Talking Coffee with Jeff Taylor of PT’s Coffee

by Laura on November 22, 2009

in From the Experts

This month, we talk to Jeff Taylor of PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. about the importance of connecting with the farmers who produce the coffees they sell. He also gives us insight on how to expand our enjoyment of coffee. 

PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. began in 1993 as a single coffee shop in Topeka, Kansas. An intense passion for coffee led the company to start roasting coffee in 1997. They now roast over 100 tons of premium specialty coffee annually for wholesale clients and operate 1 retail location in Topeka. Recognized for award-winning small lot coffees, PT’s Coffee is among the leading roasters reviewed by industry resourceCoffee Review, receiving the guide’s highest ever rating of 97 points. PT’s Coffee is also Roast Magazine’s 2009 Roaster of the Year. 

Family Eats: Why is it important for you (and your business) to know the source of your coffee?

Jeff Taylor: Not all coffee is created equal. There are so many factors that go into a farmer producing a great coffee. We like to have a stake in narrowing our window of success or failure. We understand some farmers care more than others about quality and answering that simple question can lead to a better coffee. It’s important so that we can help if a need arises. Most of our Direct Trade farms that we work with also have needs in humanitarian aide to some degree. In most cases we contribute money for medicines for the local clinic. A common area we’ve found that we can help is by supporting the community in a social way. By social, I mean the local soccer or futball team. We often provide uniforms and equipment for the teams.

FE: How has your business benefited from connecting with source?

JT: We have benefited in so many ways it’s difficult to measure. It’s really a big part of what we do and who we are now. We’re not just roasting coffee. We have a straight line connection to the farm that gives more meaning and urgency to our work. When we say “Without the love, it’s just coffee!” we mean it. For us, it’s not just about roasting coffee, but rather about roasting to make sure we maximize the potential of each coffee. We have a responsibility to the producers who work so hard on our behalf. Our staff is more engaged now and they make sure management stays on point as it relates to our relationships with producers.

FE: How have your customers benefited from knowing where the coffee comes from?

JT: Our customers have clearly benefited in the quality of the cup and the knowledge of pesticides and herbicides are not being used on our coffees. Even though not all of our coffees are organic (we allow for fertilizer in some cases ) our customers can rest assured our farmers are not spraying for pests or weeds. That work is being done manually and that leads to a more flavorful cup. Our customers also have a connection with the farms in the photos I shoot on my trips. Seeing pictures and hearing the stories brings the farms to life for our customers. When we describe flavor profiles on our website, customers can better understand the conditions that lead to the improved quality and visualize the farmer and his family. I want our customers to know the farmers and their families as well as I do. That’s when the product takes on an added meaning and a more flavorful cup. When you know the man (or woman) behind it. And our customers do!

FE: What would you suggest for consumers looking to broaden their enjoyment of coffee?

JT: It’s funny, there’s a real irony in coffee. Most Americans drink it for the caffeine. For the energized step each day. My suggestion would be to slow down! Brew your coffee in a non-traditional method that you are more involved with. When I say non-traditional, I really mean from most American families. Try brewing in a French Press, a Chemex or Melitta-type of pour over brewer. Just try to brew it differently so that you are more intimately involved in the process. But slow down and make sure you prepare it correctly. A great cup of coffee is all about the small steps all along the road. From the seed to cup, it’s a hundred different steps that make the difference in the final product. Not one of those steps makes the difference, rather it’s all of them in concert together. So when you are brewing at home, you are the final step. You can make or break all the hard work that has been performed by at least 20 sets of hands along the way. So my advice would be to slow down, prepare correctly (if you are not sure what that means ask for help from your local cafe or visit our website for brewing instructions). Then, once you are part of the process, sit down, use a proper coffee cup not a paper cup and enjoy your coffee. One key to remember is great coffee actually gets better as it cools. It’s true flavor comes out. So take your time and enjoy your coffee. Browse some photos of coffee farms and picture the labor involved in producing a single pound of coffee for you to enjoy!

FE: What is your favorite coffee and how do you like it prepared?

JT: This is everyone’s favorite question. To be honest, I can tell you I don’t have one. The best coffee for me is one that reaches it’s full potential in the cup. Because we buy such outstanding coffees from all over the world, all are excellent. When I taste my morning cup and can clearly taste the flavor profile and say…WOW, this is an outstanding cup! At that moment, it’s my favorite. All of the hard work was realized in the cup and that is what matters. That probably seems like a cop out, but really I like all coffee that is exceptional. Really I do. I just appreciate the quality and effort that goes into creating it. The effort is reflected in the quality of the cup.

Looking for some truly unique coffees to enjoy during the holidays, how about Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda Special Maria Carnaval from PTs. In addition to earning every award in the coffee industry, PTs roasts the coffee to highlight its full ripe strawberry, intensely sweet sugarcane, and plum red fruit flavor. To order this, and other delicious coffees,


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