Even with a half dozen dedicated coffee shops in the downtown Newark area, Joe Lins and Olivia Brinton thought the market needed Little Goat Coffee Roasting Co.
“There really isn’t anyone doing what we wanted to do,” Brinton said, emphasizing the two wanted to offer freshly roasted, organically grown and fairly traded coffee.
In September, the business partners opened up shop at 16 Haines St. Unlike other coffee shops, all of the roasting is done right there, and customers can see the process taking place through an open half-wall cutout between a cozy sitting area and the roasting room.
Beverages are available to enjoy there or to go, and people can also buy bags of Little Goat coffee. Little Goat is right around the corner from the Main Street Starbucks, but Lins said he never saw that as a negative.
“In the beginning, we definitely got a little foot traffic from people not even knowing about us, who were on their way to Starbucks,” Lins said.
The response from the area has been beyond their expectations. Last month, a sales report showed 70 percent of customers from one recent weekday were returning customers, based on their credit cards, Brinton said.
Old family friends, Lins and Brinton started talking about a roasting business when Brinton moved back to the area in 2013. Brinton had worked at Dynamite Roasting Company in North Carolina while away for school, and Lins experimented in home roasting. In August 2016, renovations began at their new location, which was once home to Switch and Newark Natural Foods Co-op.
The business is as much about serving coffee as it is about educating coffee drinkers. The name Little Goat is a reference to an Ethiopian legend that tells of a goat herder who noticed his goats became particularly energetic when they ate the berries of a certain tree.
The story of coffee is at the forefront at Little Goat, where the image of a kicking goat is stamped onto each paper bag of freshly roasted coffee. At the counter, a set of laminated cards gives background information on each type of bean the business is currently roasting.
“We source our beans as ethically as we can,” Brinton said. “So, we do a lot of primary research on the farms where the coffee is grown, how the farmers are being treated, how the beans are processed, how much the farmers are getting paid for their crop, the environmental impact of that farm.”
Because coffee is a seasonal crop that cannot grow in the U.S., their beans come from all over the world by way of Royal Coffee, a New York-based importer. Lins and Brinton take turns roasting the coffee, pouring green beans from big burlap bags into their small-batch roaster, yielding 5 to 6 pounds of roasted beans per batch. Batches take about 15 minutes to roast, and the machine can heat up to 450 degrees.
On the menu, the emphasis is on the coffee, with only a few baked goods available at the counter. There is no blender to make frozen drinks, and all syrups are made in house using local ingredients. Brinton came up with the limited menu, which also includes such specialties as an orange cold brew soda, matcha and a spiced honey latte.
Eventually, Lins and Brinton would like to grow the wholesale side of their business. They currently supply The Perfect Cup Café and The House of William &Merry in Hockessin.
“Our intention is for our coffee to be served in other coffee shops, restaurants, office buildings, libraries,” Brinton said. “Anywhere that has coffee, we want to serve our coffee.”
By Dara McBride Special to the Post
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