Coffee Tree expands taste options
There's nothing like a good cup of coffee. Fans of the beverage soon will have another option to enjoy it in the Pleasant Hills area when Coffee Tree Roasters opens its newest outlet in the Bill Green Shopping Center on Tuesday.
The new shop will be the sixth for the regional chain, which opened its first in Squirrel Hill nearly 20 years ago.
There will be an anniversary celebration to mark the founding of the business, said Bill Swoope Jr., who started the company in July 1993 with his father Bill Sr. For now, the younger Swoope noted, “All my focus is on getting this new store open.”
There have been many trips back and forth between the new store and the Coffee Tree headquarters for the founders and their family members who work for the company. Fortunately, the main office is nearby in the South Hills Industrial Park along Lebanon Road in West Mifflin.
The headquarters in what once was the Continental Can Company serves as more than just an administrative center. The company roasts all its beans there and warehouses coffee brewing equipment used in its stores and rents to other coffeehouses and restaurants.
The West Mifflin facility also is the testing ground for all the coffees the company serves. Swoope and other employees have traveled the world's coffee growing regions to acquire the best beans.
The company acquires quality beans through online auctions run by the Cup of Excellence, which showcases coffees that have won competitions.
Swoope, family members and other company employees recently conducted a tasting — known as a “cupping” in coffee lingo — in advance of bidding on an auction lot.
It is a process that has both an organic and clinical feel. Testers experience many natural aromas and flavors, yet the tasting is an orderly process that determines how a coffee will taste when it is freshly brewed and after it cools. It's conducted as a blind taste test, so no one will make a predetermined assessment of the coffee based on its style or country of origin.
This particular auction lot contained unroasted samples of coffee from all over the world. The samples, which are light green in color when they arrive, are lightly roasted, ground and put in clear glasses. There is an aromatic test of the loose grounds dry and then after they have been doused in hot water.
The grounds float to the top of the cup and are sniff tested. After that, the floating mass has been stirred — or broken — with a spoon. Next, testers slurp the coffee back, spoonful by spoonful, to assess the brews for body, sweetness and acidity.
The slurping makes for a noisy experience as each glass is critiqued.
Swoope gives the thumbs up to a Nicaraguan blend, which he describes as having “razor fine acidity, really clean and crisp” — and rejects a Rwandan blend that reminds him of potatoes.
Coffee roaster Joe Burns agrees with the potato assessment and notes it seems to get stronger as the coffee cools.
Swoope says the key to cupping coffees is identifying the off flavors. He said a single bad bean can have a detrimental effect on flavor. For that reason, each sample is tested in duplicate with individual beans going in to each sample.
After the ultra-light roasted beans are sampled, beans are tested for flavor using conventional regular, dark and extra dark roasts. This time, the coffees are filtered, giving testers an idea of how the beans will perform in stores.
The cupping process is elaborate but no less technical than the roasting process itself. Coffee Tree Roasters has three roasters at the West Mifflin plant and is expecting to add a fourth soon.
Tim Swoope, who is the brother of Bill Jr., noted that getting the right roast involves using the senses. Beans smoke when they reach the right level of darkness and make an audible crack as they heat. “Sometimes you're only talking about a difference of seconds between a dark and medium roast,” he said.
The roasting area is filled with burlap sacks containing unroasted beans and plastic bags of roasted coffee beans ready for shipping to Coffee Tree stores and other restaurants and customers.
It is company policy to sell all beans within eight days of roasting. While the company serves tea and desserts at its stores, coffee is first and foremost the main event.
The new store will open at 6 a.m. and close late. Daily offerings will include three freshly brewed coffees — a dark and a light roast plus a water-filtered decaf — plus a wide variety of coffees by the bag.
Swoope hopes customers make the new shop a home-away-from-home and said comfortable seating and a fireplace in the store should go a long way toward making it a leisure time destination. He also believes there will be a lot of foot traffic in the store because of restaurants and other businesses already in the shopping center.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport police search for shooter
- Ex-White Oak animal shelter VP sentenced to jail on theft charges
- Women’s health the focus of 2nd annual Head to Toe
- Police increase presence at Elizabeth Forward High School after rumored threat
- McKeesport’s Renziehausen Park to get water attraction
- Push to honor coach spurs plans for West Mifflin Area hall of fame
- Donato denies negativity
- Annual councils of government dinner focuses on Mon-Yough unity
- Manufacturing tops new jobs in region
- McKeesport candidates to be featured at annual NAACP forum
- Stamp Out Hunger’s haul to assist Western Pennsylvania food banks