Connecticut is a small state but its people consume a lot of coffee every day. Most of it is pretty dull and bland, which is why true coffee connoisseurs – or just coffee drinkers who want a better cup of coffee – search out local coffee roasters and the cafes that serve this fresh, often organic, usually fair-trade and always surprisingly good coffee. Here are five roasters to try for you next cup of joe.
Omar Coffee Company
41 Commerce Court
Newington, CT 06111
“Roasted fresh daily since 1937” is an enticing motto and a tradition that the Omar Coffee Company (and coffee shop) continues to uphold. The company still follows the methods established by founder John Costas of buying only premium green coffee beans which it slow roasts on the premises and delivers to customers while fresh. Costas’ son Steve, who has been running the show since 1955, now has third- and fourth-generation family members helping to make the business grow, all while staying true to his father’s vision. In 2002, the company outgrew its original Hartford plant and moved to Newington. All of its fine brands are still available and ground fresh daily at the coffee shop, but Omar not only serves the customers who come into the shop, it also brings the coffee to the customers with its office service, catering division and variously priced gift baskets. The simple Breakfast Blend remains its most popular, both in the old-fashioned coffee shop and for its office service, but the company also makes flavored coffees (blueberry is a big hit) and espresso, as well as roasts specialty import coffees such as Ethiopian Yirgacheff and Sumatra Mandheling. At the coffee shop, one- to five-pound bags of even these coffees can be had for about the same price as those sold in grocery stores.
J. Rene Coffee Roasters
320 Park Road
West Hartford, CT 06119
Open every morning, seven days a week, at 7 a.m., J. Rene Coffee Roasters in West Hartford wants each and every customer to share in its “love for the cup” of fine coffee it roasts and brews. While the décor and atmosphere is more malt shop or soda fountain than café, there are stools and some comfy chairs and it is a bright, cheery and welcoming place to start the morning – or to go for a mid-day pick-me-up. There are always at least a dozen varieties to choose from, many of them quite unique (try the Guji Shakiso from Ethiopia), and the baristas are quite good at using the French press and a siphon brewing machine, which is fun to watch in action. A big, frothy cup of mocha can be had for about $4, and the pastries and other treats that go with it so well are all made fresh and in-house.
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Daybreak Coffee Roasters
2377 Main St.
Glastonbury, CT 06033
Daybreak Coffee Roasters is both a coffee company and a specialty grocer. It uses organic and fair trade coffee beans and beans that come from “single estate” providers, which are then roasted on the premises and only in small batches. The attached café offers many choices from the main line, as well as two to four specialty blends of the day. These range from the rather classy Midnight Obsession, Viennese Roast and LaMinta Tarrazu to the delightful Snickerdoodle, Mocha Butter Crunch and the ever-popular Toasted Coconut. The café also serves home-made soups and paninis, and a decadent desert called the afogatto – espresso poured over vanilla ice cream and served in an old-fashioned sundae glass.
81 Greenwood Ave.
Bethel, CT 06801
Redding Roasters was founded because “a good cup of coffee was too hard to find” in the Danbury area in 2004, or so opines the managing partner of the Bethel shop. Using a Diedrich IR12 manual roaster (which can handle no more than 30 pounds at a time), Redding Roasters somehow manages to produce 17 regular and 40 flavored varieties of coffee (it also carries nine varieties of decaf, but admits that most of these come from the Swiss Water Decaffeinating Company). There are traditional breakfast and espresso blends as well as unique “Pacific” and “Easy Does It” blends, a Kona “Extra Fancy” and a “Bali Blue,” among others. Flavored coffees come in fruity, nutty, vanilla and other varieties (among the most sinful of which is the toasted almond crème). Redding Roasters offers customers a great cup of coffee in a relaxed atmosphere, and sells green coffee for those ambitious enough to roast their own at home.
948 Main St.
Willimantic, CT 06226
Not all of Connecticut’s coffee roasters have café fronts, but instead rely upon a select group of restaurants, cafes and farmers’ markets to showcase their wares. One such company is Quiet Corner Coffee Roasters, and Cafemantic in Willimantic is one of the places to try its excellent coffee by the cup. Cafemantic uses Quiet Corner Coffee Roasters as its premiere supplier for coffee. With summer movies shown in the backyard patio on Thursday nights, Cafemantic keeps the coffee crowd coming back even in the evening – and not just on Thursdays. It also has Jazz Jam nights and brunches where it serves only farm-fresh local meat and produce. Cafemantic is one of the select few cafes where northeastern Connecticut’s own Quiet Corner Coffee can be found by the cup. The Organic Fair Trade Mexican H/G Chiapas Majomut and Nicaraguan Cacao are among the favored coffees by customers – although Quiet Corner also makes a “Brizil (sic) Royal Water Wash Decaf” for those who want their coffee with all of the flavor but less of a kick.
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.