The sweet smells from the cup evoke honey and peaches, and some of that is reflected in the cup as soft floral tones. The dominant flavors that come through are dark and smoky chocolate notes combined with the more traditional nuttiness. The mouthfeel is smooth with no discernable acidity at all. The finish starts off with a slight peppery edge in the throat, switching to a dark and earthy, long lasting aftertaste of quintessential coffee. A very drinkable, not-too-complex decaf.
Posts Tagged ‘tacony’
From T-shirts to rap songs to sold-out Washington hotels, there’s enough commercial activity surrounding Barack Obama’s inaugural to resuscitate the economy (if it lasted more than a week).
The Peregrine Coffee Co., based in Tacony, has its own entry – a $17 Presidential Pack featuring two bags of custom-roasted coffee beans, one from an estate in Kenya, the birthplace of Obama’s father, the other from a farm in Hawaii, where Obama was born and spent most of his childhood.
The company’s owner and chief roaster is Kevin Lawrence, 40, a former marketing specialist with American Express and the Franklin Institute, who was drawn into the business after his coffee-maker died six years ago.
“First I was trying to find the best coffee pot, then I hooked up with a Web site for coffee geeks, next I found a subset of folks converting popcorn poppers into coffee roasters in their backyards,” Lawrence said. “The Internet is a dangerous thing.”
He opened Peregrine last June in a converted garage on Friendship Street, with a view of I-95. Lawrence imports raw beans from single-origin coffee farms around the world, roasts them to order for specific customers and delivers by priority mail in small batches, about half a pound, enough to sustain an average household for a week or 10 days. Any longer, he says, the coffee beans can’t be considered fresh.
“If you toast and brew it properly, it’s a totally different beverage,” said Lawrence, who compares his job to that of a wine steward, helping “clients” identify their tastes and match them to specific beans and roasts.
His analysis of the Presidential Package? The Hawaiian beans have a “chocolatey, nutty taste,” Lawrence said, while the Kenyan beans hint of grapefruit and black currants, sort of “fruity.” He denies that Republican spinmeisters have any influence on his descriptions. “Peregrine tries not to take a political stance,” he said.
Staff writers Bob Warner and Michael Hinkelman contributed to this report.
Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Contact Bob Warner at email@example.com, call 215-854-5885, or fax 215-854-5910.
By William Kenny
Times Staff Writer
A busted coffeemaker probably never had ignited so much productivity as it did for Kevin Lawrence some five years ago. Yet, a setback that might have stopped most working folks in their tracks actually got the longtime financial services representative’s creative juices flowing.
Faced with the prospect of missing his beloved caffeine fix, Lawrence did not run out and buy the first new machine he could find on the shelves at his local Target. Rather, much like he does for clients at American Express’ Center City office, Lawrence took a thinking man’s approach.
He scoured consumer reviews and Internet reports describing a gamut of available commercial coffeemakers. In the process, he learned that the way to make truly spectacular coffee has surprisingly little to do with the brewing, yet everything to do with the bean.
From there, it was only a matter of time until he found a place to open his own gourmet coffee roasting company. Three months ago, he realized that ambition when his Peregrine Coffee business began production inside a modest commercial warehouse in Tacony.
The place is not to be confused with the local Dunkin’ Donuts or even a Starbucks. Firstly, there is no seating area and are no over-the-counter sales. It’s purely an Internet-based mail-order business in which Lawrence acts as consultant, sales representative and craftsman. His wife Luise Moskowitz handles publicity.
“With my business model, the difference is the custom component,” Lawrence said.
Using his own keen sense for coffees borne from his years as an infatuated consumer, Lawrence interviews new clients, develops a profile of their tastes and scours the market for raw or “green” beans to suit those client preferences. Coffee beans come from tropical regions around the globe, including South America, Africa, Asia and the Far East.
Lawrence will then complete each order by hand-roasting the beans in his custom-built commercial roaster, seal them in air-tight packaging and ship them immediately via U.S. Mail. Customers in Philadelphia will usually get their beans within a day, ready for grinding and brewing. “The basic concept of hot water and freshly ground beans is key,” Lawrence explained.
Even non-drinkers of coffee couldn’t help but taste and smell the difference between Lawrence’s products and what supermarkets and most coffee shops have to offer. Commercial coffees are generally processed as much with longevity in mind as flavor. It all starts on the farms or plantations where the beans grow as seeds inside cherry-like fruit on shrubs and small trees. Some farms are expansive and highly commercialized, while others are small family operations. Variables from farm to farm and region to region affect the flavors in the bean. Major factors include soil composition, climate and altitude. Mass-produced coffees commonly found on grocery store shelves and in the pots at convenience stores and doughnut shops are usually blends. That is, they are made from a combination of beans from different farms or regions.
Many popular varieties like hazelnut and vanilla often are made from coffees treated with artificial flavoring in the form of sprays and syrups. By contrast, Peregrine coffees are not blended. Each selection is produced from the beans of a single farm, thereby preserving the unique and potent natural flavors present in the bean. “I’ll do an Ethiopian coffee that tastes like blueberries and peaches and people ask, ‘Is that flavoring?’” Lawrence said. “And I say, ‘No, it tastes that way out of the ground.’”
Drawing the natural flavor out of coffee beans is a relatively short, but exacting process during which a slight variance in temperature or duration can completely spoil the outcome.
A coffee roaster is essentially a rotating barrel over a heat source. The roasting temperature is key, as are the level of heat used to achieve that temperature and the time it takes to do so. The operator must listen for the beans to pop or crack, then calculate carefully how long to continue the process to meet the expectations of the client. “That’s totally the art of it,” Lawrence said. Other variables include ambient temperature and humidity, the amount of beans in the roaster, the size of the beans and their moisture content.
“I love that it’s all the senses,” Lawrence said. “You’re smelling, you’re looking, you’re tasting, you’re feeling. It’s insane.”
Another unique element to the business, he explained, is hunting for the best beans. Traveling from continent to continent is not in his budget, so he relies largely on professional scouts or hunters who go from region to region and farm to farm identifying marketable beans and buying them up for redistribution in the United States.
Lawrence used their spirit, in fact, as an inspiration of sorts for the name of his company. The word peregrine is from Latin and means wanderer or traveler. “It was one of those names that when we sat down and came by it, we said, ‘Oh, that works.’ It means traveler and we’re letting coffee be the guide,” Lawrence said.
Internet orders aren’t the only way that the entrepreneur will be bringing his product to market. Though he never envisions his roasts available on store shelves — specifically because stores can’t ensure freshness — Lawrence hopes to reach the public through special tasting events at area cafés.
One such activity is scheduled for this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. at Walnut Bridge Coffee House, 24th and Walnut streets.
Peregrine is also available for special events, such as weddings and private parties.
All requests are being handled through the Web site www.peregrinecoffee.com. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin J. Lawrence
Owner/Roaster, Peregrine Coffee