Do you ever drive through Port Chester on the way to the grocery store or the movies and catch a whiff of freshly ground coffee?
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Do you ever drive through Port Chester on the way to the grocery store or the movies and catch a whiff of freshly ground coffee? It turns out the deliciously distinctive aroma is coming from Waterfront Roasters/Empire Coffee on the corner of Purdy Avenue and Don Bosco Place. Although neighboring communities may not be aware, the understated 40,000 square-foot roasting, grinding, and packing facility provides coffee drinkers with about 500,000 cups a day.
“You’ve probably had our coffee and didn’t know it was ours,” said Director of Marketing Jason Richter about one of New York’s largest private label coffee roasters. “Our focus is gourmet and specialty coffees. We roast it to order, package it, and deliver it to customers immediately.”
A fourth generation coffeephile, Richter practically has coffee running through his veins. His great grandfather sold fresh roasted coffee out of a horse drawn wagon in New York City at the turn of the century. His grandfather began roasting his own brand and his father Bob, of Port Chester High School’s Class of 1967, partnered with Steve Dunefsky to create Empire Coffee. In 1996, they moved to their current state-of-the-art facility, where they launched Waterfront Roasters.
This gourmet division provides single-origin, blended and flavored coffees to retail and wholesale establishments, such as restaurants and distributors. Jason came on board last year and intends to bring specialty coffees, namely, their exceptional Path brand, into new markets.
“Coffee is going on its third wave with people looking at it like wine. It’s a lot more than a caffeine delivery system,” said Jason, who is implementing classes for the public at the facility. Coffee lovers may immerse themselves in the culture of coffee, learning about regions, profiles, and the latest home brewing techniques. They may also participate in tastings, conducted by Jason and Waterfront’s Director of Specialty Coffee Johnny Steverson, who suggested, “Experiment and have fun with it. Turn it into something ritualistic, something that brings you joy.”
Coffee tasting involves “cupping” or breaking it with a spoon to release the aroma, followed by slurping, tasting, and spitting. Providing their own family heirloom spittoon, the Waterfront aficionados take their coffee tasting very seriously.
“It’s a process we do everyday here,” said Jason. “Our customers have stayed with us for so long because of consistency.”
Indeed, the private label roaster is committed to quality control every step of the way. To start, they use only the best beans from all over the world (a Waterfront Roaster class would divulge the so-called beans are really fruit pits). Each coffee is roasted individually to yield the best results, and only blended afterwards. Their Dietrich roaster for specialty coffees roasts between 30 and 60 pounds of coffee at a time.
“Every time we roast, we work on the profile and technique. A lot of things happen in the bean, and it’s important to make sure the profile is developed properly,” explained Jason.
Meticulous about their grinding and packaging as well, the company employs a stellar workforce of 40 to 50 employees, of which Bob said he’s most proud.
In addition, Waterfront Roasters shared some helpful hints for optimum freshness and taste: grind as you go; measure coffee on a handy digital scale for precision; never refrigerate ground coffee; a 12 ounce bag shouldn’t last more than two to three weeks.
To sample the coffee that is both right around the corner and has a century’s worth of expertise behind it, log on to www.waterfrontroasters.com.