Maker Spotlight: SHaBean Coffee Roastery

Maker Spotlight: SHaBean Coffee Roastery

SHaBean Coffee Roastery - the perfect fresh brew to power your day!

I’ve never truly been a “morning person” but owning a retail store means I often have to hit the ground running. So I’ve developed a strategy. You could say The Green Gecko is powered by caffeine, there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t fuel my morning with a good cup of coffee. Actually, a great cup of coffee. I’m one of those, a coffee snob. Freshly roasted beans to brew a hot cup of joe, fueling my day and filling my kitchen with a divine smell. Switching the gears back on.

Luckily for me and for The Green Gecko customers, I know a coffee guy, actually, it’s a couple, John Barker and Mary Whitney, who live just a few miles down the road in the quaint village of Seeley’s Bay. They own SHaBean Coffee Roastery, a small artisan coffee roasting company they started in their home post-retirement.

I’ve been stocking their coffee since the start. It’s a big hit with customers who appreciate the difference of a premium product.

John, unsurprisingly, is also a self-confessed coffee snob, he began home roasting with a mini roaster “just for fun” and played around with the process for over 20 years.

“When you roast yourself, you have control over what beans you use, you have control over how dark your roast is, you can tailor it to your own taste,” John tells me. Needless to say, he’s not a fan of mass-produced or fast food coffee. 

Over the years he has explored the craft of roasting and invested time and energy into the research of beans, suppliers, and the coffee lands themselves. They have a business-to-business model supplying local shops in the Leeds and Grenville region (including The Green Gecko) and roast small-batch to order which ensures freshness and flavor. This business model fits their lifestyle. “I was given some great advice when I started out,” said Mary “you have to make the business work for you.” 

Mary has taken on the admin side, sourcing suppliers, packaging, networking, and delivering. John is the roaster, but it was Mary who pitched the idea of a small business venture to John that would keep them busy whilst supporting their retirement income. 

The business took off immediately, it’s not surprising, they are 100% committed to a quality product. The roast-to-order model has been the key to success. “We have a firm commitment to getting it to the stores when it’s just roasted,” explains Mary.

And sometimes that means the beans arrive at The Green Gecko still warm, mmmm, you can’t get fresher than that!

Mary and John have a commercial-grade fluid roaster in a well-ventilated garage set-up. It roasts up to 9lbs at a time, they typically roast 4-9lbs batches and package in 360-gram bags. 

“We are roasting high-end coffee that’s grown at high altitudes around the world, in volcanic soil on the sides of mountains,” explains John. 

Available in light, medium, and medium-dark roasts, John describes to me how that process occurs. An entire roasting cycle takes around 15 minutes from start to finish, but John has to be watching and listening with each batch.

“The beans start out at room temperature in the roaster and are roasted at high temperatures up to 400F. First crack sounds like popcorn cracking, and at that stage, the water is exploding out of the bean. All coffee after the first crack is drinkable coffee. There is a second crack, it’s a lot quieter, a lot faster and at a slightly higher pitch, that’s when the structure of the bean is breaking down.”

John watches the beans carefully and relates it to a steak on a bbq “It can be just a matter of minutes or even seconds between the difference of a light or dark roast. If you have a dark coffee it’s gone into second crack. Most of our coffee is medium-dark, so as soon as I hear the second crack, I cut it off.”

Most store-bought coffee is a blend of various unknown strains and may be months old, resulting in a subpar cup of coffee. John only purchases high-end single source beans designated “Strictly Hard Bean” otherwise known as SHB, (that’s how their name SHaBean came to be). They source coffee from four continents: Africa, North America, South America, and Asia. The beans are grown in volcanic soils in the tropics at elevations above 3000 feet. Strictly Hard Beans grow slowly and become harder than other beans “The flavors are intense and super fresh,” says John.

Popular roasts include Papua New Guinea Kimel A with a fig-like sweetness, fruity and floral Costa Rica Tarrazu, and Peru Organic, popular as a breakfast coffee. The only blend they produce is Espresso Bold, a dark roast, complex coffee with bite. John prefers to keep each strain pure for the best flavour results.

At The Green Gecko, we always stock a variety. My favourite is the Sumatra Mandheling Dark Roast, it's definitely my preferred brew. When I asked John what they drink, “Every coffee we brew is one that we like.” Good answer!

Mary is an active volunteer in the area; she's a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and the chair of Seeley’s Bay Resident Association. Like a lot of small business owners, she wears many hats. She gives back to the community and through these relationships has built up a network of clients she delivers to. She always arrives with a big smile, and did I mention it’s super fresh.

“I love the routine that it places on me, but mostly it’s the wonderful connections we make with people,” said Mary.

At The Green Gecko, I am always proud to support businesses with good ethical practices. John and Mary source their beans from justice-conscious suppliers that offer direct trade, purchasing directly from producers. While fair trade promotes the “protection” of farmers, direct trade also places focus on the quality of their coffee where growers can earn more money as a result. I believe that direct trade is the fairest coffee there is,” said John. 

Mary and John were fortunate to have a first-hand experience visiting Antigua, Guatemala in 2019. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, they toured several coffee farms and had the pleasure of working at the coffee farm of Juan Carlos Rodriguez at San Miguel Escobar.

This deep dive into production gave them a bigger appreciation of how much work goes into growing and farming the green beans. John found it to be a very emotional trip that gave them incredible insight into coffee bean production and the lifestyles of the people who work the coffee lands. 

John and Mary’s passion for coffee in its purest form and the people that it supports, is what keeps them energized and driven to continue to produce a premium product.

John and Mary keep The Green Gecko well stocked and this business owner well caffeinated!

Ready to try out SHaBean Coffee for yourself? View and get ready to brew here.

Want to know more about The Green Gecko? Read our story.


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