Roaster of the Month: Qualia Coffee

“I would recommend the Tanzania but we are almost out, so if you like it that would really be too bad. Or maybe that’d be a cool thing, to have the final cup” the barista at Qualia said excitedly.

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I hit Qualia Coffee at a perfect time: many of the seats were taken and there was a cozy ambiance, but there was no one else in line so I felt comfortable prodding the baristas for some tips. I’m a fairly recent coffee snob convert but I know I like a fruity acidic pour over. I’m interested in branching out so I calculated that a visit to down-to-Earth Qualia would be rewarding.

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I told the barista what my favorite coffee is (Ethiopian Yirgacheffe) and asked if he could recommend something. He and his partner enthusiastically checked out their 12 rotating offerings and wondered if I’d like the Burundi (I’ve had a Burundi from Vigilante and really enjoyed it), but ultimately settled on the Tanzania after I consented to possibly having my heart broken if I loved it (I did, and it was).

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It is service and offerings like this that made Qualia our first stop for Roaster of the Month.

Purveyor Joel Finkelstein has gained a cult following for being such a coffee enthusiast (maniac? snob?) and he prides himself in offering the freshest beans imaginable. They vow to pull the beans off their shelf after three days if they haven’t sold (a rare occurrence) and they offer information on their labels about the region and if possible, the farm, the coffee came from.

At Qualia they aim for variety, using about 20 different importers – some major coffee import companies but they also use smaller single-source importers. Using single-source importers means that the importer works exclusively with a specific farm, allowing Qualia to sometimes even buy an entire inventory and offer coffee that is not available anywhere else.

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Joel is such a good sport, and truly passionate about coffee: he laughed when he said he doesn’t do it for the money, but rather because he finds it so interesting and he loves learning about coffee. It is a craft for him, and he likes focusing on brew coffee more than espresso drinks (though they do offer them and they are really tasty!)

If you follow coffee gossip, you may have read that Qualia Coffee was the first purchaser of the Poursteady mechanical pour over. Using the Poursteady ensures consistency with his coffee, and allows Joel’s baristas to spend more time interacting with customers (like me)! It also means they can tailor smaller pours, so they can offer a flight of coffees – 3- 4 oz servings of different bean varieties.

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Additionally, he continues to offer free coffee tastings every 2nd and 4th Sunday at 2 PM. Note that these are tastings, not cuppings. Joel is simply interested in having you try a variety of coffees from different regions to help you taste different nuances. He and his full-time roaster Charles do the hard work with the cuppings, testing out beans and roasts about two-dozen times per month while finding the best combinations before they roll them out into the cafe.

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One final note: They do not offer wholesale beans (as they wouldn’t want to lose the quality control aspect of how long beans sit on shelves), but they attend a handful of geographically spaced out farmers markets where their beans are sold within 24 hours of roasting and the coffee is made to order. And look for a new storefront to open in Eckington by the end of the year (or early in 2017. Has anyone else noticed the red tape small businesses have to cut through to announce an opening date?)

The stats:

Roaster manufacturer: Modified US Roaster Corp 3 Kilo
Calibration Program/software: Custom
Capacity: 6 lb per batch output
How many batches per hour: 2
Lbs per day/month: Approx 30-100 lbs /day ; Approx 1500 lb / month
Bean sourcing (direct trade/importers): Use over 20 importers – some major like Royal Coffee and Balzac, some single source importers
Cuppings frequency: Once a week/approx 2 dozen samples per month
Packaging: Paper bags
Where to buy: Currently offering retail at coffee shop, local farmers markets and online, see Qualia website for details
BONUS:
Personal favorite region: Can’t pick a favorite, but tend to consistently find great beans from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia, Ethiopia, Malawi and Flores.
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now: Costa Rica Teruma Natural (exclusive offering), Papua New Guinea Sero Bebes (just arrived) and Honduras Villa Luara.

We love to hear from you – have you tasted Qualia’s fresh coffees?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

 

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