FEATURED ARTIST | NOVEMBER 2013
Bio: I grew up all over the US, from Mid-West to Deep South to West Coast, but my high school years were in Portland, Oregon so I guess coffee culture has been ingrained in me. My degree is in Youth Psychology but my work experience has been as varied as my moves growing up. I have been in sales, the Mental Health field as well as the non-profit sector. I am a licensed social worker and an ordained Baptist minister. Beginning the journey as an entrepreneur has allowed me to marry my passion to serve people with the desire to provide stability for my wife and children.
Favorite Dallas hangout: Pretty much anywhere in Deep Ellum
AHD: What is micro-roasting, and how did you take it from a personal passion to a burgeoning business?
RW: Micro-roasting just means that we roast in very small quantities per batch. We roast just 1 kg at a time while the average roster does closer to ten times that. This allows us to pay closer attention to the beans and get very consistent results.
I started roasting when I was having a hard time finding great coffee while working with rural communities in Appalachia. When we first moved to the Appalachian Mountains I could not find a decent cup of coffee. When I asked for a cup of decaf the local coffee shop answered, “We got water”. My family began ordering coffee by mail but shipping was cost prohibitive unless I bought in bulk. The bulk beans went bad before I had a chance to use them though. I found out that the shelf life of green beans was several months so I began experimenting with different roasting methods. I began roasting excellent coffee and, once word got out, friends and then friends-of-friends began stopping by to taste what the big deal was. Pounds of coffee went out as "Thank you's" and Christmas gifts. After moving my family to Dallas I lost my job and I had several people encourage me to start charging for my coffee. Last year I finally purchased a commercial roaster and began roasting 1 kg batches to sell.
AHD: It's hard to imagine a big coffee chain roasting a custom bag of beans just for me. What kind of feedback do you get from folks when they experience your hyper-personal process for the first time?
RW: The personal touch is what sets CedarWood Roasting Co. apart and we have had nothing but enthusiasm from our customers thus far. Because we keep such copious roast notes and deal in such small batches we love personalizing the product. It has been so fun watching folks get creative with their coffee. One of my favorite stories was a customer naming the roasts after themes related to his long-distance girlfriend. I guess it worked because they were married this summer.
AHD: You've said your coffee is "as good for the conscience as it is for the taste buds." What does it mean to offer "ethically sourced beans" and why does that even matter?
RW: We will not buy a bean if we are not sure of its origin. I don’t mean only the country of origin but the farm and village of origin. This is important because many coffee farmers see pennies on the kilo for their hard work. They end up with a losing year financially. Then they have to make a decision about how they are going to feed their family. This has far-reaching effects in many areas. For example, the idea of making a crop financially viable in the Middle East has helped fight the spread of heroin. If families can provide for their families with a current legal crop, they are less tempted to grow illegal poppies for heroin. When we offer the farmer fair trade or better for all of the beans we roast they don’t have to focus as much on feeding their family, they can also spend more time and energy improving the coffee.
AHD: What finally opened your eyes to the issue of fair trade?
RW: I had a friend that was a pastor and sold “fair trade” coffee after church. I wasn’t sure what that was so I asked. It was the 1990’s and fair trade was just gaining traction in our area. He explained the inequities of the coffee and tea industries. Social justice has always been a big motivator in my life and this was another way to make a difference.
AHD: Do you see other creatives in your community working to incorporate more socially responsible practices into their production? How important is it for a new venture to genuinely care about the common good?
RW: There are a few of us who really want to make a difference in our industry, and that number is growing. The trick is making socially responsible practices profitable. The only commodity traded in a larger volume than coffee is oil so it is a very competitive market that deals in pennies. Having said that, if a new venture doesn’t genuinely care about the common good, their longevity in any industry will be doubtful. We need each other and the ability to cultivate relationships locally and globally is directly related to success.
AHD: Like any art, education and appreciation must be important to crafting a great cup of coffee. As a self-described coffee nerd, do you still spend time with and enlighten the many coffee novices out there?
RW: Absolutely! We have coffee tastings where we get out the SCAA coffee Tastes and Aromas wheel and challenge folks to tune into their taste buds and hone their palettes. One of my favorite moments in my job happens when an occasional coffee drinker attends a tasting and identifies notes beyond “it tastes like coffee” for the first time. One of our biggest supporters said she never knew coffee could taste “like this” until she tried our beans. Moments like these make all the sourcing, testing, and tinkering worth the effort.
AHD: Rumor has it that we'll someday soon be able to walk into a CedarWood Roasting Co. coffee shop. How do you plan to recreate the communal experience of micro-roasting in the new digs?
RW: We actually just secured a lease in Grand Prairie at the corner of 360 and Camp Wisdom. True to our philosophy, we are partnering with a new restaurant that brought in two top chefs from Morocco. It will be called The Olive Branch Express and CedarWood Roasting Co. We will have on-site roasting and all of our coffee and espresso-based drinks will be made with beans that have been roasted that week. Tasting events will continue and, with all we have learned this past year, roasting custom beans for our customers is nearly as simple as pushing a button and waiting 20 minutes for a fresh batch of beans to be ready.
AHD: Coffee drinkers are pining for a fresh cup. Where can we go to learn more about CedarWood Roasting Co. and order a few tailor-made bags?
RW: You can order from our website at www.cedarwoodroasting.com or just call me. Our Facebook page is a great way to find out about our current offerings and events. Since we pride ourselves on a personal touch, my favorite is a phone call followed by a tasting. I want every customer to have an amazing experience. Satisfied customers are our best marketing.