For Roasters & Retailers

Coffee market percolating

There’s something brewing in Utica and it doesn’t come in a Dunkin’ Donuts or even a Starbucks cup.

FoJo Beans, a small batch artisan coffee roaster, has slowly been expanding throughout Central New York, including in Oneida County, where it’s sold at the Oneida County Public Market, Peter’s Cornucopia, the Rosemont Inn Bed &Breakfast and the soon-to-open Smith Market in Bagg’s Square in Utica. Look for it also at the Waterville Standard Bakery, Morgan’s Hardware in Waterville and Joe’s Jerky in Sherrill.

The Norwich-based company is renovating a building in Hamilton — the former No. 10 Tavern on Utica Street — to serve as its new headquarters, coffee roasting location and flagship café.

Founders Dan Foust and Dan Joseph — hence FoJo from their last — expect it to open sometime this fall.

The pair looked in all directions geographically when pondering growth, but found the best fit in the Hamilton farmer’s market.

“Because Madison County is a pioneer in the local food movement, we were such a natural fit,” Joseph said.

Their business isn’t just about the best beans, best roast and best blend; it’s about relationships and the stories that grow out of those relationships, the pair said. Although they are not fair trade or organic certified, they only buy from importers with whom they have relationships. That means they know everything about the beans they buy, including that the workers are fairly paid and fairly treated, and that growers use sustainable practices, they said.

That’s what makes them such a good fit with the local food movement, Foust said.

“They want to know their farmer,” he said. “They want to know the story behind their food.”

Waterville Standard Bakery partnered with FoJo on a special blend that it sells to complement their French pastries.

“Their coffee is delicious and they’re passionate about what they do,” said Martine Cook, who owns the bakery along with her husband, Jack. “I think that’s something we have in common.”

Cook said she and her husband respect the way Foust and Joseph always are learning and trying to make their coffee better.

And the Dans do talk about coffee with reverence, their expressions turning beatific as they talk about the perfect cup made with the highest quality beans, grown at the right altitude, roasted to perfection, blended exquisitely and consumed without cream or sugar so that the beans’ subtle nuances slowly blossom on the palate.

They quip that they call the spot where the cream and sugar will go in their new café the “bastardization bar,” but their snobbery is at least somewhat tongue in cheek and they say they’re happy as long as their customers find their coffee “yummy.”

(Cook pointed out that her baker’s blend was deliberately chosen to be “delicious” with cream.)

Foust didn’t start life as a coffee connoisseur. He was a lifelong Eight O’Clock coffee drinker until he met Joseph when they were both living in Denver where they learned about coffee and roasting from a local company.

” Dan Joseph, before he even finds a doctor, he finds a coffee roaster,” Foust said.

After falling in love with the people in the Norwich area, they moved in, bought a used coffee roaster and moved it into a converted workshop in their garage. FoJo Beans was born in 2012.

FoJo sells 24 coffees, including both single origin coffees and blends and three decafs, but no flavored blends. The names tend to say something about the personality of the blend and probably of the Dans, too — Namaste, FoJo MoJo, Stubborn Curmudgeon, Faux Jo Decaf and, for an espresso, Harried Philosopher.

Tea lovers, don’t despair. Foust convinced Joseph to see teas, too, recognizing that many tea drinkers don’t like coffee. Although they only sell a few blends now, they hope to have a wall of bins selling more than 50 loose leaf tea blends in their flagship, all chosen with the same care as their coffee beans.

It’s a business steeped in its founders’ values, values they hope their customers will find worthwhile and delicious.

By Amy Neff Roth, Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.


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