The era of drinking coffee from a glass coffeepot left sitting on a burner for hours at a time is over. Now that local craft brewing has elevated the creation of hard cider and beer to the level of artisanship, and local distilleries are producing unique spirits in small batches, it appears to be coffee’s turn to come to the fore of the handcrafted beverage world.
Joe and Renee Salamone are riding the crest of that movement with their new Phillies Bridge Coffee Company based in the Gardiner/New Paltz area. They specialize in single-origin coffees with traceable lineage, roasting small batches of fresh coffee beans in such a way that the coffee’s full potential and best flavors are realized.
“It’s an exciting experience to be a part of this wave of micro-roasters,” says Joe. “I think that coffee is going through what wine went through quite a while ago, and what craft beer has gone through more recently. I think that, in the case of coffee, people are getting more involved with the creation of different roast profiles, trying to manipulate variables in such a way that they can experience coffee very differently than they have in the past.”
Salamone works through a coffee importer to hand-select the freshest of green (unroasted) coffee beans. Once they’re in his hands — the air temperature and moisture content monitored carefully to keep the beans fresh — he develops roast profiles that are unique to each bean and bring out its specific qualities. The process involves “cupping” many sample roasts before he decides on the profile that best accentuates the flavor characteristics of that bean. (Cupping is a coffee tasting technique used to evaluate coffee aroma and its flavor profile.)
That might mean accentuating some of the brighter notes in a coffee, which could be citric tones, or in the case of a Sumatran, emphasizing its earthy and savory qualities. Many variables impact the flavor of coffee, including its varietal, the climate within a growing region, soil type, elevation of the coffee farm, ripeness of the cherry when harvested, processing method, brew method and roast profile.
“I typically have an idea of where I want to go when it comes to the roast profiles,” Salamone says. “Based on what I’m looking for, I’ll cup all of the roasts, and then determine which one I think will best feature the hard work that’s put in by the farmers, the buyers and me as the roaster.”
None of the batches he roasts are more than 15 pounds, which requires greater precision on his part, he says. “But I only choose specialty grade coffees, and they need to be treated with that kind of care and attention.”
Determining which coffees will go into the line takes a long time from start to finish. “It takes me about a month to really go through the process. And I’m very particular about how the line-up is set and what I’m looking for from each coffee.” The offerings will change as each growing region ships out their new harvest.
Phillies Bridge Coffee Company is currently featured at Café Mio and Mountain Harbor Deli in Gardiner and Main Course, Moxie Cup and the Meadow View Farm Stand in New Paltz. They can also be found at the New Paltz Farmers Market in its new location (next to McDonald’s) every Sunday through November 22.
The husband and wife behind the company are both educators in local school districts. Renee Salamone is a French language teacher at New Paltz High School and Joe Salamone is an assistant principal at Washingtonville High School. The business was created, Joe says, over the couple’s realization that a cup of coffee is at the heart of so many of life’s best moments. “We’ve been passionate about coffee for a long time, and it kind of hit us as we were drinking coffee one morning that so many amazing experiences, conversations, bonds created, all of that happens over a good cup of coffee; whether it’s at a café or in the morning in your house while you’re talking to your kids about their day ahead. We wanted to really share our love for the coffee-drinking experience any way that we could, and this seemed like the best way to do it.”
Maintaining day jobs and family life as well as a fledgling business means that Joe roasts the coffee beans after the kids go to bed, but he says he doesn’t mind the commitment needed to pursue this passion and it’s made him better appreciate the dedication that every person pursuing an artisanal endeavor puts into it.
Before he began roasting coffee beans himself, Joe belonged to one of those “coffee-of-the-month” clubs where a different variety is sent out every few weeks. In sampling coffees that he says he “never would have ordered on his own,” he discovered that he loved the experience of trying new roasts. “I would fall in love with the coffee and then research the regions and the farms that the coffee came from, and I developed a greater appreciation for the entire process of getting the coffee from farm to cup. So that’s the type of experience we’re looking to bring to the New Paltz area.”
Salamone works with the restaurateur or shop-owner carrying Phillies Bridge coffee to fill a niche in their particular place of business. Main Course, for example, was interested in introducing a cold-brew coffee. “I selected an Ethiopian coffee for them that I think is tremendous as a cold brew because it has tea-like characteristics, chamomile specifically, with tremendous florals and some nice acidity as well. That makes for a very pleasant, smooth drinking, summer cold brewed coffee. Now they’re going to transition from serving it cold to brewing it hot.”
Phillies Bridge Coffee Company will debut a new coffee at Main Course on Thursday, October 29 at 5 p.m. Salamone is still working on the sample brewing to determine which coffee will be a good fit for what they want in their shop. At the debut event, he’ll talk about the nation the coffee comes from, the area within the region where the coffee is grown and then give information about the farm or cooperative where the beans were harvested. Following that, he’ll demonstrate manual brewing techniques and as he pours, talk about what tasting notes can be picked up from the coffee and how the different brewing techniques affect the tasting notes.
For example, the same coffee that brewed in a Hario V60 pour-over coffeemaker tastes of its brighter notes — perhaps blackberry, green apple or lemon — will taste quite different brewed in a French press, where the coffee comes through with greater body and will have more of what he describes as a “syrupy mouth feel, with the deeper tones accentuated. You might pick up honey or chocolate flavors.” Certain coffees do better with specific brew techniques or methods than others, he adds. (And he offers a tip about using a French press: pass the coffee through a paper filter after plunging and it will reveal more of the flavors.)
Salamone recently did a similar presentation at Moxie Cup, who now offer Phillies Bridge Regional Select: Guatemala, a coffee from the Huehuetenango region that can stand up to an automatic drip-brewing method and goes nicely with the menu they serve because of its “good balance of brighter notes and nice middle chocolate finish.”
Doing the presentations is an enjoyable part of the business, he says. “I’ve been so passionate about coffee for so long that it really presents an opportunity for me to share that passion with others and hopefully get them to understand why coffee is such a diverse commodity and such an exquisite drink. It helps them understand the process from farm to cup.”
Where the business goes from here remains to be seen at this point, and that’s just fine with Joe. “What we’re doing is gratifying for now and we’ll see where the future takes us after that. I think there is a clientele open to this new coffee drinking experience and I just hope they’ll enjoy it as much as we do. Bringing this to New Paltz and Gardiner, communities where we live and my wife works and our kids go to school, has been an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see where we end up.”
More information is available at www.philliesbridgecoffee.com and on Facebook.