Meet the Roaster: Broast Tennessee Coffee Roasters
Coffee has a way of bringing people together. Even in a time when we are not always able to gather in person, we have found ways connect with one another virtually and through the stories we share.
In this spirit of connection and mutual love of coffee, I met up (online) with Andy Pitman, Head of Roasting and Sales at Broast Tennessee Coffee Roasters in Cookeville, Tennessee, to learn more about the business and his role there.
Photo credit: Andy Pitman by Broast Tennessee Coffee Roasters
REB: Hi Andy! Thanks for joining me today. Let's jump right in. Tell me about Broast. When did it get its start?
AP: The original owner began very small scale roasting and selling at a local farmers market and online 5 or 6 years ago. Eventually, our customer base grew, and we began to add a few wholesale partners. [We] moved into our commercial location that we are currently in 3 years ago.
REB: What do you think makes Broast such a special place?
AP: We really love our jobs and are super interested in and excited about coffee. Everything we do, we are trying to do it as best we can because we realize how much work and skill goes into producing the coffee before it gets to us and brewing the coffee after us, and that deserves our best effort.
REB: I love that! Those things are truly what makes specialty coffee from small roasters so exceptional. Tell me more about your role.
REB: How long have you worked at Broast, and what does the Head Roaster do on a daily basis?
AP: 3 years! Most of my day involves roasting coffee and filling wholesale and online coffee orders. We operate in a small shop, so I also help behind the counter and on the espresso bar when I can.
REB: What is your favorite part of the job?
AP: Drinking coffee! But to be more specific, learning to understand a coffee. I enjoy taking the background info we have on a coffee, developing a few different roast plans and hypothesis for how the way in which we roast the coffee will affect the cup, and then tasting it to see if we have any idea what we are talking about!
REB: I recently compared coffee roasters to ancient alchemists. You're validating my analogy here, and having tasting your creations I can say with confidence that you DO have an idea what you're talking about!
REB: When did you first become interested in coffee?
AP: I started drinking coffee my freshman year of college, but I really became interested in how special coffee can be when I got an Aeropress as a gift and quickly realized it made way better coffee than a Keurig. Around the same time I happened upon a local coffee shop that featured special coffees from different roasters around the region on Aeropress. [This] peaked my curiosity about how coffee could taste the way some of the coffees I was trying tasted. And now here we are!
REB: What is your current favorite coffee, and why do you like it?
AP: Our Anaerobic Processed Colombia La Reserva is definitely my favorite at the moment. It is bursting with juicy grape candy and vanilla sweet notes and is just a really special coffee. The anaerobic process is a very interesting and forward thinking way of processing coffee that is used to achieve the complexities and flavor profiles of a very high altitude coffee by producers with farms at lower elevations. Juan Felipe, who produces this coffee, is already working at good elevation on his farm, Finca La Reserva, but has still chosen to experiment with anaerobic processing some of his harvest which has resulted in some amazing tasting coffees.
REB: That's fascinating! I've shared with our readers and customers before about how small roasters are uniquely positioned to bring a human side back to the coffee production line. By being smaller and more specialized, roasters like Broast often get to know the coffee farmers in a personal way and, in addition to producing some delectable coffees together, help ensure ethical practices and fair compensation along the production line. We are here for it!
REB: What's the most interesting thing you've read this month?
AP: I have been reading Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. I really enjoy cooking (and love eating), but have never quite understood more than simply following a recipe. Samin, in a very approachable and non-boring way explains a lot of the basic elements of how to make food taste good. I like understanding the why behind things and then having ways to apply that, and that is pretty much the point of the whole book. I also am usually reading a book or watching a video about fly fishing.
REB: A deep appreciation of food flavors and of coffee go very well together. I fully anticipate this inspiring future "tasting notes" you list on bags of Broast coffee.
REB: If someone is just beginning to explore specialty coffee, what advice would you give them?
AP: Drink lots of coffee! Try coffees from different origins, different roasts, different brewing methods and see if you really seem to like one. Try to identify the things about coffee that make you curious or excited, and try to learn more about those aspects of coffee.
REB: What is the most difficult obstacle Broast faced in 2020, and how did you overcome it?
AP: There have been quite a few obstacles and difficulties over the last year. Cookeville was devastated by a terrible tornado in March, which was shortly followed up with the beginning of the pandemic and shutdown. It was difficult and scary being in situations that you can't control, but I think we overcame it by deciding to do what we can do and do that the best we can. We tried to provide coffee for as many first responders, volunteers, and victims as we could in the aftermath of the tornado. [We] set up a "carhop" service in our parking lot when we couldn't have people inside our store.
The owners of our business, Justin and Hannah Davis, have set an excellent example and led all of us at Broast very well this year in trusting the Lord during uncertain times and doing all that we can do with what God has given us. I have benefited greatly from watching them live that out, and Broast definitely has as well.
REB: It sounds like Broast has strong, visionary leadership and a deep love for your community. No doubt these values have guided the business through what will be long remembered as an "unprecedented" time.
REB: On the flip side, what is the most surprising thing you've seen in the last few months?
AP: Probably the thing that sticks out the most among many other surprising things is the resiliency and dedication of people to things they value and care about. There are lot's of good examples of this in our community, but one really good example that I have been able to see is in so many of the specialty coffee producers around the world. With travel being shut down, and even travel inside of many coffee producing countries being limited, much of the normal way of producing coffee got turned upside down this year. I was expecting and was a bit worried that we would see the effects of this in lower quality coffee crops this year. However, the awesome people who work to produce the coffee we roast proved a great example of being dedicated to their craft, even during difficult times, and have produced amazing coffees again.
REB: Those were realistic concerns, and I'd agree with you: the resilience of people to do their best work, create new solutions, and even advance their craft during this time has been astounding and inspiring.
REB: Looking forward into the remainder of 2021, what excites you about the year ahead?
AP: Learning more. It's exciting to think about how much can be learned in a year. We also have plans to move our roastery and cafe into a historic building in Cookeville with much more space and a better layout. We are very excited about that!
REB: YESSS! We've long since established that I'm a nerd, I mean "life-long learner." I will always celebrate continuing education... particularly when you're education leads to tasty coffee in my mug. Carry on.
Coffee shops and historic buildings go together like steamed milk and espresso. We can't wait to hear about these plans as they develop and Broast makes the move to the new space!
REB: As we wind down, what's the one thing you'd like people to remember about Broast?
AP: Hopefully that the coffee is good! But I hope people see that we love our jobs and we care about them. We are thankful for them being our customers so that we can pursue something so cool as coffee and share that with them.
REB: I can assure our readers that the coffee IS good.
REB: Tell us how people can find Broast in person and online.
AP: Our address is 17 West Spring Street, Cookeville, TN 38501, and our website is broasttn.com.
REB: Thank you so much for joining us today, Andy, and sharing your story with us!
Photo credit: Broast Tennessee Coffee Roasters
You can find a selection of Broast's coffees on our shop page. Next time you're in the Cookeville area, pay them a visit in person. You might even catch Andy in the shop and get him to tell you about his latest creations in The Broastery!
As always, thank you for supporting small business like Red Eye Bistro and the specialty roasters we are honored to partner with. We raise our mugs to you!
Amy, Founder of Red Eye Bistro