Visitors to Mayorga Coffee’s roasting plant in Rockville catch the electrifying scent of coffee before they even pull into the parking lot.
Inside this java junkie’s paradise, the heady aroma only intensifies. Twenty-four hours a day and 250 pounds at a time, a giant roasting machine takes green beans imported from across Latin America and transforms them into an astonishing array of glistening browns.
Last year, Mayorga roasted over 1.5 million pounds of coffee, which found its ways into the company’s cafés and French presses across the country, and onto the shelves at Costco and Whole Foods.
The Montgomery County operation has come a long way since Martin Mayorga founded it back in 1996.
“I never thought I’d grow a business this size,” he says now. “It just kind of happened.”
Born in Guatemala and raised in Nicaragua, he was in his early 20s when he decided to become a bean baron. His first hurdle was figuring out how to get the best flavor out of the beans. Stateside methods didn’t impress him.
“East Coast roasting is wannabe West Coast roasting, which is wannabe Italian roasting,” he says. “It’s so watered down.”
So he immersed himself in learning the Latin American approach, which yields a deeply flavorful dark roast that doesn’t have a bitter bite at the finish. This approach ultimately helped him develop Mayorga’s most popular blend, Café Cubano.
“We get emails about it all the time,” he says. “That Latin-style roast gives it a lot of body and flavor, but keeps it nice and smooth.”
There’s a spoonful of philanthropy in every cup of Mayorga coffee. The company donates up to 5 percent of its profits to the Fabretto Children’s Foundation in Nicaragua, which helps feed poor kids attending school.
It goes beyond simple donations, though. Mayorga designed his business model to inherently benefit the small-time producers he sources from in Central and South America. It’s so simple, and yet it’s a surprisingly revolutionary philosophy for the coffee industry.
“If you want to help farmers, buy a lot of their coffee, pay them a great price for it, sell a lot of it, and then do that all over again,” he says.
Serina Roy would agree with that philosophy.
“People want coffee with a conscience,” says Roy, the owner of Dublin Roasters Coffee in Frederick.
“They want to know the money they are paying is going to do something or help somebody.”
This police-officer-turned-queen-of-caffeine is more than happy to lend a helping hand. For the past 12 years, she has been working with independent, family-owned farms in Africa, Indonesia, Panama, Puerto Rico, Papua New Guinea, and beyond.
She uses a multi-culti mix to create what she dubbed simply Serina’s Blend, which has become a top seller.
“It combines a very dark coffee, an earthy coffee, and a smooth coffee,” says Roy. “It’s a nice, bold, dark roast.”
Her skills as a craft coffee connoisseur have earned her a strong following. Well-respected restaurants like Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt and Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar in Frederick have commissioned Roy to design their signature blends. But you don’t have to be a Top Chef favorite to get this star treatment.
“I’ll sit down with anyone, figure out what they enjoy, and give them a one-of-a-kind blend,” says Roy. “They write notes on the bag, and we change it based on their feedback.”
Surprisingly, her career in law enforcement gave her the unique skill set she needed to help create the perfect cup for any customer.
“It’s not making arrests,” she jokes. “It’s the ability to hear what people are actually saying, [which helps now] because everyone uses different language to describe coffee.”
But if words fail you, you can always just say, “Mmm.”
For more information on Mayorga Coffee, visit www.mayorgacoffee.com. To learn more about Dublin Roasters, call 240-575-9929.