Coffee beans only grow in select regions of the globe, their flavors influenced by the climate, the composition of the soil they’re grown in and, finally, the manner in which they are roasted. A high-quality bean in the hands of a skilled roaster can create a wonderful beverage with a wide array of flavors, ranging from sweet and fruity to chocolatey and nutty. When people tell me they only like their coffee with cream and/or sugar, I tell them to try one of these roasters.
Want to feel extra warm and fuzzy when sipping on that morning cup of coffee? A new roaster …
Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea
New Haven, Branford and Madison, 800-388-8400, willoughbyscoffee.com
The elder statesman of Connecticut coffee, and a pioneer of freshly roasted coffee on the East Coast in general, Willoughby’s was opened in 1985 by Barry Levine and the late Bob Williams. Levine still runs the company and says part of what makes his coffee special is the company’s expertise in sourcing coffee from small lots not available to many roasters. “We do a lot of direct trade and/or direct import of the coffee we then roast,” he says.
Visiting: There are two coffeehouses in New Haven and one each in Branford and Madison. Each is a great spot to enjoy the company’s various roasts.
Find it: Online and at many retail outlets in Connecticut and Rhode Island, including select Big Ys.
Canton, 860-764-0023, givcoffee.com
Jeff and Emily Brooks started Giv Coffee, a coffee connoisseur favorite, two years ago. Jeff explains that they travel to personally meet with farmers they work with at least four times a year. “This is like buying tomatoes from a farmer at his or her farm versus buying tomatoes from a grocery store,” he says. “We roast our coffees to exemplify balance and sweetness without any roast taste. ‘Roast’ can mask the delicious qualities found in high-grade coffees. We have one coffee that is dark, though, called Lavishly Bold.”
Visiting: The fun coffee shop in Canton offers a full espresso bar and lots of coffee specialties.
Find it: Online and at various coffeehouses, restaurants throughout Connecticut and at select locations in Massachusetts.
Darien, 203-202-7215, neatcoffee.com
This coffee shop opened in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2013 that it started a roastery of its own. Kyle Bellinger, director of coffee and a partner in the business, explains that Neat sources its sought-after coffee from countries they visit on a regular basis, including Colombia, from a farm he personally owns. In addition, Bellinger says, “We generally roast pretty lightly. We believe that by roasting lightly, our coffees each have their true and unique expression of flavor.”
Visiting: Neat’s Stamford roastery is not open to the public, but you can stop by Neat Coffee in Darien and enjoy a full variety of specialty coffee drinks, cold brew and the various single-origin roasts from the roastery.
Find it: Online and at specialty coffeehouses like Grounded Coffee Co. in Willimantic, Silk City Coffee in Manchester and Story and Soil in Hartford.
Shearwater Coffee Roasters
Trumbull, Fairfield and Westport
Since 2013, Shearwater has been offering small-batch, certified-organic coffee blends. Owner and founder Ed Freedman takes pride in roasts that are “smooth, nuanced, delicious and bitter free.” Customer favorites include Colombia Popayan, Peru Penachi and Ethiopia Oromia, as well as the Dark Golden Creme espresso and Running Rapids cold-brew blend. The roastery also now runs two coffeehouses in Fairfield County.
Visiting: Shearwater Coffee Bar in Fairfield is a coffee shop that serves as a showcase for the roaster. Here you can enjoy expertly made cappuccinos, pour-overs, nitro cold brews and more. A second coffee bar is scheduled to open in Westport on the Post Road. Also, the roastery in Trumbull is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Find it: The coffee can be purchased at the roastery. You can order online or find it at several Whole Foods chains, smaller retailers, and restaurants and cafes in southwestern Connecticut.
Bethel, 203-739-0510, reddingroasters.com
In 2004, Bill O’Keefe opened this downtown Bethel roastery. He took great pride in converting people to fresher coffee and the nuances of flavor, from chocolate to cherry notes, that gourmet roasts can offer. When he died suddenly in 2012, his daughter Kaitlyn Heisler took over the company. “This shop and this career bring me life,” she says. “I can’t do anything else. Roasting coffee, being able to connect the wares of hard-working farmers across the globe to the hands and cups of individuals within my community, educating them on brewing techniques and tasting notes, sharing in the joy of a seemingly simple beverage, this is what drives me.”
Visiting: The second you walk into Redding Roasters you’re overwhelmed with the rich aromas of freshly roasted coffee. This is not a full coffee shop and there is no espresso bar, but there are free cups of coffee available and the ability to choose from 20-plus roasts to take home and make your own.
Find it: Look for this coffee at a variety of shops and restaurants throughout Fairfield and Litchfield counties. It is also available online.
Perkatory Coffee Roasters
This newcomer to the Connecticut coffee scene was opened a year ago this month by husband-and-wife team Joey and Johanna Perazella. “We roast small batches multiple times a week to ensure that the coffee is as fresh as we can get it,” Joey says. “Our blends are also carefully designed and tested through multiple cupping sessions with our staff before releasing it to the public.” The most popular roast tends to be Papua New Guinea, which is the darkest the roastery offers. “We have noticed New Englanders really love their dark roast coffee,” Joey says.
Visiting: This expansive warehouse space set back from Middletown’s Main Street is one of the coolest spots to grab high-quality coffee in Connecticut. You can enjoy pour-overs, nitro coffee, espresso drinks and baked goods in a brewery-like atmosphere.
Find it: Online and at Alyssa’s Cakery in Wallingford and La Piastra in Rocky Hill.
We asked online readers for their favorite coffee roasters. In addition to the spots we've written about, here are some other reader-recommended roasters.
Molten Java, Bethel — “The coffee is slow roasted in air pots. Never burnt, very smooth. The coffee beans are sourced from all over the world. Great laidback bohemian atmosphere.” — Linda Cahill, on Facebook
So. G Coffee Roasters, South Glastonbury
Blackhall Roasters, New London
Craftsman Cliff Roasters, Norwich — “The coffee is the best in the U.S. and the shop has a personality of a warm hug.” — Sandi Carpenter, on Facebook
Sacred Grounds Coffee Roasters, Sherman
Ashlawn Farm Coffee, Old Saybrook
Ben’s Beans Coffee Roasters, Putnam
Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee, New Canaan