What makes a great cup of coffee? Not just a good cup, but a GREAT cup? We decided to ask Jared Ronnie, owner of Noble Coffee Roasting in Talent. We sat down to talk to Ronnie and his business partner, Ashland’s own Steve Sax, to find out exactly what goes into a perfect cup. What we found out was as intriguing as it was truly educational.
Ronnie began his journey toward the perfect cup of coffee in 1995, while working at Good Bean in Jacksonville while he was a freshman in college. Starting first as a barista, he quickly moved his way up to Roasting Manager. He continued to whet his skills until his junior year, when he decided to take time off of school to move to the beautiful colonial city of Guanajuato, Mexico; Ashland’s sister city. There he would learn much about the Latin American culture and, as importantly, about their coffee growing traditions. Influenced by this time in Mexico, Ronnie returned to Oregon and completed his studies in Spanish and International Studies at Southern Oregon University. He began Noble Coffee Roasting (named for his grandfather, Noble Dukes) in early 2007.
If you get a chance to talk with Ronnie, one of the first things you will notice is his passion for life, and—of course—for coffee. Both he and his wife are Spanish teachers locally, have two children, and are running their coffee roasting business out of their garage. To look at him, you’d have no idea he gets up at 4:30am every morning. Get him talking about coffee and the energy is contagious… (And that’s before you have a cup)!
The perfect cup starts at the source: the bean fields. Noble Coffee sources their raw (green) coffee beans directly from coffee farmers in South and Latin America, Indonesia, and Africa. They purchase only from organic and fair trade growers. This helps ensure that farmers are paid a fair price for their coffee–often at prices above C Market (the “C” is for coffee) standards. But Ronnie’s quest for the perfect cup goes beyond that. Additionally, they purchase only from regions where the Patrones (land overlords and/or slave drivers) have been removed and only from farms where the pickers are treated properly. By supporting such measures, they are not only providing Oregonian coffee lovers with the perfect cup, but they are also helping promote health care and education, helping support the building of cooperatives, helping end child labor in third world countries and helping guarantee that coffee farmers are paid a sustainable living wage.
According to Ronnie, it is important to be aware of the potential of the coffee. Of course this goes beyond just using organic and fair trade beans. This means that to truly enjoy the best that your beans have to offer, you must use beans that are freshly roasted and drink coffee that is properly prepared. Let’s look at those two bits separately:
First, to enjoy your coffee at its peak, you want to drink your coffee within 1-7 days after the beans have been roasted. This aspect is so important to Ronnie, that the roasting date is listed above the type of coffee on their packaging. Once Noble’s beans pass the 7-day mark they are removed from retail sale, and donated to the Access Food Bank. When you buy your beans at Starbucks, or from the bulk bins in the store, do you know how long the beans have been sitting since they were roasted? One day? One week? One month? Freshly roasted beans can immediately take your cup from bitter to good, or from good to better.
Second, having the greatest, freshest beans in the world means little if you don’t know how to properly prepare the coffee. Ronnie understands the importance of this step. He personally takes the time to go out and to properly train the staffs at the restaurants and cafés that carry Noble’s coffees to ensure that they know all of the nuances that go into a perfect cup. (On a personal note, I make lattes nearly every morning for my wife. Admittedly, they are inconsistent at best and bitter tragedies at worst. After spending just 10 minutes in the kitchen with Ronnie, I learned not only how much and when to grind my beans, but also how to properly pack the grounds and how to properly froth the milk—a work of art in its own right).
For those of you contented with a good cup of coffee, I can only challenge you to contact Ronnie. He is an encyclopedia of coffee knowledge and he is very willing to share. Everything about Noble Coffee Roasting is “by-hand artisan” at its very best. From hand-planted farms, to handpicked beans to their hand-roasted final product, Noble will make a lover out of the everyday coffee drinker, and will make even the most discriminating coffee connoisseur say, “Wow”.
Currently, Noble Coffee Roasting’s coffees are available at Peerless Restaurant, Inner Child Café, and Ashland Bakery Café (which appropriately boasts the fact of having had the 2nd commercial espresso machine ever in Ashland). Of course, you can also purchase your coffee directly from Noble by emailing your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Noble delivers freshly roasted coffee to your doorstep for free in Ashland and Talent. Ronnie asks that your orders are placed by noon on the Wednesday before delivery to ensure that your order can be roasted on Thursday and delivered to you on Friday. For more information, visit their website at: www.noblecoffeeroasting.com.