Earlier this month, we decided to hop in the car and drive up to Richmond to visit our partner roastery, Blanchard's. We hadn't been since they moved into their new RVA headquarters. Stephen Robertson, of Blanchard's Coffee, greeted us early on a Saturday morning and was kind enough to treat us to a private cupping featuring some of their new coffees.
We loved hearing stories of the Blanchard's team traveling to the different regions where their coffee is sourced - it was so cool to hear about the origin farmers who are growing coffee around the world and their commitment to providing us with the best of the best beans.
Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Company is all about providing education to its community, and we can definitely say that, even in our short morning visit, we felt more knowledgeable and informed about the where and why behind the coffee we use.
Our day-trip was a fantastic reminder of why we do what we do: build community. We left the roasting facility feeling so inspired [possibly a tad coffee-drunk] and excited about the things ahead for GPC.
"I think Golf Park has a beautiful brand image, and it is run by a great group of guys. I've always gotten a great, welcoming feeling talking to you guys. As I've watched the progression of your brand, via Instagram, mostly, I've always gotten the vibe of a group of friends coming together to share great moments that happen to start with cold brew (which is outstanding, by the way). Creating that vibe via pictures, stories, and conversations is a rare talent, so I couldn't be more impressed. We're excited to see you guys continue to grow, and we're happy to help in any way we can." SR
Here's a closer look at our conversation with Stephen:
Tell us about Blanchard's [new] roasting facility & describe its focus on education.
We moved into our new space in November of 2015. Obviously, we needed a production space that could accommodate our existing 30-kilo roaster as well as the addition of a new, 35 kilo Loring roaster. We also needed more space to store our ever-growing green coffee inventory needs. Beyond that, our biggest add to our model was a 1000 sq-ft training and education space. Because our model is primarily wholesale roasting for brewers and retailers, we don't have an inherent daily interaction with the people who drink our coffee - something roasters with a retail coffee shop presence enjoy. We wanted to create a space where we could train and educate across the widest possible cross section of our customers - from our own continuing coffee education, to training our clients on the equipment they'll be using in their shops, to teaching the general public how to make a better cup of coffee at home. We open this space up a wide variety of events - most directly related to our coffee, but some just tangentially related to coffee - all with the overarching purpose of building community and conversation on a foundation of a great cup of Blanchard's Coffee.
What inspires you in your current role?
My job, on its face, is sales and marketing. Personally, I find nothing about the generic definition of sales and marketing inspiring. With that in mind, I don't approach my role at Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co. with a traditional sales and marketing philosophy. I think everyone at Blanchard's, including myself, approaches their role, first, with a desire to put better coffee in everyone's cups. Beyond that, we all aim to tell a better story, about our company, about the coffee industry as a whole, and about what makes coffee important. We build community, to put it simply, and the rest just happens organically. I never want someone to buy our coffee because I had a good pitch, or my prices beat someone else's prices. I want people to buy our coffee because it tastes great, because it has a great story, because it is traceable, and creates sustainability and resilience throughout the supply chain. I want people to do business with us because they like us and trust us.
Anything new coming up for Blanchard's?
We are ALWAYS up to something. We're constantly building efficiency in our day to day production so we can free up time for our entire team to devote to their own pet projects - things they're passionate about in coffee. This has led to some of the best ideas we've ever set in motion. Our big, tangible goals for 2017 are definitely rooted at the farm-level. We're making some major financial and creative investments with our farm partners in Nicaragua and Colombia - investments that will bear fruit, literally, in the upcoming harvests you'll see hitting the USA in mid-summer. We have some great coffee releases coming up, including a Colombia Geisha in March. Stay tuned to our Instagram to see all the cool stuff we have coming up.
What's your favorite Blanchard's coffee at the moment?
It is tough for me to ever pick a favorite. I always lean towards African coffees, and the Ethiopia Koke Honey Natural is a consistent go-to. Having just gotten back from Finca San Jose in Nicaragua, that coffee has been fresh on my mind and I've been enjoying it a lot lately. Finally, the Colombia Finca El Obraje has been cupping exceptionally well lately, so that has been a surprise favorite for me.