After tasting his first good espresso, Empire Tea & Coffee owner CJ Barone discovered coffee house culture in his second year of college. Now, with two coffee house locations, CJ continues to grow and change, just like his beans.
Where do you get your beans?
We focus on small estate or growing co-ops for all of our coffees. Once we changed our brewing program to this philosophy, it has opened our taste buds up to the differences that exist due to different geographic locations, processing techniques, roasting skill and, finally, in the choices we make in brewing the coffee.
What are the new trends in coffee?
Single cup brewing has become more popular and has been changing the way people interact with their barista. It gives them an opportunity to hear the story about the cup of coffee they are about to drink. Cup brewing gives you the opportunity to fine-tune each coffee to bring out the flavor that is hidden inside.
What is one piece of equipment everyone should have at home?
A gram scale is easily the most important item we use. We weigh all our beans and water when brewing by the cup. For brewed coffee you need good fresh hot water (205 degrees) and fresh ground coffee (plan for 20g of coffee and 340g of water to make a 12-14 oz cup).
I hear you are starting to roast your own beans. Why now?
Four years ago we switched to being a multi-roaster retailer, which has been great for us. We've had great access to some of the best beans and the best roast masters in the industry and it has developed our paate and helped us to appreciate the work that goes into making a great cup of coffee. We have always looked for new roasters to add in as a guest supplier and we now have an opportunity to help start a new roasting company.
Are you a coffee purist? Do you only drink it black?
Sort of. I do drink my coffee black now just so I can taste the flavor notes and to see how the cup develops as it cools. I've also been known to douse my diner coffee with cream and sugar when I go out for brunch somewhere. Ultimately, I don't think there is a bad way to drink coffee. If you enjoy what you are drinking and you are happy, then it was prepared correctly.