Author: Julie Benoit | Photos: Ryan Johnson
Katie & Matt : FairIsle Coffee
The morning after Longmont’s first snowstorm we met with Katie and Matt, the founders and brains behind FairIsle Coffee. There was a crisp chill in the air, the sky was that perfect, day-after-a-snowstorm blue, and the white snow-capped mountains were hanging out peacefully in the distance. It was the perfect stage for sipping and learning about FairIsle Coffee. As we savored our coffee from tiny white mugs, Matt talked to us and toured us through the sample roasting space that was filled with the scrumptious aroma of coffee roasting, that I am certain one could smell from blocks away. He told us all about his love for coffee and gave us a bit of insight as to what makes FairIsle coffee so tasty.
“We love the morning ritual of taking the time to enjoy a cup and that initial buzz that really gets the brain juices flowing.”
JB: When did you guys start making coffee? How did it all start?
M: When we had our 1st daughter in 2009 our coffee consumption got a little crazy and being a DIY kind of guy I started researching how I could make cafe quality drinks at home as it was hard to lug a new-born down to Boulder for good coffee. The following Christmas we decided our gifts to each other would be an espresso machine/grinder….I went a little overboard and bought a commercial machine/grinder that was probably the most sophisticated setup in the city at the time. We had been regulars at the Farmers Market for a couple years during this time and always rode our bikes and pulled our daughter in our Burley. Seeing a lack of espresso at the market, we tossed around the idea of opening a stand for a couple years since we already had a commercial setup in our kitchen. In 2013 we finally pulled the trigger and applied to be a vendor thinking it would be a fun side business. Not knowing how things would go and operating on a shoestring budget we started with literally just stuff laying around our house….an umbrella from our backyard, our kids chalkboard as our menu board, and even our kitchen table that we strapped on our roof and drove over to the market!
JB: What were you doing for work before you began roasting your own coffee?
M: FairIsle started as a part-time side business and is still operating that way though we are actively exploring ways to take it full-time.
JB: Can you tell me a little bit about the process of roasting coffee beans? How long does each roast take? What would you say is your favorite part of this process?
M: Roast times vary depending on what your trying to bring out of the bean, but generally between 12-15 minutes. I log every roast with software that allows us to replicate profiles we think bring out the best in each bean. My favorite part of roasting is ‘nerding’ out on profiles and trying to find the ideal roast parameters that result in a delicious cup!
JB: Where do you get your beans from? Is this something that you guys carefully consider? Have you traveled to any of the places that your beans come from? Do you have relationships with any of the growers?
M: We have a couple different importers we work directly with to get our hands on the best greens. We get small samples of tons of different coffees and then buy a few hundred pounds of what we enjoy! My favorite coffees are bright ‘fruit-bombs’ from Ethiopia and Kenya while my wife really enjoys the sweet and chocolatey coffees from Central and South America. In the future we’d love to travel to some of the places we’ve been buying coffees from!
JB: I am super picky about coffee, and I imagine if I was responsible a coffee company I would be even pickier. Will you drink any other coffee? Do you really like other coffees?
M: We love traveling and tasting the best local roasters coffees to expand our palettes and get new ideas for what we can bring back to Longmont. We actually just got back from a weeklong caffeine bender in Manhattan & Brooklyn and came across a couple things we are excited to bring to Longmont. To push forward we feel it is key to taste how others are roasting and see what we can improve upon.
JB: What is your favorite thing about coffee? About FairIsle coffee?
M: We love the morning ritual of taking the time to enjoy a cup and that initial buzz that really gets the brain juices flowing. Being a micro-roaster we love the ability to seek out unique coffees we enjoy and play around with roast profiles. We also really take pride in using local & organic ingredients…we’ve yet to see any other roasters using organic syrups/sugar/half & half and while a majority don’t even notice we think it’s huge as we try to predominantly eat organic ourselves.
JB: I am a french press kind of person. I think mainly because I am the only coffee drinker in my house (( my husband is crazy and doesn’t like coffee at all )) and it seems to make the most sense for just a couple of cups of coffee. What is your favorite brewing method? How do you take your coffee?
M: Wow, that’s a tough one! Being a coffee nerd, I love playing around with a lot of different brew methods but still always start my day with a cappuccino.
JB: I have such a weakness for drinking coffee. If I had an endless supply of coffee I think it would be a pretty dangerous situation. I would never sleep! Ha. How much coffee do you guys drink? Do you have any silly coffee rules for yourselves? Do you guys get to sleep?
M: Our espresso machine is on a timer to start warming up everyday at 5am so its ready to pull shots the second we get up…we start literally everyday with a cappuccino and then start making our kiddos breakfast. We then generally brew a pot of one of our drip offerings to make sure we have the roast dialed in and depending on the day make another round of cappuccinos. We “try” to have our last brew around 3pm to make sure we can sleep that night!
JB: Where are you guys from? How did you guys end up in Longmont? How long have you guys been here?
M: We both grew up in small towns in Iowa. We met while I was in grad school at the University of Iowa and have been together ever since. After lots of ski-trips out to Breckenridge when I was a kid I always dreamed of living in CO. We moved to Longmont for me to go to CU and ended up falling in love with the area and have now been in Longmont for almost 10 years.
JB: Do you have a vision for Longmont ? What is it? An awesome coffee shop on Main Street (( hint hint ))?
M: We’re just wrapping up our 4th season at the Longmont Farmers Market and absolutely love the feel of the community each Saturday morning and all the relationships we’ve formed with our customers. Our vision for Longmont is a thriving community of local entrepeneurs sourcing things locally and supporting other small business owners. Our next step is finding a way to provide our coffee on a full-time basis and expanding our reach in the community.