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Roaster Interview: Meet Koan and Mark from Huckleberry Roasters

March 03, 2015

Koan and Mark, founders of Huckleberry Roasters met in Denver, Colorado in late 2006; one as barista, one as customer. They shared a bond over their love of music, and eventually found themselves working together at the same coffee shop. Over time, a vibrant group of friends formed around them—musicians, artists, and fellow coffee enthusiasts.

The roasting began in a garage in early 2011, but Mark and Koan knew they wanted to create a space for others to have a special experience with coffee and cultivate a tight knit community.

A shared passion for coffee and music, combined with a supportive community inspired the creation of a space for others to experience authentic interactions—a place to slow down and appreciate everyday.

Coffee Kind asked Mark to answer a few questions so our community can get to know them a little better.

CK - In three words describe your roasting style.

Mark - Approachable, light-ish, complex.

CK - In three words your approach to coffee.

Mark - Thoughtful service, sweet coffee. I cheated, 4 words.

CK - Tell us about your most memorable cup of coffee.

Mark - So many, but we'll begin with the one that started me down this road. Somewhere in the late Spring of 2004, I had a Ethiopia Harrar from Intelligentsia Coffee (a pretty small coffee roasters at the time!) that was unlike anything I've ever had. I didn't have fancy terms to describe it then, but I remember it tasting like blueberry ice cream and I was floored. 

CK - Where do you source coffee from?

Mark - We use a short list of importers who offer us a few things. First, they've been in the game a long time and have long-standing, stable and sustainable relationships with producers. Second, they give us access to really special coffee that tells an interesting story, is impactful in the development of that producing country and tastes really lovely in the cup. Ultimately we'd love to source some of the coffee ourselves, but when we do, we want to make sure we're doing it responsibly.

CK - Biggest challenge of starting up a roastery?

Mark - Way too many to list, but from a strict roasting standpoint, developing a base of knowledge as to what is happening (chemically, molecularly...SCIENCE!) during different stages in the roast and linking that with what our sensory experiences (sight, smell, audible) are telling us.

CK - What coffee is the most challenging to roast?

Mark - I have a hard time with Brazil. When I drink coffee the main thing I look for is acidity. Acidity adds the flavorful brightness that makes coffee exciting for me. For a variety of reasons including low altitude and common varietals, Brazil just don't really offer that. Additionally, the space between nailing a roast with nice chocolate and nutty flavors or ending up with a cup of coffee that is a bit ashy is very narrow. 

CK - What is your roasting philosophy?

Mark - My roasting philosphy is pretty simple: don't mess up by doing too much. The coffee is all ready to be delicious, so I just need to put it over a fire and help it get there.

CK - What is your favorite brewing method?

Mark - Pour over, specifically a Kalita 155. I love getting excited about cups of coffee and the Kalita offers that to me most often.

CK - What is your favorite album?

Mark - Without The Shins album "Wincing The Night Away", Huckleberry Roasters might not be a company.

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