Tired of all the endless caffeinated attention paid to Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and the other behemoth bean pushers? Here are five up-and-coming coffee roasters that are poised to slingshot their beans right smack dab between the Green Mermaid's eyes. (Not that we have anything against mermaids...)
Wrecking Ball Coffee Company
The two-person demolition crew of owner/roast master Trish Rothgeb and education/wholesale manager Nick Cho is poised to cause an unholy noise on the San Francisco coffee scene. One way they're already breaking new ground? The sustainability-minded pair has sourced fully biodegradable one-way-valve sealed bags for their beans, courtesy of green-focused packaging company TekPak Solutions. Of course, it helps that the stuff inside the sacks is so good: the Ethiopia Sidama Bonko (12oz, $14.40) nicely represents that bean origin's classically floral, delicate, and sweet profile—but be sure to check out the company's roasting schedule for availability and updates before getting your hopes up on an order.
Plowshares Coffee Roasters
The 30-pound-maximum batches of beans coming out of this teensy Upstate New York roaster might be smaller than the average bag of Tostitos at Costco, but they definitely prove that better things might come in smaller packages. Owner-roaster Anthony Kurutz and his tiny team roast each selection to order, and are constantly sampling different varieties and roasts in search of only the perfect additions to their lineup. Even better, you can enjoy the beautifully chocolate tones of Plowshares' Finca El Injertal from Guatemala (12oz, $13.99) in solidarity with nature: the roastery is completely powered by wind-generated energy.
The Brown Coffee Co.
Of course the coffee you want to drink should be brown, but if it's Brown, well, even better. San Antonio, Texas-based owner-roaster Aaron Blanco has been quietly caffeinating the Southwest since 2005, but he's starting to venture out to other pastures as well. The sleek Manhattan cafe RBC NYC often features the micro-company's beans on its rotating lineup of well-curated drip coffees. Mail-order is also available, straight from the Lone Star State. Real geeks can compare the espresso roast version of Brown's Finca Santa Barbara from El Salvador with its drip-coffee counterpart, side-by-side. (both 12oz, $15)
The Brown Coffee Co.
Boston's mighty green basketball team might be in a bit of trouble at present, but the green beans that get turned brown at this tiny Massachusetts roaster are always wicked good. Locals can stop by the Arlington, MA, roastery-cafe for a fresh cup seven days a week, but the rest of us are lucky enough to have the stuff delivered to our doors. barismo handles Kenyan coffees especially well, and its Kianjogu (12oz, $21) is no exception; a very light roast emphasizes the variety's tart and snappy brightness and cleanly sweet finish.
Handsome Coffee Roasters
Okay, it might be cheating to finish this list with a company whose roasting machine is still actually being refurbished, but the Handsome men in question here are a power trio that's certainly going to start making waves as soon as their ship is in the water. This trifecta of Intelligentsia alums, which includes reigning World Barista Champion Mike Phillips, has already put forth quite a vision statement, and with a concluding line like, "We're going to make great coffee and be nice to you, and we promise you're going to love it," you know you'll want to be among the first to experience the fruits of their labor.