Why Local? COFFEE!
We toured our local coffee vendors to bring you a glimpse into
why supporting local matters!
If you haven't been following us for very long, or haven't had a chance to talk to us or our staff about what makes Gracie's special, let me set the stage a little bit. We do everything here at Gracie's from scratch, and we try to source as much local as possible. This summer, Jim and Gracie want to take you on a tour of our local vendors that we work with to show you where your food comes from, why it's so important to support local, and why we care so much about the food and beverages we serve you.
This week, we're starting off with coffee! The two companies we really feel are killing it in the coffee game locally took us on tours of their facilities, showed us around, and sat down to chat with us about why they love what they do, why their coffee is the best, and why local matters.
First stop- Lancaster County Coffee Roasters!
Jim, Gracie, Hannah, and Baby JW all piled into the car and headed down to Lancaster County Coffee Roasters facility on Ross St. in Lancaster
Scott Smith, who owns of Lancaster County Coffee Roasters along with his father, greeted us last week at their facility on Ross St. in the city to show us how they roast, blend and package their amazing coffees, and to chat all things coffee. First, a little history on this awesome company: Scott's father purchased the company in 2002, and at the time it was strictly a distribution company. Scott and his brother came on board not long after, and wanted to do something that would help them stand out in the market- so they decided to start experimenting with roasting their own coffee. It allowed them to control the product they were sending out. They began to roast and package their own blends. Since then, they have also added retail locations in Lancaster's Central Market, and York's Eastern Market.
Scott took us on a tour of their facility, which looks deceptively small from the outside considering how many thousands of pounds of coffee leave this place every week.
Funny side story- I asked if it was alright that I was bringing JW with us, and Scott's reply was, "Sure! As long as he doesn't mind a dusty, dirty warehouse!" Well, let me tell you, that was the cleanest warehouse I have ever seen! Their facility, though seemingly small, not only gets the job done, it was very clean and organized. Not a stray coffee bean to be seen!
Scott shows us the green coffee beans before they are roasted. They'll roast about 8-9 skid loads of these beans each week.
So, they roast a lot of coffee... Scott said they roast anywhere from 1,000-1,500 pounds of coffee each day! But don't let that fool you, they are still a true small roaster- they have just one roaster, a beautiful, bright red machine that sits in the center of the first warehouse. They roast about 50 pounds of coffee beans at a time. So each batch is truly a small roast. They also package everything on site right there as well. Doing it this way ensures maximum freshness. The coffee we get delivered every Tuesday was roasted within just a day or two.
Their roasting machine working on a batch of coffee... The smell was enough to
drive even a non-coffee drinker mad! It was intoxicating!
The other half of their warehouse facility is dedicated to their service department. There are shelves and shelves of all kinds of coffee brewing and dispensing equipment. This is the part of their business that Scott tells us really sets their business apart. For restaurants that use Lancaster County Coffee Roasters coffee, they offer free equipment and servicing. I can speak from personal experience that these guys are great at getting in and getting you back up and running in no time!
One of the last things I asked Scott was his opinion on the coffee culture in Lancaster. If you're not local, you may not realize just how many roasters and coffee shops are here in this small city- it's a lot. Sometimes Hannah and I joke that a new coffee place opens every 6 months! So I was curious how Scott feels about all the competition.
His response? "I think it's great! The more the better. Everyone brings something different or unique- and there's room for everyone at the table."
I just thought to myself, WOW! That's exactly Jim and my philosophy on new restaurants. The more the merrier! More of anything in a field, whether coffee or restaurants, is good for the local economy. And with all these options, you're bound to become a coffee drinker yet!
My final thought on our trip to Lancaster County Coffee Roasters was this: Scott is really great at giving his staff all the credit. He talked a lot about how a majority of their success was because he let his people just be good at what they do. And I think the results speak for themselves.
Second stop of the day- Twin Valley Coffee Co.!
This tiny little gazebo on the side of the road along Rt. 23 out in Elverson (think Morgantown Walmart) is deceptive! Don't believe me? Stop out for a visit and you'll see what I mean. From the outside it doesn't look big enough to hold a coffee shop, on the inside it couldn't be more charming. And the coffee? It made a beleiver out of me, and I don't even like coffee! Hahaha... But Hannah insisted I try one of their Iced Toddy's back in February, and she and I have been sneaking away to Morgantown whenever we can make the excuse ever since.
This small operation puts out big flavor. I sat down with the owners, a wonderful husband and wife team, to find out more about how they came to roast coffee and what makes their product unique, and had a really great time getting to know them. Lynn Burkholder, and his wife Lynne, are about as adorable as you can get. They make a pretty great team, and were gracious enough to take time out of their schedules to sit down with me and tell me their story and chat cold brew coffee.
It began just about 12 years ago at a dinner party... a friend was roasting his own beans and brought some to dinner. They ground them up for after dinner coffee, and an idea was planted. It wasn't long before Lynn started experimenting with roasting. In 2010, they started selling their roasted beans at the Elverson farmer's market. But when the season was over, their now loyal customers wanted to know where they could get their coffee during the off season. They began to retail their coffee with local markets, like Shady Maple. As they continued to grow their company, the opportunity landed in their lap to put up a roadside gazebo to sell coffee drinks. In 2012, the Twin Valley Gazebo opened it's little doors. It was a unique idea that worked out quite perfectly!
I quickly learned as we chatted that they aren't as little of an operation as you might think by looking at the roadside gazebo. They sell their unique cold brew and coffee roasts from Philadelphia to Lancaster and beyond. It isn't out of the ordinary to have a customer drive from an hour away for one of their cold brews. So why the radical loyalty? Lynn says it's because of how he makes their cold brew, a process that has 7 unique steps totally different from what other people are doing. Curious? Well you don't have to drive all the way to Elverson to find out if it's as good as everyone says! This summer, we're proud to offer Twin Valley cold brew coffee on Nitro tap here at Gracie's!
Hannah poses with an Iced Toddy, Twin Valley's signature drink!
I asked Lynn what their focus was at Twin Valley, and without hesitation he replied, "Innovation!" From being one of the first in the country to put cold brew on a nitro tap, to the Nitro Cold Brew Lemonade on their drink menu- Twin Valley Coffee is always on the front edge of the coffee business, staying ahead of the trends. It was obvious to me, from our short conversation, that Lynn was passionate about this business, and about creating the highest quality products possible. And really, that's all it takes sometimes- a passion for quality, a passion for what you do, a passion to be better.
Ultimately, that's why I love both Lancaster County Coffee Roasters and Twin Valley Coffee- I got to spend a day with Hannah and Jim talking to some people who were passionate about what they do, who were committed to excellence. That kind of passion and commitment is something you can taste. And what's more- they are people who live right here in this little part of planet Earth, people that we have an opportunity to support and share in what they are trying to accomplish. That's why local is important- it's about people. It's about supporting not just the owners, but the employees that work for them. Supporting people who are good at what they do. Supporting passion. So skip Starbucks just for one day and visit Lancaster County Coffee Roasters at the Lancaster Central Market, or go for a lovely country drive out to Elverson to see the adorable Coffee Gazebo. (Or just visit Gracie's to get both at once!) You won't regret the amazing coffee, and you for sure won't regret supporting local men and women who are putting out a quality product.
Follow these amazing companies online!