STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 4, Number 2

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70 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 2, 2015 (April/May) Taylor Herman with father Wes Herman, president of The Woods Coffee Roasting their own coffee gives The Woods better quality control. The Woods packages whole bean roast for retail sales in coffee shops and local grocery outlets. "If we'd had to redo that whole software system it would have cost a ton of money," Taylor said. "They were awesome." The software problem was Taylor's biggest takeaway from the great roastery installation. "We've been waiting and waiting and waiting for the power and then we had the glitch," he said. "Fixing the software took two or three days, but we were working until 9 p.m. It was a mad rush to get it done." In retrospect, he advises lining up a service network for any potential issues. Another decision anticipated future growth. Puget Sound Air Quality Control does not require an oxidizer for roasters under 25-kilos. The Woods' was exempt, but had neighbors complained the agency would require The Woods to install one. So they made sure their roaster came with an oxidizer and installed it from the start, Taylor Herman said. "We wanted to do the right thing for the com- munity," Wes Herman said. When The Woods in- stalls a second roaster, they'll already have the oxi- dizer in place. Despite his planning, the configuration required a tweak as the roastery neared its first anniversary at The Woods. An 8-inch diameter, approximately 6-foot long steel, powder-coated duct connected to the chaff collector was installed horizontally about 12 feet off the ground. But pulling it down for peri- odic cleaning proved awkward and unwieldy, even hazardous. It took only a half day's work to recon- figure it to be lower and easier to reach and remove for cleaning. It was a good lesson, easily fixed. "The problems we had were very minor," Tay- lor Herman said. "They seemed big at the time, but now they don't seem big." The warehouse also contains green bean stor- age, forklifts and bins. He's already anticipated growth; some of the green storage could move up- stairs, near the tasting lab. In that lab, Head Roaster Hagan was busy ob- taining samples of beans, roasting and cupping. He designed a training program open to all employees. The lab has a one-kilo Probat model Probanti- noroaster in near-constant use. The Woods soon hired an assistant roaster – bakery employee Chris Forsyth, who split his duties at first but is now roasting full-time. The two roasters are the only additional positions. One of Hagan's first projects was developing profiles for the four The Woods blends: the me- dium roast Espresso blend; the dark Brown Bear blend; Woods decaf; and dark roast Viking Blend, named for the mascot of nearby Western Wash- ington University, with which The Woods shares part of the proceeds. The Woods added a seasonal Holiday Blend and limited-edition single-origins. Recent products have been light roasts from Colombia and the Honduras. "It's fun to do some single origins, specialty coffees," Hagan said. "We keep it fresh and do a limited quantity." Smooth transition As for reworking the familiar Woods brands, Her- man calls it "a smooth transition." The Woods didn't make an announcement; just started serving the new blends. But customers noticed. "They noticed immediately," Herman said. "We had zero negative comments. That's really rare and kind of weird." But it reinforced the decision to roast their own. "We wanted to do it all from the ground up, and do it in a sequential manner, without any hic- cups. And we did. I look back, and I can say this came off as flawlessly as you could possibly pull it off," Herman said. "This is not like a startup. It's an existing monster that's already rolling with millions of dollars at stake. If you screw it up, you screw up who we are and there's all kinds of pitfalls." He believes the soft launch was key. "We held off announcing we were roasting un- til there was full adoption," Herman said. The new roasts rolled out gradually to the stores. Then The Woods promoted two bags for the price of one for the inaugural month. "If we went back and asked how we would do this differently, well, we wouldn't," Herman add- ed. He doesn't even regret the delays; "We missed our goal by about 60 days," he said, between the power installation and the software glitch. But The Woods pays less now for beans than a year ago. "Our goal is to always act like a startup – it keeps you efficient," he added."We haven't raised prices, but we're more profitable every year, be- cause we're more efficient. We've never been strangers to investing." What's next for The Woods? Wes Herman has an answer, with a grin. Additional locations, of course. But he realized awhile ago the company uses more milk than coffee. Now that The Woods has a roaster, he's mulling another new supply: "Maybe we need our own cows."

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