Picture a Folgers commercial - the gurgle of a coffee maker, morning sun streaming into the kitchen. A woman descends, wrapped in a plush bathrobe, and pours a steamy cup of coffee. She closes her eyes, breathes in the aroma, sips, and smiles as if she and her coffee cup share an intimate secret.
This is “the best part of waking up,” and it sure seems swell. But how many people do you know who are that enraptured with their canned coffee? Make it a cup of Dogwood Kenya Natural Process, and the scenario seems more plausible. You definitely know a good cup of coffee when you smell it, and there’s nothing better. When your senses lead you to the source, it should taste exactly as good as it smells. This, however, is an experience that is rare in the lives of the average coffee drinker. Too rare, if you ask Craft Coffee.
“We started out with the genuine belief that people’s coffee experience can be better,” said marketing director Patti Maciesz. Craft Coffee is a subscription based service that aims to spread coffee connoisseurship to the general public. The company curates three coffee selections each month that are hand labeled, bagged, boxed, and shipped directly to your door.
This is a novel concept when you consider the market. For example, you can walk into any wine and spirits store to sort through a selection of wines from all over the world. There is simply no equivalent for coffee, despite the fact that we probably drink larger quantities on a more regular basis (generally speaking, of course). Even in the diverse urban wonderland that is New York City, great coffee can be hard to come by. Unless you have time to track down a good shop on your way to work, you generally end up sucking down some Starbucks brew (which more people seem to rag on than rave about). Craft Coffee is dedicated to changing that.
“Coffee is something that touches all of our lives. We’re trying to take it from a habit to something that can be a really special daily ritual,” Maciesz said. This requires an emphasis on the truly artisanal quality of good coffee. Appreciating coffee is all about recognizing the individuality of each brew. “We want people to recognize that there are many steps in the process,” she added, “from farming the coffee to removing the seed, to drying the bean, to roasting. Roasting is a craft; an excellent roaster takes extreme care.”
Craft Coffee has relationships with these roasters all over the United States, who each ship a variety of samples each month. Craft Coffee then has the tricky job of choosing the best three selections, from the dozens of coffees it tests. “The whole tasting process is really key,” Maciesz said, “because it’s not just about the coffees being good enough, it’s about them being outstanding.” So how do they determine which make the cut? There are pros for that. Craft Coffee enlists the services of some of New York’s most famous coffee tasters. The coffee tasting process, called “cupping,” is fascinating in and of itself. Coffee tasters approach their duty with the same reverence as a serious oenophile would. The tasters smell the coffee grounds both dry and wet. Once the coffee is brewed they suck a small amount noisily through their teeth to spray the coffee across their palates. The tasters construct a unique flavor profile for each variety of coffee. All this labor ends in the selection of only the three best coffees, which are packed into sample-size (4 oz) bags and shipped directly to subscribers.
You don’t have to be able to taste elderberries and woodsmoke in your brew to appreciate the craft varieties. “There is a misconception that you need to have some kind of elevated tasting mechanism,” Maciesz said, noting that even unrefined taste buds can appreciate the difference. “We have people literally tell us, ‘Wow, this is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.’ They don’t know why, but they know it’s great.” The object is to provide coffee drinkers not just with the opportunity to discover that Folgers feeling but with the opportunity to explore and refine their tastes. Each sample is clearly labeled according to roaster, producer, origin, variety, elevation, and process, and each element adds a unique dimension to the brew. Once you start identifying where your tastes lie on the spectrum of each category, you’re well on your way to discovering the perfect cup.
Now in its sixth month of existence, Craft Coffee is shipping to some 500 subscribers located anywhere from Brooklyn to Japan. Subscriptions go for 20 dollars per month and you can opt in for a range of time periods. At present, the company is focused on exposing as many people as possible to the world’s artfully produced coffee. “Nothing like this exists,” Maciesz said. “Nowhere else can you have a curated, artisanal experience,” at least not one that comes to you - a major perk for those living in remote areas where independent coffee shops aren’t very common. With the wonderful expedience of modern delivery methods, there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t have access to fresh, carefully-produced coffee beans. Craft gives coffee drinkers what consumers love most: choice, along with a message that clearly states, “No, America, we do not have to run on Dunkin’.”