In a classic Rhode Island mill, near what most historians suggest are the origins of the American industrial revolution, another revolution of a sort is brewing – literally. Begun at the start of this new millennium, New Harvest Coffee Roasters represent a completely different approach to both coffee, and to the relationship between business owners, workers, and suppliers. In the first decade of the 19th Century children were the labor that powered the new textile mills of colonial America. Working, eating and sleeping in mill villages, these children were entirely at the mercy of the mill owners who could work them as long and pay them as little as they wanted. Today New Harvest is not only concerned with the welfare of its workers, but with the standard of living of farmers in third world countries whose very lives are dependent. upon the quality and quantity of their seasonal coffee crop. New Harvest sells only Fair Trade coffees – coffee that has been produced in areas where the farmers are guaranteed a living wage. Of course liberal politics do not necessarily translate into flavor. For the consumer New Harvest owner Rik Kleinfeldt has also committed to purchasing only the best and freshest coffees, not just recognizable names or regional favorites, and to using roasting and packaging practices that emphasize freshness and extended shelf life. That’s why the most well known names aren’t always available. New Harvest orders only from those producers whose latest crop has the experts raving! Rik’s coffee roasting philosophy goes even deeper than quality. His philosophy includes purity. When Rik started roasting back in 1990 the business still young and it was all about the coffee. However the industry has now evolved into something splashy and trendy with chai, frozen drinks and stainless steel travel mugs taking all the attention away from what is important — the coffee. So Rik went back to basics, started his own roasting company where he places complete focus on the coffee. As you can see and taste, Rik’s love of the bean runs deep. He is also one of the few who still roast in the traditional New England style which is brilliantly and coincidentally this month’s featured fresh-roasted selection.
Gem City Blend
In most of America’s coffee shops the house blend is often a Full City Roast – epitomized by the ubiquitous Pacific-coast style and many of its imitators. In New England however, the tradition of a lighter roast, with an emphasis on acidity, still rules. Remember, acidity in coffee does not suggest either sourness or acid flavor. Rather a coffee’s acidity is its briskness, or the brightness of its flavor. Without proper acidity a coffee often sleeps on the palate, and the darker the roast the less acidity (yawn). Perhaps one of the reasons for the success of the darker roasts is that heavier flavors can mask some of the less desirable aspects of certain beans. When experimenting with unusual beans and blends –as roasters and coffee drinkers often like to do, it is often easier to produce a palatable product by going the darker, Full City route. Rik Kleinfeldt must then use all his skills to consistently produce a lighter New England roast. He knows that the quality of his beans is paramount, and his skill as a roaster critical, to produce a light, crisp cup where the distinct varietals enhance rather than distract from its overall flavor. Gem City Blend does not mask its complexity, in search of a common denominator. Rather it celebrates freshness, quality, and New England’s love of tradition. By the way, you might wonder how the New England style evolved in the first place. Well the one reasonable theory is that – when tea was rejected by in the mid-1700s, coffee soon became the patriotic drink of choice. Yet merchants faced the quandary of trying to sell a product that was far more exotic –and expensive, then tea. A lighter roast was, to some degree, a more profitable roast because it retained more of its moisture and therefore, weight. The name Gem City comes from Rik’s home town of Dayton Ohio. There are no gems in Dayton, but many think the name came from the pride the founding fathers had in their new city. And Rik is just as proud of his flagship blend.