by Angie Thompson
If you walk into one of our coffee shops, you’ve probably noticed our coffee bags. There’s always a shelf or two of them, pretty floral things all in a row. Colombian coffee and Ethiopian coffee and signature blends of Play Nice and Blue Boy. There’s a sense of mystery about these bags. Where do they come from? How did they arrive on our shelves, all pristine and upright? When I worked on bar as a barista, folks would ask – “do y’all roast these here? Where is your roasting facility?” I get it, I would want to know too. If you’re lucky, you might see one of our roastery crew pop in on an afternoon to wheel in boxes filled with freshly roasted Methodical coffee. In general, though, the roastery – and all it entails – remains elusive to most coffee shop-goers.
To say that the roastery is important is an understatement. While it’s operations are largely tucked away from our dear customers’ eyes, they almost *never* stop. They work hard. Really, really hard. So for the curious, and as a much-deserved shoutout to the roaster crew (Beanie Babies what’s up!), I welcome you to peek behind the curtain with me.
I visited Will Shurtz, one of Methodical's owners, at the Methodical Roastery this week to check in and catch up. When I arrived, he was pacing around just outside the McBeth Street location’s big windows, on a call. I used to work at the roastery, so this is a familiar sight. Will is a tireless communicator. I waved and slipped inside to the sound of Methodical’s 12 kilo Dietrich humming loudly; so loudly that Lucas, who is roasting today, is wearing earplugs. I shout-talk for a couple of minutes with Steve and Joel, who don’t skip a beat in their paces of packaging coffee, though I know I’m a distraction. Although there’s an air of ease in this high-ceilinged warehouse, with early-2000’s radio hits blaring on the blue-tooth speaker and the slow but deliberate movements of the roaster and production crew, what I know is this: every minute lost to chit-chat or lollygagging will lengthen their nearly ten-hour day.
Will is back inside. I stand at the cupping table making a pour-over for us to share as he tells me about their workload. “Summer is usually supposed to slow down for us, but we actually got busier. We’re doing about double what we were this time last year.” It’s a full-on factory, serving not only Methodical’s two, soon to be three locations, but coffee shops, restaurant groups, and hotels around the country. “We are moving into the busy season, and we also have new accounts. We’re getting ready to be in grocery stores – Fresh Market, Whole Foods, and a few others that are on the line.” There’s no sign of stopping for this intrepid crew.
I look at the three men in the production space, knowing they’re at full tilt. “So, how are y’all planning to scale up?” I ask. Will smiles, dauntless. He has a plan, and it has layers. First of all, you have to know that with the third location at The Commons, set to open sometime in October, Methodical will also have a new roasting space. That new space will answer some efficiency problems, with distinct places for everything and a more streamlined system of storage, staging, and packaging. The roastery is also gearing up to hire from within an operations manager – Tara Edens, who helmed the roaster at Leopard Forest for around a decade. The addition of both Tara and former bar manager Joel Hobgood adds structure to their already airtight process, bringing the insight of two analytical minds to the table. “We hope to add one more day of roasting once we have 4 people in production… nothing really needs to happen except for handling more capacity, so that will be a big help.” With the uptick in production, staffing and structure changes are inherent. Methodical is ready to take them on.
I look around the McBeth Street roastery as The Fray’s “How To Save A Life” plays loudly. “What are you going to miss about this space?” I ask Will. “Well, I got married here!” He beams. “This space is relaxed, we just listen to music that we want to as loud as we want it to be. Do what we want as long as it gets done.” But Will is nothing if not forward-moving. He and the rest of the roastery crew take changes with ease. I ask about the new space, what excites him about it. “Our training corner is going to be a huge change. We’ll have a designated cupping area – we will probably have a sign that faces out to the cafe that says ‘come in, we’re cupping’. I’m excited about being around a bunch of people too – everyone buzzing around. I mean I *like* this,” he gestures to the room, “but I’m *really* excited about that.” Of course, it makes sense. Will began as a traveling barista. Facetime with people is like air to him, it’s why he can switch from phone call to phone call, to huddling with the roaster crew with lightfooted ease. “And I won’t miss these fluorescent lights, either.”
The roaster buzzes on as I say goodbye to Will and possibly to the McBeth Street space one last time. It’s tucked away, for now, but change is coming. Or rather, change is part of the fabric of this place. The Methodical roaster crew rolls with the punches. A huge coffee order from a new account, a ten-hour roast day, a complete overhaul of their roasting space – they handle it like it’s no big deal.
As for the thick velvet curtain of mystery that the roastery resides behind? It’s about to get a lot thinner. When you visit the new location at The Commons in the months to come, make sure you wave at the folks in the roastery. They’re pretty pumped to be around you.