May 11, 2004 > Fremont Coffee Roasting
Fremont Coffee Roasting
"Like a lot of other people, we thought it was a romantic industry," says Gael Stewart when reminiscing about how the business started. "Both of our kids were in the coffee business and a friend owned a place in Milpitas so Don starting taking coffee roasting classes with her." Fascination with the process of choosing the right beans, the roasting process and blends led to a passion for the little "flavor packets" as Don calls them.
After innumerable visits to coffee houses and attendance at a coffee conference, the idea of starting their own roasting company grew. Gael says, "It was a natural thing, we just absorbed it." On a trip to Ashland, Oregon, Don and Gael attended a Shakespeare play and sat down at a local coffee shop afterwards. As more people left the theater a line formed at the door. To their amazement, the owner shut the door at his closing time, without helping customers waiting in line. The Stewart's had been considering a bed and breakfast business and thought about opening one in the area with an attached coffee shop where Don could roast coffee. Don thought that if store owners acted this way towards their customers, with a little effort and business savvy, they could have a booming business. Fortunately, for coffee lovers in the Tri-Cities, a weak housing market in the early 1990's and the complexities of the move caused them to rethink their plans.
A subsequent layoff from Don's Silicon Valley electronics job raised additional concerns about a move to an unknown area. They began looking for an opportunity in the area. Don knew how to roast coffee and Gael knew from watching other businesses, the basics of good business practice. Encouragement from other owners of coffee businesses and visits and analysis of other coffee houses resulted in a plan for a successful coffee house and roasting business. The result was the Mission Valley Coffee Roasting Company. Don says that roasting your own coffee is a great teacher if you pay attention. "You may not know anything about coffee, but if you roast your own coffee, you will know everything about coffee." Gael agrees saying, "You have to learn if you want to do it well."
Prior to opening Mission Valley Coffee, Gael says they went to many coffee houses and "cupped" coffee to smell and taste different coffee aromas and flavors. She adds, "Before we even opened our store, we had picked out Don's Blend. We had already tasted many different profiles of coffee and knew what we liked." Their chosen coffee distributor knew that Don and Gael were serious about opening a roasting company and allowed them to buy a little of each type of coffee to taste. "We kept a log," says Gael "of different coffees and a variety of combinations."
Eleven years ago, Mission Valley Coffee opened its doors and Don and Gael were finally in the business they love to this day. To make sure they were aware of trends and "cutting edge" information, the Stewart's attended every coffee convention during their first ten years of business. "We needed the information," says Don and Gael agrees saying, "We needed to recharge our batteries once in a while too."
The community responded to Don's roasting skills and Gael's ability to oversee a well-run coffee house with excellent customer service. Gael says, "A coffee house is about being part of your community. You want to build a customer base that comes in every day and feels comfortable and welcomed. We work to create an environment that makes them want to hang out for awhile." As a result, there is a natural tendency for meetings and community gatherings to center around the coffee houses.
Along with many meetings, both formal and informal, Mission Coffee Roasting Company hosts "Open Mic" nights on the first and third Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome and visitors may hear a combination of poetry, song, and recitations or, on occasion, a vintage radio performance! Another sign of community is the open book exchange. Those with a book to leave for someone else are welcome to "check out" another that someone else has left for a new reader.
Fremont Coffee Roasting now serves over 15 varieties and 10 blends of freshly roasted Arabica beans. Occasionally, Don and Gael will host a complimentary "cupping and roasting session" to allow customers to learn about the characteristics of different coffee beans. For those who would like a supply of a special blend for a restaurant, business or gift packages, a wholesale order can be arranged - even a special proprietary blend. After all, a master coffee roaster is on the premises!
Now, with years of experience and an additional retail outlet at Mission Coffee Roasting Company, Gael on Don still work almost every day and help behind the counter, with baking and, of course roasting. Training young people is "the other part of the job we love," says Gael. "We give them a skill that they may think they may not use, but if they train with us and get to know the coffee and retail business, they can always find a job with a coffee house." Don adds, "A coffee house always needs a well trained Barista!"
Don roasts coffee twice a week to exacting standards. He says each type of coffee bean has its own optimal roast and with experience, the best flavor will be present in a well brewed cup of coffee. Gael and Don agree that Fremont Coffee Roasting is "about roasting to the profile of the bean and its best character." This can be compared to a bottle of fine wine. Just as a fine wine can be a treat for the senses, so can an excellent coffee that is roasted to perfection. Gael says, "We want our customers to taste the essence of the bean. We chose that style of roasting and that style of service." Both Don and Gael are certified in South American Coffee "Cupping."
Although the emphasis at Mission coffee is on that little flavorful bean, tea aficionados are not forgotten. For Gael, her passion for coffee extends to tea as well. As a consequence, both coffee houses serve an excellent variety of fine teas as well. Over 30 teas are available for customers, brewed through a special process that retains the tea leaves natural oils. Black Teas, Flavored, Herbal, Green, Oolong and Decaffeinated Teas are served.
Each retail outlet has its own personality and style, but both serve Don's carefully roasted coffee and blends. A fresh selection of sandwiches, salads and soups are available every day and freshly baked cookies and scones are quickly purchased for patrons with a sweet tooth. Whatever your choice of drink or food, customers are sure to be greeted warmly and served quality products. The Stewart's insist on consistency from their suppliers and the result is culinary delight with every visit.
An additional service of the Fremont Coffee Roasting Company is a Coffee Cart available for rent for special events. Included with cart rental is the services of two Baristas and an assortment of coffee and tea drinks. For those who want to share the Fremont Coffee Roasting experience, gift baskets are available featuring coffees, teas, scone mix and more! View a selection at the Fremont Coffee Roasting website: www.fremontcoffee.com
Share the flavor passion of Gael and Don. You don't have to know how to roast coffee or learn to blend flavors. It's all done for you. Your job is to come by one of their locations and enjoy! Visit a Fremont Coffee Company coffee house soon and feel the difference of a true community gathering place with a commitment to quality!
Mission Coffee Roasting Company
151 Washington Blvd., Fremont
Mission Valley Coffee Roasting Company
40059 Mission Blvd., Fremont