The Brooklyn Roastery Tour seeks to demystify coffee roasting for consumers
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
There’s so much that we take for granted that customers understand or know about coffee, and as an industry, we push for ways to share information with customers. The Brooklyn Roastery Tour was born out of that desire to share. œI realized that for a majority of customers, it was their first time even seeing a coffee roaster. That’s when the idea hit, says Lanny Huang, who organizes tours of various roasters throughout the Williamsburg and Bushwick neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York.
Lanny has been a barista for years, but had never seen coffee being roasted until Variety Coffee Roasters, one of the stops on the tour, opened a location by his apartment and began roasting coffee in 2014. Although he’d made hundreds of coffees for customers, seeing coffee being roasted helped him to understand coffee in a new way. Lanny hopes the tour will lead others to do the same. œI think seeing jute sacks filled with green coffee, and the machine and craftsman who process it can really be a pivotal moment for customers,” he says. “After even a brief glimpse at what actually goes on at a roastery, you don’t look at coffee the same.
Each stop on the tour highlights cafes that have open roaster spaces so attendees can see green coffee being roasted, and sneak a peek at all the work that goes into a coffee before it reaches their cup.
On the tour, patrons visit five different roaster spaces throughout Brooklyn and get a glimpse into how different roasters view and treat coffee. The idea was loosely inspired by the Disloyalty Card, which encourages coffee drinkers to check out other stores and lets them accumulate stamps like a passport to redeem a free drink. As you visit each roaster, you can collect stamps, and use them for a free drink at any of the stops on the tour. Lanny has also developed a series of videos for each stop, so you can continue to learn more about each store and discover what makes each of them different.
Of course, all of this will bring attention to each of these spaces, but that’s not what Lanny designed the tour to do. Instead, the tour is meant to bring attention to businesses that treat coffee well and give a face to the tastemakers and hard workers behind the scenes ensuring your coffee is great. œAt the end of the day, the tour is meant not just to bolster local businesses, but to celebrate what it is they’re doing right.
Another thing that’s exciting about the tour is that you don’t have to sign up or wait for someone to guide you around. Participating locations (Variety, along with Supercrown, City of Saints, Sweetleaf, and Devocion) all have a booklet that you can take, with a map of all the stores and information about each space. Essentially, you can conduct the tour yourself, and spend an afternoon exploring various Brooklyn roasteries.
Lanny is hopeful that this tour can translate to other cities. œI think Brooklyn is uniquely poised to develop into something others can model after,” he says. “While coffee is a global product, a locality can develop its personality based on what their communities want. Along with the videos and booklets, tour materials also include hashtags and instagram tags included in the booklets for engaging with other tour goers. The Brooklyn Roastery Tour, by utilizing social media and clever marketing tools like Vimeo, embraces not just the growth of specialty roasters in Brooklyn, but the ways in which the coffee community can engage and share information with our customers in new and exciting ways. Check out the hashtag #BKNroasts to see photos taken by tour goers, or check out www.brooklynroasterytour.com to learn more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Rodriguez thought that she’d take a break from teaching middle school science and putz around in a coffee shop for a few months. She ended up digging it way more than teaching (and was vaguely better at it). After spending 5 years making coffee in New York, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she worked for Sightglass Coffee for three years. She recently decided to give full-time coffee writing a go, though she can still be found working bar shifts now and again in Temescal Alley in Oakland. Follow her on Twitter at @ashisacommonname