It wasn't too long ago that most coffee drinkers bought their brew of choice at the supermarket, and freshness referred to how long ago the can was opened. But Long Islanders have gotten more sophisticated about coffee -- call it the Starbucks effect -- and they want to know where their beans were grown, who roasted them and when.
The result: a surge of local coffee roasters.
Roasting coffee is straightforward: Green (unroasted) beans are poured into a rotating chamber whose temperature ranges from 400 to 450 degrees. When the beans have achieved the desired doneness (8 to 20 minutes), they are emptied out into a wide, perforated pan to cool. Coffee is grown in more than 70 countries, with each region producing its own distinctive crop. The coffee roaster's art is knowing how long and how hot to roast each type of bean in order to most fully express its characteristics.
The biggest advantage to buying coffee directly from the roaster is freshness. Coffee beans are shipped green and will stay fresh for a few months. But once they are roasted, the clock starts ticking. Local shops roast only what they can sell within a few days, so you are never buying old coffee. (Don't be the weak link in the freshness chain: Buy no more than two weeks' worth of beans and grind them right before you use them.) Here are some local places that roast their own:
PRICES $11 to $12 a pound
Ben Haile, a descendant of Shinnecock chief Thunder Bird, has been roasting coffee for more than 10 years and, for the past two, has been selling it at this little coffee shop on the reservation. Haile buys organic, fair-trade beans from native-owned plantations in Guatemala and Peru, and has named five of his coffees for Long Island's Indian tribes. The sixth, Smoke Signals, dark but smooth, is the most popular. Also available online and at Whole Foods.
PRICES $15 to $22 a pound
Georgio Testani has decades of experience buying and roasting coffee (he directed Fairway's coffee department from 2001 to 2006), and his beans draw customers from all over the metropolitan area.
In addition to his 20-odd single-origin roasts and blends, he's a one-man master class in coffee history and appreciation. Here's the place to find rarities such as Esmeralda Gesha from Panama, one of the world's most celebrated single-estate coffees.
PRICES $15 a pound
Roast roasts about six varieties of coffee. Right now, roaster Jordan Laurenti is excited about the Maui Caturra, medium bodied and mild, but with sweet and spicy notes.
Located in the heart of Patchogue, Roast has become a popular gathering place where you can enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee (or tea), a pastry or, on Tuesday and Friday nights, open mic.
PRICES $9 to $10 a pound
Bryan Baquet, a philosophy major at Adelphi, was drawn to coffee because of the complexity of its flavors and because he and his partners, Pat Luyster and Mike Shcherbenko, wanted to create a business that would benefit both customers and coffee growers. Baquet particularly appreciates the light, delicate taste of the Honduran beans. Also available online.
426 Plandome Rd., Manhasset, 516-304-5780
Learn the vocabulary
Organic coffee is grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Shade-grown refers to coffee that has been grown under a canopy of native trees, more expensive but better for the ecosystem.
Fair-Trade certification ensures that the coffee growers were paid a fair price for their beans, and that the growing practices were environmentally responsible.