Pittsfield — “It is about caramelizing sugars,” explains Thomas Doyle, a fifteen-year coffee roasting veteran and co-owner, with his wife Julia, of Assembly Coffee Roasters in Pittsfield. The coffee bean, he points out, is a cherry seed; roasting coffee is really just the process of applying heat over a period of time to caramelize the sugars in that seed. Julia jumps in, “That’s why coffee really shouldn’t be bitter!”
Thomas and Julia started Assembly Coffee Roasters almost four years ago after moving to the Berkshires from New York City. “It was the perfect fit,” they agree. BerkShares even played a role in their introduction to the region — they found out about the local currency and “liked” it on Facebook even before moving here. “So once Assembly was up and running there was no question that we wanted to accept BerkShares,” explains Julia.
They came prepared. “Thomas likes to say we’re the only coffee roasters who ever wrote a business plan,” Julia laughs. Thomas had the roasting experience — he worked for Blue Bottle Coffee as it expanded from Oakland (California) to Brooklyn — and Julia had run her own contracting company building restaurant interiors in New York.
They came with a mission. Assembly Coffee Roasters focuses on small-batch custom roasting for restaurants and cafés around Berkshire County, Southern Vermont, and throughout New York’s capital region, while also offering a “rotating cast” of single-origin roasts at farmers’ markets in Pittsfield, Bennington, and Schenectady.
Their wholesale accounts with businesses like Methuselah, District, Public Eat + Drink, and Mission are their bread and butter, but Julia and Thomas especially love selling at farmers’ markets, where they can talk to coffee drinkers directly, and where the BerkShares sticker on their coffee urn often sparks conversations. In addition, they provide barista training to all their wholesale customers, including background on where their coffee comes from and the science behind preparing a perfect cup.
“We find that it’s energizing for our customers to learn about our product,” says Julia. In a world full of commodity coffee, Assembly Coffee Roasters buys from small-scale farmers. “In most cases they do not just grow coffee, but they also grow food for their communities,” says Thomas. This coffee, he says, supplements the income of family farmers in local economies in developing nations. “It’s not part of the mono-cropping big giant coffee corporation thing.”
Thomas and Julia take pride in the way that Assembly Coffee Roasters is entwined with family farmers on one end and BerkShares businesses on the other. The couple praise the spirit of cooperation and support for small businesses here in the Berkshires, and choose local suppliers and service providers whenever they can.
Julia concludes, “One of the things that inspires me about coffee is that an informed decision can effect a daily dose of global change; you can put your money in the hands of people who need it.” At the same time, Thomas adds, by choosing conscious coffee like Assembly Coffee Roasters you can encourage farmers to create a product that is farmed in a way that’s better for people and the planet. And, he notes, “it tastes better.”