Colorado State University marketing alumna Jackie Harris came to school with a dream of owning her own coffee shop after graduation.
“I went to the library at CSU and checked out every book I could on coffee,” Harris said. “One of them was about roasting and I thought ‘Oh! Maybe I could do that.”
In her junior year, Harris decided she wanted to try roasting her own coffee.
“I emptied my savings account and bought this roaster off of eBay,” Harris said. “So, I started roasting and it turned out to be way more difficult than I had ever anticipated. Like, it was not drinkable at all.”
A year later, Harris was able to produce three different kinds of coffee that she sold at a farmers market. Her first week, she made a sale to a previous owner of Cafe Ardour who returned to the coffee stand the next week.
“She said, ‘That’s the best coffee I’ve ever had … Can you supply our coffee shop with coffee?”
For the rest of her time at CSU, Harris roasted coffee in her boyfriend’s garage at night and started picking up wholesale accounts.
Harris hand picks her coffee beans from all over South America, including Colombia, Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica.
“She does not use a supplier,” said Kevin Hicks, barista at Alleycat. “She goes to the farmers directly and she sources straight from the farms. It’s a lot more difficult to do.”
According to Harris, different regions provide completely different flavors of coffee beans. Each shipment of coffee beans comes with a story.
In Colombia, Harris met a coffee farmer who built a place for his migrant workers to stay during coffee picking season, and he made sure their kids had a bus to transport them to school.
“He started out as a picker,” Harris said. “He saved up some money and bought one acre of land … For someone who doesn’t have a lot, he is really just giving back to his roots.”
Now, Harris tries to provide her customers at Jackie’s Java with a unique experience by roasting each coffee bean separately and hand-blending them together.
“(Harris) takes every batch that comes out of the roaster and makes sure it is perfect,” said Kara Kranor, former CSU hospitality management graduate.
Collegian Reporter Stephanie Mason can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @StephersMason.