Small Roaster You Should Know: Square One Coffee, Lancaster PA


[Photograph: Francis Luong on Flickr]

Author's note: Small-but-mighty coffee roasters are popping up all over the country lately, and many of them are cookin' up batches of beans that are totally worthy of your super-important wake-up cups. If you've got a roaster you'd like to see featured, e-mail Meister at [email protected]

Some of my favorite things come out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, including but not limited to: Pretzels, shoo-fly pie, quilts, and freshly roasted specialty coffee. (Wait, what?) It's true: Small-but-snappy roaster Square One Coffee is indeed bringing some delicious coffee to the eighth-largest town in the Keystone State—and hopefully beyond.

We tried a few of their latest offerings and found out a little bit more about this microroaster and its café.

Square One's owners, Josh and Jess Steffy, have committed themselves to quality specialty coffee since 2004, when they got their start by selling the stuff at a farmers market. After experimenting with roasting on a small scale, they decided to move into the big time (okay, the medium time) by assuming ownership of Square One, which was already a local coffee destination, in 2007. As green-coffee buyers, Square One is dedicated to purchasing responsibly: The roaster strives to exceed the Fair Trade USA floor price with every contract, and has established self-enforced standards regarding the sustainability conditions under which the coffee was grown and picked—both environmentally and socially.


[Photograph: Meister]

It seems to be paying off, too: In particular, the roaster's natural-process Nekisse from Sidamo, Ethiopia ($16.95 for 8 ounces whole bean) has amazing aromatic complexity (it reminded us of goat cheese with blueberry jam), and has some deep cooked-fruit, chocolate, and spice notes throughout. Basically it's like drinking a fresh-baked blueberry pie. (I know, I know: And the snozzberries taste like snozzberries. But it's true!)

Their Volcancito from Panama ($12.95 for 8 ounces whole bean) is another standout, with a clean, crisp acidity and really sweet toffee-like flavor. Basically give me this every morning right when I wake up, please and thank you.

These coffees and more are available for purchase from Square One's website, at the roastery-café in Lancaster, and from a host of the roaster's wholesale customers.

Square One Coffee

145 North Duke Street, Lancaster PA 17602 (map)