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Wednesday, June 25,2014

New in town

Strange Matter Coffee Co.

by ALLAN I. ROSS
Craft beer is so last week. Entrepreneur Cara Nader is riding the next wave of specialty beverage production: Craft coffee. Nader is the owner/operator and “chief coffee engineer” for Strange Matter Coffee Co., a new café coming soon to Lansing’s newly named East Town district.

“I definitely see a big change coming in the approach to coffee (consumption),” Nader said. “We had that coffee boom 20 years ago where places had menus so big you had to stare at them for 10 minutes. Things are scaling back. It’s becoming much more accessible.”

Nader’s theory fits in with the national trend of becoming familiar with your food. The same mindset that spawned the farm-to-table movement will get people to start asking questions like when their coffee beans were harvested.

“Coffee is like fruit — it’s not always going to be in season,” Nader said. “You shouldn’t always be able to get the same beans yearround. I look at it as a culinary experience.”

Nader is a brewer; she leaves the roasting to the pros. She uses several small batch roasters, including Populace in Bay City, Passion House Coffee Roasters in Chicago and Lansing’s Craft & Mason Roasting Co. She only plans to keep limited, handmade syrups in-house, and only two sizes of orders — no more confusing grandes and ventis.

But the time you won’t spend trying to choose between a tall double mocha decaf latte skim no whipped and triple red eye nonfat caramel macchiato you’ll spend waiting for your coffee to brew: Each cup is handmade to order, with carefully weighed water and coffee portions and precisely managed water temperature. It’s a process that takes about three minutes, but Nader is confident it’s worth the wait.

“It’s only been in the last few years that proper temperature research has determined how hot the water should be for coffee to be brewed,” Nader said. “It should between 198 and 205 degrees (Fahrenheit). If it’s not hot enough, it won’t extract oils that give the coffee its flavor.”

She utilizes a Chemex coffee maker, a glass carafe that looks like a wine decanter. Water is brought to boil in a separate pot at the exact temperature she wants and poured through freshly ground beans and the filter. For all the high tech methodology, it’s a decidedly low-tech operation.

“Nothing plugs in,” she said. “Less machinery makes it easier to control the results.”

And as for that name: Strange matter is theoretical form of liquid matter. She said she had kicked around a few names before settling on this one, which she thinks fits the business perfectly.

“It reflects my scientific approach to coffee,” she said. “It’s a science thing. I know, it’s nerdy.”

Until Strange Matter opens, Nader will sell her coffee at the Allen Street Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 2:30 to 6 p.m. She’s also started selling her New Orleans-style iced coffee, cold brewed and steeped in chicory.

So what does she predict as the next craft craze?

“I think we’re primed for a wave of craft pastries,” she said. “We need a doughnut movement.”

Strange Matter Coffee Co. 2001 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing Opening late July strangemattercoffee.com

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