The Quest To
Roast The Best
The coffee industry is waking up to specialty
brews and JBC Coffee Roasters sources its
products from across the globe with the goal
of serving up the highest-quality cups.
By Meagan Parrish, senior reporter
How do you take your morning cup of coffee? The answer to this question
usually involves cream and sugar, but
there can be much more to it than that.
How about, which varietal of bean do
you like, from which country, grown by
which farmer and on what part of their
farm? Or, what flavors do you love? Hints
of banana and chocolate? How about
something more savory?
This is the kind of revolutionary shift in
conversation specialty coffee producers
like JBC Coffee Roasters are trying to
make more common at the breakfast table.
It’s taken many years — JBC has been
in the coffee game since 1994 — but the
market finally appears to be catching up.
“Last year for the first time, specialty
crested 50 percent of consumption in the
U.S.,” says Michael Johnson, the founder
of JBC. “It’s on the rise.”
As the U.S. specialty roaster with the
most high-rated beans in the last nine
years by Coffee Review, an industry guide,
JBC is poised to help lead an evolving
industry that’s shifting away from mass-
produced dark-roasted coffee to a buying
market that could start to resemble a
crowd of wine connoisseurs.
This isn’t to say that the coffee industry
is being overrun by snobs. Michael’s palate
may be fine-tuned enough for him to work
as a judge at international coffee tasting
contests, but he says when it comes down
to it, most consumers can sip their way
through a table of cups and find the best-quality coffee.
And if JBC and other specialty roasters
can continue to convert consumer tastes
to their products, it’s not just good for their
bottom line — the shift can impact lives
across the globe.
Almost all of the world’s coffee production happens in developing countries and
in most places is still picked by hand. The
industry’s reach stretches from family
operations in Uganda to the hillsides of
Vietnam to farms plagued by gang violence
in El Salvador.
Despite that complicated global supply
chain and a market still packed with mega
corporations, JBC’s sales have been taking
off in recent years.
What has set them apart? A simple
principle: You gotta use ripe beans.
From Seed to Cup
Nestled into an industrial corner of
Madison, Wis., and just off a busy highway
that traces the bottom edge of the city,
JBC’s headquarters sits far from any coffee
But the influence is apparent in the
company’s roasting facility where coffee
bags from around the world line the walls.
Walking into the office, it’s also quickly
clear that you don’t need a lot of floor
space to run a coffee company like JBC.
At the front of the facility a coffee bar
is set up to let visitors sample the goods