Coffee With Friends marks first anniversary
| IN|FW Newspapers
July 2, 2019
Coffee with friends is not just a social activity for conversation and enjoying rich, dark mocha. It’s also the name of a new niche coffee roasting business in New Haven. Coffee With Friends (CWF) marked its first year roasting and selling coffee in May and is hoping to expand its markets online and into more area restaurants.
Founded by Michigan natives Aaron and Michelle Cantrell, CWF coffee can now be purchased at Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market on Barr Street from May through September and Parkview Field from October through April. It’s also at Integrity Physical Therapy in New Haven and at NOLA 13 on Floor 13 of the Indiana Michigan Power building in Fort Wayne. In addition it can be purchased online at coffeewithfriends.coffee and on Facebook at coffeewithfriendsFW.
It all started when Aaron, who is described by Michelle as a “coffee snob,” bought some green Colombian coffee beans at Old Crown three years ago. He roasted them on a pizza pan in their oven. Some of them got burned, but he kept experimenting until he mastered it. “After a while,” Michelle said, “we had so much coffee we began giving it to friends. They liked it so much they said they would actually buy it. That’s when we decided we had a marketable product.
“We invested in a Behmor roaster,” she said, “which is about the size of a toaster oven. It could only do a half-a-pound at a time and we quickly outgrew it and had to upgrade to an Aillio Bullet roaster that can do a kilo of green beans at a time just to keep up with the demand. We now do our roasting in the commercial kitchen of a local church in order to meet the requirements of the health department. The beans, which come in 20- and 45-pound bags, are stored at the church.
What started as a hobby for Aaron, whose regular job is executive assistant to the pastor of a Fort Wayne church, has become a full-blown business. He does the roasting and she has been upgraded from coffee lover and supporter of his hobby to business partner who does the labeling, weighing, scooping and filling the 1-pound craft bags. She also makes deliveries for online sales in the Fort Wayne area free of charge.
“At our booth at the farmer’s market we offer samples of five different coffees,” Michelle said. “People tell us it’s kind of like wine tasting. Each blend has its own flavor notes ranging from chocolate and fruity to caramel and even smokey. Our labels profile the blends and the flavors customers should be able to experience. They come in both regular and decaffeinated. The unroasted beans have a sort of pleasant, grassy/earthy smell.”
Before getting to the commercial stage, Aaron did extensive research on coffee in general and specifically those from Honduras, India, Java, Indonesia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Tanzania, Peru and Costa Rica. He found a supplier in South Bend that keeps them in beans from all those countries. Honduras beans are used in a medium roast blend he calls Florida Morning and another that is a French roast called Quantum.
One that he and their 15-year-old son, Aiden, (already a coffee snob) invented is called “Goes to 11” which is a play on words from a movie about a heavy metal band. It means a step and beyond in flavor and roast level. It’s an extra-dark blend of Malabar and Guatemalan beans featuring notes of subtle spice, brown sugar and dark chocolate. The label features Aiden playing his guitar. It was just introduced June 15 at their farmers market booth.
Their goal is to get an even bigger roaster and open a storefront shop or possibly partner with a restaurant. “We’re getting close to being maxed out as to how much we can make with the present equipment,” she said.
The Cantrells view their customers as friends and strive to make the experience a relational community outreach. It’s a vehicle to build community around coffee. “One Sunday evening a month,” says Michelle, “we invite our faithful customers to come to our home on State Road 930 in New Haven to see how we roast our coffee and mix our blends. They can choose beans from one of our source countries, scoop it, roast it, bag it and take it home as a gift from Coffee With Friends.”