Ray: I’m Ray.
Kandace: I’m Kandace.
Ray: Welcome to Unpacking Coffee. This week …
Kandace: I don’t know how to say it, Ray! Aah!
Ray: This week Devoción Coffee of Williamsburg, New York City.
Kandace: This is a really interesting coffee roaster.
Ray: Interesting roaster.
Ray: They roast and sell only Colombian coffee.
Kandace: Mm-hmm, with an O.
Early Days in Colombia
Ray: Why don’t you tell me … Why don’t you tell me a bit about their history. Where did they come from? What do they do? Who started it?
Kandace: Okay, so this is a company founded by Steven Sutton who we chatted with. He grew up in Colombia. And actually, when they first got started, they were a coffee shop in Colombia.
Steven: I’m Steven Sutton from Devoción Coffee Roasters. I’m the founder and the CEO. We began in Colombia in 2006.
Kandace: … called Devotion. And they moved to …
Ray: New York City?
Kandace: New York City.
Move to New York
Steven: By luck, actually, somebody offered me a management position in a new coffee distributor. So that’s how I got introduced to coffee. But, it wasn’t touching my heart. May 2005, we felt as a company that the company wasn’t really going forward and I decided that I was going to pretty much quit the company and go to Colombia to do it myself.
Farm Fresh Specialty Colombian Coffee
Kandace: So one thing that’s really interesting is they are the … they talk about being the only farm-to-table roaster out there.
Steven: I found out that Colombian coffee at that time was not seen as an interesting place to get coffee because people were grabbing the same coffees. And what I found out is that the third wave way of purchasing coffee was still not implemented there. That’s why you would see the Stumptowns and Intelligentsias of the world go more to Africa and Central American countries and Colombia being kind of this like old school boring country.
But what I found out is it was not boring at all. It was a raw diamond waiting to be cut, and what I did is I implemented—I believe one of the first, for sure the first—network for a coffee roaster that would go into all of these zones in Colombia. Doesn’t matter if it was a safe zone or a rough zone.
We would go find the Tipicas, Borbons, Caturras—those amazing coffees that were just out there waiting to be found.
Ray: Your coffee, is harvested, it’s dry milled in Bogotá and then …
Kandace: Always dry milled, and he told us why.
Steven: The moment we dry mill, that’s the moment the green bean is exposed to oxygen, the germ gets more excited and actually introduces more oxygen into the center of the bean, that’s the moment where the quality starts going down. From that moment to a roaster it takes us sometimes less than seven days (our average right now is ten days from dry milled to your cup). And that is unheard of, and that’s what Devoción right now stands for.
Ray: One of the things that I thought was most interesting is that they actually have a Yirgacheffe. There is a farm that they source from that gets Yirgacheffe. So you can actually have Colombian Yirgacheffe.
Steven: What we do here is obviously we don’t focus too much on origin. We focus much more on notes and characteristics. And I will show you coffees just like Ethiopian. I actually have a Yirgacheffe variety are between Ethiopian [inaudible 00:04:14] that was done in Colombia, and it tastes like Ethiopian.
So Colombia right now is going through this phase that you’ll find Geishas, Mokkas, Sudan…I mean you’ll find anything you want in varieties in Colombia, and you will actually find it profiles that you find elsewhere.
Ray: Right here we have a bag of the Toro, a Caturra coffee. They use this set of typography, the sort of typewriter, and then the sort of, I don’t know what you’d say, the middle ages scribe font.
Kandace: So this branding was all Neo Associates and this happened as they were moving from Colombia to the States. And it’s interesting because they focused on actually bringing out more parts that were Colombian.
Ray: It’s cool when you look at the packaging, instead of showing the world map, with the country of origin, they show the country with the district of origin within Colombia. Also I love that they actually have the green date and the roast date. A lot of times when you get coffee you’ll see a roast date, but you won’t necessarily know how long it’s been sitting in the warehouse.
Kandace: Ohhh, nobody gets to do that, that’s killer.
Steven: As time passes by you, you can understand that if you want to do something so amazing, you really have to focus on one thing. And if you go around the world that’s beautiful, I appreciate it, I think it’s a wonderful job to have, but you leave gaps. And one of the gaps that you leave open is you cannot do fresh coffee because you run into seasonalities … Unless, you are willing to tell your client that you are only going to do Ethiopia for two months. Just so you know, some type of example.
Colombia is the only place where you can go year round, and really have coffees that are under a month fresh.
And … roasted on a bag or served on a cup. I mean it’s just, the only way to do it.
Kandace: Oh, and have you seen their space?
Ray: The space is lovely.
Kandace: The big wall of plants and uh, just feels like … somewhere you want to be.
Ray: Devoción Coffee of Williamsburg, New York City.