What’s in a coffee bean?

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Staff photo by Cole Dittmer 

Scott McLean, Port City Java director of roasting, demonstrates how the largest coffee roaster, “Amber,” churns out loads of roasted single-origin beans from around the world during a tour of the facility Saturday, March 15.


To give customers a look behind the scenes and to spread awareness about what goes into every cup of coffee served, one Saturday a month Port City Java holds tours of its roasting facility. 

Although coffee is the second most valuable traded commodity and third most consumed beverage globally, CEO Steven Schnitzler said a majority of those who come on the tour have no idea how much intensive work goes into the final product. 

Schnitzler leads the Saturday tours with director of roasting Scott McLean.

It takes four years for a coffee tree to bear fruit. Each harvesting season consists of three months of nonstop work for the harvesters and farmers in countries like Costa Rica, Columbia, Brazil, Sumatra, Ethiopia and Kenya. 

 “It is not uncommon to see $5 cups of brewed coffee but it amazes me that every single cup of coffee is not $5, because it is a ridiculous amount of work and it is almost all manual,” Schnitzler said. “Everybody who has come on this tour so far has loved it and most folks say, ‘I had no idea.’ We figured that is where the biggest education is.”

While showing off all the varieties of single-origin imported beans, Schnitzler said the Port City Java house roast went from using one to a combination of three different single-origin coffees a few years ago. 

“What we discovered was that, like any natural crop product, you have good years and bad years,” he said. “In order to have your coffee taste the same all the time we went to a blending, so we can increase or decrease some of the proportions to keep it exactly the same.” 

Set off in a separate room is the Free Trade organic coffee roaster and production area. Schnitzler said 20 percent of every dollar made in the coffee industry goes to coffee houses and retailers like Port City Java, but only 10 percent returns to the coffee producers and farmers. 

“It does increase the price of coffee, especially for [Free Trade organic] coffee, but this helps get the revenue back to the producers in an industry that is notoriously bad to its producers and farmers,” Schnitzler said. “It is crucial that we keep this a viable means of income for them because if it isn’t then it is going to be taken over by big agri-business.”

New for Port City Java in 2014 will be an Oleander Drive relocation when the café in Arboretum Centre moves to the former Dunkin’ Donuts building at 5709 Oleander Drive. Schnitzler said at the earliest the new café would be open by mid-May. 

Another new addition to the cafés will be a single-origin, reserve Columbian coffee. Schnitzler said the coffee would be more expensive because only 10 bags of the coffee were produced, of which Port City Java purchased two.

“The more educated our consumer is, the more likely we are going to have a market for things like that reserve coffee because they will understand why that coffee costs so much,” he said. “So aside from us just loving to share the knowledge and being coffee geeks, there is a self-serving means to hosting these tours.”

email cole@luminanews.com 

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