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Wednesday, March 5,2014

Java men

New Lansing ‘micro-roastery’ keeps the focus on coffee beans

by Katy Barth
Thursday, Mar. 5 — For some people, enjoying a fresh cup of joe is more than pressing the brew button on a coffeemaker — it’s a daily sacrament. For those who take their coffee seriously, the Lansing-based “micro-roastery” business Craft & Mason Roasting Co., which produces locally roasted coffee beans, was launched late last year. Founding co-owners Eric Craft, 38, and Jeremy Mason, 31, say their goal is to provide caffeine junkies with farm fresh coffee.

“All of the flavors in the coffee are built at the farm level,” Mason said. “If the coffee isn’t good (or) it wasn’t farmed well, there’s no way to roast that into the product.”

Craft and Mason research each farm thoroughly before sending their supplier to further inspect the product and buy it directly from farmers in Guatemala, El Salvador, Columbia and Sumatra. Mason admits they pay more for their beans than other coffee shops, but he said they’re paying for the quality and care.

“The farmer was passionate about farming and processing the coffee to the best of (his) ability and I think we enjoy the taste of it because of that,” Mason said of one of his bean suppliers. Craft & Mason is an online business only; the two roast the beans on Monday, ship their product on Tuesday and if you’re local, it will arrive at your door on Wednesday. Prices range from $15 to $20.50 per 12 oz. bag (5-pound bags are also available), with $100 six-month memberships available.

The two geek out when looking for new coffee beans. Similar to wine, the taste of coffee depends on its location, elevation and how it’s processed. This information, along with the farmers’ names, is listed on every coffee package.

Craft and Mason work out of a residence north of Dewitt, with all retail done through their website, craftandmason.com. The two are looking into partnering with Lansing businesses to get their product on the shelves or at least samples to try.

Educating coffee drinkers is what excites Craft the most. He was unaware of the complex nature of home roasting before meeting Mason at Riverview Church in Delhi Charter Township.

“Jeremy is the reason why I became passionate about coffee,” Craft said. “Coffee is like beer. You drink the popular stuff because you were blinded to the craft and specialty brews.”

Craft and Mason didn’t start out as coffee experts. They said that through experimentation, they opened their palates to the diverse flavors available. They want to introduce others to these flavors as well.

Their La Concordia roast presents a pleasant mixture of tart and sweet. The overall experience tastes like chocolate-covered raspberries. Initially it’s sharp and acidic, yet it finishes with a lingering candid flavor, like molasses.

The coffee bean is the seed of a coffee “cherry.” Freshly plucked, it’s green and looks like a split pea. It doesn’t turn the usual brown color we’re used to seeing until after it roasted — and it turns out, you don’t need anything fancier than an Orville Redenbacher popcorn machine, the first piece of equipment Craft & Mason had, purchased from a local Salvation Army. Similar to popcorn, coffee beans have a little moisture in them; when the seeds are heated, the moisture is forced out of it and the seed swells. Craft said this results in the caramelized beans that we’re used to, from the usual suspects, such as Starbucks.

Unlike Starbucks coffee, however, Craft & Mason doesn’t roast its beans as long, creating a lighter flavored brew. With the use of a computer, the pair tracks the amount of heat they’re applying, when they’re introducing it and for how long they applying it to the bean. These factors result in different flavors.

One request that Craft said he asks of his customers is to try their first sip “organically,” without cream or sugar, because you might enjoy what it naturally has to offer.

“Sometimes its best to just let the bean to do the talking,” Craft said.

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