BY KENDRA MURRAY
It was about a year ago that I met Andrew Todoroff for the first time. After reading a previous article I had composed, Andrew challenged my statement that you could not grow coffee in Massachusetts. We met up at Rendevous Cafe & Creperie in Hyannis, where he showed me a coffee tree that he was growing. Although it doesn’t make sense to grow coffee on a large scale here, it can be done, and it is a fun project. When Andrew isn’t tending to his own trees, he’s busy at Speedwell Coffee in Plymouth. Our director Karen Schwalbe and I headed over to Speedwell last week to talk a little further about the business and tour the facility.
When walking into Speedwell Coffee, we were offered a cheery welcome from Sarah Bottoms, their Coffee Roaster. Sarah was at the coffee bar setting up a small roaster on the counter. Andrew came over and sat down with us and we got to learn a little bit about the science of coffee. When beans come into Speedwell, they are first examined and tested in 100 gram sample-sizes in the small table-top roaster. The first step prior to roasting is called “green grading.” This process is entirely visual…sorting through the beans and determining whether or not to order a large batch based on the amount of defects in the beans. Defects can be primary, which includes beans that are black before roasting, or secondary, which could be beans with insect damage or chips, and “floaters,” which, you guessed it, are beans that would float. Primary damage is more serious; you would not want any of these more heavily damaged beans in a good batch of coffee. Secondary defects are more forgiving, and small amounts are allowed.
After the green grading, the beans spend approximately 8-10 minutes in the roaster. Each type of coffee is roasted a bit differently, but generally they fall when that time range. The lighter coffees at Speedwell are generally roasted around 412 degrees, while their darkest roast is heated to 460 degrees. While coffee is roasting, it begins to “crack,” sounding somewhat like popcorn kernels popping. At this first crack, the beans have lost most of their water weight and have expanded, actually becoming larger than when they were initially put in the roaster. The amount of time the coffee continues roasting after first crack is determined by how dark of a roast is desired. The difference in roasting time between a light and medium roasts is very minimal. The longer the bean roasts, the darker the coffee will be.
After learning bit about the roasting process, we were introduced to Derek Anderson, the owner of Speedwell Coffee. He told us a bit more about Speedwell, which got its start in 2008 with just Derek. Speedwell has grown significantly, now with eight employees and is roasting approximately 2,000 pounds of coffee each week. Although not formally certified, all beans are fairly traded and most are organic. These certifications can be pricey and burdensome to small growers. Derek has great relationships with the farmers he purchases from.
Speedwell offers twelve different varieties of coffee, including blends as well as single origin roasts. Blending different beans occurs after the roasting process, and helps to alter the tastes of a cup of coffee, whether done to diminish acidity or to add body. A day after roasting, a process called “cupping” is done to observe aroma and taste of the coffee. Testing the coffee three different ways: dry, with a “crust,” and after the crust has been broken, ensures that no subpar roasts will leave the building. All of their chaff, a by-product of roasting, is taken by South Shore Organics.
Speedwell can be found in many cafes and local food shops across Southeastern Mass and parts of New England, with customers as far north as North Yarmouth, Maine and as far south as Georgia. They are hoping to expand to see more of their coffee in Central Mass, as well. Barista training is also offered to all of Speedwell Coffee’s customers. Since they are putting out such a fantastic product, they want to make sure that it is being served in a way that makes it taste good. A good product prepared in the wrong way can make it appear to be a bad product.
After chatting for a while and touring the facility, we had a chance to try a Monsooned Malabar coffee. This dark roasted coffee is grown on the Malabar Coast, which is the southwestern shoreline of India. The harvested coffee beans are exposed to monsoons rains and winds for a few months, which lowers acidity and lends a different taste. It had a lovely flavor. Our next sample was a cold brewed nitro coffee on tap, an unconventional and delicious way to enjoy coffee. We also had the opportunity to taste some Rishi tea, which Speedwell also distributes. We tried the turmeric ginger chai concentrate mixed with seltzer water as well as some freshly brewed matcha tea. Both had great flavor. Speedwell Coffee offers many different flavors of organic Rishi tea, including green, chai, turmeric, and many more.
Looking for a new roaster for your business? Need a new brew for your morning cup of joe? You can find Speedwell Coffee at 208 S Meadow Rd, Plymouth, MA. Speedwell Coffee is open to the public Monday – Friday, 8AM – 5PM. Stop by and pick up a bag of coffee, some tea, or check out their pour over brewers. Not in the Plymouth area? Find them online at www.speedwellcoffee.com, and connect on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
And SAVE THE DATE! We’ll be doing a Coffee & Dessert Night at Speedwell on Friday, June 23rd. Registration for this tour, tasting, and barista training will be open soon!