Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Plano’s Coffee del Rey considers roasting an artform
See Larry's tips for better coffee at the bottom.
PLANO When you listen to Larry McPherson talk about his beverage of choice, one may naturally assume he is speaking about wine.
After all, McPherson throws around descriptors such as blueberry, honeysuckle, acidic, and tart. However, McPherson is not talking about a vintage Burgundy or Bordeaux, he is talking about coffee. But not just any coffee -- coffee roasted weekly at his small east Plano shop.
McPherson and his wife, LaWanna, opened Coffee del Rey in early 2012 with the goal of producing fine coffee and using the business' profits to support charities and causes close to their hearts. With a business plan in place, Larry and LaWanna attended coffee roasting school in Vermont to acquire the skills necessary to enter the industry.
"We learned not just how to roast coffee, but also how to evaluate it," Larry said. "You learn about the various flavors in coffee and what flavors are good, and which are bad."
At Coffee del Rey, the McPhersons purchase green coffee beans from a dozen countries including Kenya, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico. The beans are roasted on site each Tuesday and sold as both single origin and custom coffee blends.
"I just experiment until I like the flavor," LaWanna said. "Blending results in a smoother, deeper, richer coffee. You may get the sweetness from an Ethiopian coffee and mix it with a Brazilian coffee that gives you a good dark chocolate flavor and a Central American coffee to get some floral character."
Each bean in a blend is roasted separately in a small gas-fired oven, Larry said, noting that some beans do well with a heavier roast, while others really shine with a lighter roast. The computer-controlled roaster ensures the beans are not roasted past their prime temperature, which can result in charring and off flavor notes common in lesser-quality coffee.
"Everything our customers get is going to be a specialty grade coffee," Larry said. "It will clearly taste better than your average coffee, and the fact it is freshly roasted clearly makes a difference."
As important as the roasting process is to the McPhersons, helping those in need is equally important, said Larry, who previously worked with the Global Aid Network.
"We are striving to have all of our coffee come from a location that has some sort of other purpose behind it, rather than making coffee," Larry said. "Our Spirit Mountain coffee from the Dominican Republic supports a school and our Ethiopian coffee from the Yirgachefe region helps support economic transformation activities that take coffee bean pickers and turns them into coffee bean farmers."
The McPhersons donated 90 percent of their profits to charity, with the remaining 10 percent being rolled back into the business. One of the things Larry said he was most proud of is the "Beans for Seeds" program. For each pound of coffee sold, the McPhersons purchase a package of fruit and vegetable seeds that is distributed to third-world countries by the Global Aid Network in order to establish sustainable community gardens.
Coffee from Coffee del Rey is available coffee shops including Spoons Café on the square in McKinney. However, a large portion of the coffee is sold to local churches, some of whom have relationships with the countries the coffee is from.
"Chase Oaks talks about Ethiopia in their coffee bar because Ethiopia is one of their prime countries for mission work," Larry said. "It should not come as a surprise that the coffee we sell them is from Ethiopia."
Coffee del Rey sells coffee by the pound at its retail location, 1915 N. Central Expressway, as well as in Plano at the Collin County Farmers Market at Fairview Farms, and in Frisco at the Frisco Farmers Market. It is also available in select coffee shops including Spoons Café.
Larry's tips for better coffee
- Always use the suggested ratio of water to coffee to achieve proper extraction. If you like weaker coffee, dilute the already made coffee with water or milk. Do not dilute coffee by using more water or less coffee than recommended.
- Think of coffee like baking soda. Coffee exposed to the air will soak up aromas, just like baking soda in a refrigerator. Keep coffee sealed up to minimize air exposure, and do not store it in a refrigerator.
- Coffee degrades over time. Buy only as much coffee and you will use in two weeks, rather than buying coffee in bulk.
- Experiment with different roasts and blends. People who say they don't like coffee often have just not found the right coffee.
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