they taste and hold up over time.
If you could only have one more shot of espresso, who would make it for you (besides yourself)?
Tough question, and one I hope to never have to face. Right now I’d almost certainly choose Cole McBride of Visions Espresso. Not only has he competed as a barista with my roasts on both the regional and national level, but he’s also one of the best at dialing in a particular coffee for espresso that I’ve ever seen. If I could choose the coffee and equipment as well, it would be a Ninety Plus Panama Gesha coffee pulled on either a Slayer or a La Marzocco Strada, with either an Anfim or Robur grinder. That all sounds really wonderful right about now!
Brenna Ciummo is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee.