Small-batch coffee roasters adding new flavor to area mugs

Rita LeBleu

Coffee has been hot in the U.S. ever since Americans revolted against the heavy tea tax in 1773. The National Coffee Association released results of its latest survey right before the COVID stay-at-home order last year. Seven in 10 Americans drink coffee every week. Sixty-two percent of that group drinks coffee every day, and the average American coffee drinker drinks just over three cups a day.

Two new local businesses, Warehouse Coffee Roasters and Deepwoods Coffee are driving — and meeting — demand for that perfect cup o’ Joe right here in Southwest Louisiana, shedding some light on the process and answering the question of, “Why coffee?”

“I have always loved coffee,” said Aaron Quinn.

He and Josh Harris are owners of Warehouse Coffee Roasters. Thirty-year-old Quinn is from Oklahoma, and moved to Sulphur four years ago to work as a financial advisor, which he still does. He’s also part owner of the Village Coffeehouse in Sulphur. Add three children, ages 1, 2

and 5, to the mix.

“I don’t get much sleep,” he said. “I need that coffee, which is probably why I got into it.”

He says his “entry drug” experience wasn’t until he went away to college, where he developed a Frappuccino habit.  

“You know, a Frappuccino is not really coffee, it’s a milkshake,” he said.

He moved on to vanilla latte, then un-flavored latte to tasting the nuances between coffee from different regions.

Taylor Plaisance will be 24 in May. He is unabashedly a country boy. He loves to hunt, fish and enjoys a rural lifestyle in Gillis, a small community in northeast Calcasieu Parish. He calls it — with pride and not disdain – “the sticks.” Deepwoods was chosen because it resonates with his lifestyle.

His first memory of coffee is the coffee milk he was served from a very young age by his “granny and paw-paw,” usually while they were all sitting and visiting on the back porch.

“When I got older, I decided I wanted some real coffee,” he said. It’s always been a fascination, how to make something another person will like and in so doing, be able to share those same experiences.”

By “real” he meant a coffee that could be enjoyed with or without milk or cream and sugar, and the “experience” he wants to communicate with his coffee is a love of the great outdoors, and drinking coffee on the porch with family and friends.

“I’m trying to embody a flavor that screams get outside, go camping. Go hiking,” he said. “Enjoy everything Southwest Louisiana has to offer.”

Plaisance began his quest with a tiny coffee roaster.

“Imagine something the size of half a crockpot,” he said. “I started roasting on the back porch. Now we can push out 5 pounds in 11 minutes.”

After a year, family came onboard to help. Plaisance works full-time for the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The mascot for Deepwoods Coffee is Big Foot. Plaisance got his best friend, Ethen Walls, also a Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s deputy, to don a Big Foot suit for a day. This made a die-hard Big Foot fan’s day.

“The man had suffered a stroke a year ago and was in a wheelchair, but you should have seen his face light up when he saw Ethen in that suit.”

Plainsance’s coffees are a multi-origin roast, and he’s perfected two blends so far, which he’s named Big Foot and Snakebite.

“I never saw myself as a roaster,” he said, “just someone who enjoys coffee. Now I can’t think of anything else. It’s a good feeling.”

Quinn’s approach to a making a great cup of coffee took him to Guatamala.

“I’ve learned a lot since those Frappuccinos in college,” he said. “I didn’t realize all that went into making a cup of coffee, from the people who pick it to the people who ship it — it’s not grown anywhere in the U.S. except Hawaii — to the people who roast it.”

When Quinn gets his beans, the smell is similar to barley or hay, he said. Basically roasting the coffee refers to cooking the beans. Then those beans are ground for coffee making.

This production line encompasses multiple entities. All have a hand in the process, and that’s one of reasons why coffee can be expensive.

 “Coffee can have many taste variations,” he said, depending on the region where it’s from. Coffee from Guatemala can taste chocolaty because of the elevation and the volcanoes. Of course no one cares about that. All they’re concerned about it that it tastes good.”  

Quinn and Harris went to Guatemala as part of an apprenticeship program to learn the trade from start to finish from a master who has been roasting coffee there for 30 years, “the Jedi Master,” Quinn said.

They studied coffee roasting profiles, cupping coffee (taste tests where coffee is scored in different categories), the art of creating blends and the business side of things.

One of the many things Quinn and Harris determined when they finished the apprenticeships was that  they wanted to focus their business on Direct Trade, which Quinn says is different from Fair Trade.

Direct Trade is a type of sourcing where the roaster or distributor buys directly from the farmer, allowing the farmer to set his own price for coffee and not be forced to accept the lower market price, which could fluctuate depending on supply and demand. It w the farmer. The employees are paid better.

Quinn said in Guatemala there are wealthy landowners with hundreds of acres, but also local farmers with only 40 or 50 acres.

“They’re not making a ton, but it is their livelihood,” Quinn said. “Their berries are handpicked. Machine-picked is an issue for some buyers. Their whole family is generally involved in the process of drying the coffee and getting it ready.”

Because certain coffees dominate here in Southwest Louisiana, Quinn says the demwand for coffees that taste different, and especially those which meet Fair or Direct Trade standards will demand a culture shift. Millennials are already there.””

Deepwoods Coffee can be used as a pour over, in a French press or for espresso.

Special to the American Press

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