The Seed of the Cup
Coffee roasters put their hands on coffee. A lot. Turning and feeling it, then grinding and ‘cupping’ it and, finally, tasting it like wine sommeliers. Herein, three New Hampshire roasteries showed me what propels fine coffee amidst New Hampshire’s flash-roasted commercial coffee: Craft.
They taught me that, one, while we refer to the coffee bean, it’s actually the coffee cherry that gives us green coffee seeds. And two, if fine coffee seems elite, it’s because roasters don’t conform green coffee to an expected taste; they reveal its destined cup by finding the perfect temperature, speed, and variance to express its inherent flavor notes. What better place to appreciate these roasters than New Hampshire communities seeking conscientious artisanship?
A&E Custom Coffee Roastery, Amherst & Manchester
Beginnings: Inspired by her husband Adam’s home-roasting in their Milford kitchen during the late ‘90s, Kansas-born Emeran Langmaid opened New Hampshire’s first USDA Organic Coffee Roastery in 2001 and a second café in 2014. Today, she’s a licensed Q-Grader, Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) lead instructor, and dedicated coffee philanthropist.
Sourcing: As a green buyer, Emeran invests in her relationships with farmers to cohere her cafés with quality, equitable coffee. For the last 14 years, a percentage of sales from every bag of A&E coffee has gone through World Vision to sponsor children in three coffee-growing countries.
Roast: One of A&E’s original customers, SCAA Level 1 Certified Roaster Mark Small prioritizes taste over roast profile in his work. “I’m most interested in the intrinsic flavors coming out of the coffee and in ‘finish’ as the coffee cools—in making that lingering taste a pleasant, balanced experience.”
Ambiance: A&E’s cafés are light and airy with curated decor, from hanging terrariums to touches of vintage cabinetry. Roasting happens at its Amherst location, and its quaint Manchester café beckons with a wall-long community bench.
Highlight: Seasonal mixology drinks with in-house ingredients and layers of flavor.
Flight Coffee Co., Bedford & Dover
Beginnings: When New Hampshire native Claudia Barrett fell in love with coffee while studying in Seattle during the ‘90s, she followed her passion to open and manage east coast cafés, apprenticing her way to become a master roaster. In 2012, she founded Flight’s Bedford Roasting Lab & Tasting Room, became a licensed Q-Grader in 2013, and opened Flight’s Dover location in February 2016.
Sourcing: Missioned to source the top one to ten percent of world coffee, Claudia’s harvest-following buyers deal in direct trade with farmers to create meaningful contingency “from cherry to cup.”
Roast: Flight specializes in light roasts to unlock intricate flavor compounds found in what Claudia describes as the coffee seed’s inner honeycomb: “The roast should be transparent, so all you taste is what it is meant to be.” In 2012, one of these roasts placed 5th in Coffee Review’s prestigious roasting competition.
Ambiance: Flight’s Dover café is open concept, illuminated with natural light, reclaimed wood, and employee-designed inlay table tops. Ample seating surrounds the pour-over bar, and a chalkboard calendar-of-events cheers the large community room.
Highlights: House-made eats in Dover. Personalized tasting tours in Bedford.
Wayfarer Coffee Roasters, Laconia
Beginnings: Seattle-born Karen Bassett moved to husband Reuben’s granite home state in 2007. Missing coffee like she remembered from out west, she began home-roasting and selling at farmers’ markets. After dreaming about a place for community and coffee, she opened Wayfarer in June 2015 with co-owner and SCAA Level 1 Certified Roaster Ben Bullerwell.
Sourcing: Karen and Ben buy with a philosophy of connection. “We love coffee with a story, a farmer working hard for his community.” They plan to meet one of these farmers on a forthcoming origin trip that they’ll take alongside their distributors, who visit at-source to verify ethical practices and extend fair purchasing.
Roast: Karen enjoys introducing the market to light roasts “to help show the more delicate flavors of different varietals,” but she’s foremost invested in finding something for everyone, from a clean Chemex to a creamy espresso drink.
Ambiance: Fresh and modern with a nod to heritage, Wayfarer’s essentials-only Modbar opens space between barista and customer across its copper-top counter, which is fronted with 200-year-old reclaimed Maine barn wood.
Highlights: Specialty Liege waffles and community causes.