In the face of fierce competition, these locally owned coffee businesses keep faithful to their heritage. Here’s what the proprietors of Local Coffee, Paper Plane Coffee Co., and Trend Coffee & Tea House have to say about keeping Montclair fueled and what coffee culture means to them in this three-part series. The third book in the series is titled Paper Place.
Paper Plane Coffee Co. is the pinnacle of a multi-generational coffee-growing tradition, nestled on the outskirts of Montclair’s busy downtown.
Jonathan Echeverry, the owner, is a Colombian coffee farmer, so it’s no wonder that he grew up loving the beans. Echeverry spent his summers as a child, despite growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, at his grandfather’s coffee estate, “Villa Elisa,” in Colombia’s Risaralda area, which his family has held for over 75 years. He would get up at the crack of dawn to milk cows before a day of coffee picking.
“We were at the very top of this mountain,” Echeverry recounted, “so we’d wake up among the clouds or even above them.” “When we woke up, I would pick coffee until I became bored, then I would ride horses or chase cows. “I had a fantastic childhood.”
Echeverry claims that his great-great grandfather introduced coffee to the area, which was once a German colony. Coffee exports proved to be more profitable than beer and bread exports. Dark roast was the standard at the time, but it didn’t appeal to Echeverry’s palate.
“I drank my parents’ coffee as a kid, and I despised it. It was usually bitter, and I had to put a lot of sugar in it just to make it palatable,” Echeverry explained. “I discovered that the dark roast characteristic was established out of necessity in the past. When coffee was first exported to the United States 150 years ago, it wasn’t shipped very properly. It might have been mouldy by the time it arrived, languishing in a hangar gathering all the subtleties of flavour. So it was designed to roast out all of different tastes and produce a consistent flavour.”
According to Echeverry, this approach symbolises first-wave coffee, which provides “the exact same thing again and over.” Echeverry compares second-wave coffee to Starbucks, which maintains traditional roasting processes while introducing new values in terms of equipment and combining coffee with other ingredients.
Echeverry went to culinary school after graduation and worked in his family’s restaurant. He became interested in the tasting notes of wine, beer, and spirits after learning to make cocktails. “You might have these great-tasting meals, and they end it off with a mediocre coffee,” he observed when working in fine dining in New York. He dreamed of introducing coffee from his family’s farm to the speciality coffee industry in the United States, but he shelved the plan due to the difficulties involved.
“Bringing over the volume of coffee you would need, the expense, transportation, all that stuff is much much tougher than anyone will let on,” he added. Paper Plane buys beans from a neighbouring farmhouse in Santuario, Colombia, due to the difficulties of exporting coffee from his family’s tiny distribution farm.
Paper Plane strives to enhance the relationship between coffee producers and customers as a third-wave coffee store. Echeverry aims to establish a co-op farming structure that allows small-scale farmers to export together one day.