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Greenfield

SOMETHING’S BREWING

Greenfield: Local man makes his living roasting fresh coffee beans

  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.
  • Mason Parker of Greenfield roasts coffee beans for his coffee brand, which he sells at local stores and farmer's markets.

The smell of coffee permeates the small building of the Northeast Cafe in New Boston. A perfectly normal scent for a cafe, but in this case, it’s not coming from freshly-poured cups of coffee. Instead, it is coming from a small, five-pound roasting drum that pops with the first crack of freshly roasted coffee.

Mason Parker of Greenfield’s ears perk up at the sound. If he was going for a light roast, now is the time to pull the coffee beans from the roasting drum. If he’s going for a medium or darker roast, he’ll have to wait until the sound coming from the drum stops imitating popcorn popping and starts sounding like Rice Krispies crackling in a bowl of milk.

Most commercial roasters have a computer that tracks the timing for when a batch of beans is ready to be pulled, explained Parker on Friday, while in the midst of a roasting session. But Parker, who sells his own Parker House Coffee at local retailers, online through his website and at various farmer’s markets throughout the week, operates mostly as a one-man business with some assistance from friends and family. It’s all done manually. His best tools are his own ears, nose and taste buds to let him judge when the coffee is ready to be pulled from the roaster, cooled, and either bottled whole-bean or ground. The process has to be done quickly, said Parker — oxygen is the enemy of fresh coffee.

Parker has been supporting himself and his family with his coffee business for about a year and a half now, he explained, but making coffee beans was never his life’s ambition. Rather, it was something that he stumbled into as a way to ensure the quality of his own coffee. Three years ago, when he was first married, Parker and his wife moved to West Virginia. Life was good, but there was one major problem.

“I couldn’t find good coffee!” said Parker with a laugh. “And I decided, since I couldn’t find any good coffee down there, the way to get it was to roast it myself.”

Parker sat himself down in front of his computer and learned the process from YouTube videos, ordered himself some green coffee beans, and inadvertently exiled his wife and their young son from the house for long walks to escape the strong smell while he furiously stirred coffee beans on their stovetop. But he found he could make some good coffee.

Parker and his family moved back to New Hampshire a year and a half ago and settled in Greenfield. That was when Parker first got the idea to sell his coffee. It was around Christmas time, and Parker made Mason jars full of coffee to give away as presents.

“People loved it,” recalled Parker. “They said, ‘You should sell this.’”

So, almost on a whim, Parker made up 10 more Mason jars of what, at the time, he jokingly referred to as his “Parker House Blend” and headed to his first farmer’s market.

“My wife asked me, ‘How much coffee can we drink if you don’t sell any?’ But I just said, ‘Well, God will provide,’ and it turned out we sold all 10 right away. And here I am a year later, and it’s stuck.”

Coffee is not grown in the United States, which lacks both the proper climate and elevation needed for the coffee plant. Parker imports his green coffee from some of the best coffee centers in the world — Sumatra, Columbia, Burundi, Costa Rica and Peru.

Despite the coffee industry as a whole drifting more towards a preference for light roasts, New Englanders still enjoy a dark roast best, said Parker, and that has always been his best seller. “After a winter like the one we just had, there’s something about the bold darkness of it,” said Parker. “And I think the dark roasts are something that I do well, so it’s a good match there. Some parts of the market are very focused on the brewing part of the process, with a rise in techniques such as cold brewing or the French Press method. I don’t get into that. My core values are simply to give people a good cup of coffee.”

His business has grown exponentially since he first started with those 10 mason jars, and now he orders three quarters of a ton of beans at a time, a supply which only lasts a few months. He invested in a small mechanical roaster, which allows him to produce enough roasted coffee to keep a sustainable business. He barters with the owner of the Northeast Cafe in New Boston, exchanging his coffee for a space to roast his beans.

Parker House coffee can now be found in 24 area locations, including stores such as the Bennington Country Store, the Hancock Market, Francestown Village Store, Nelson’s Candy in Wilton and Greenfield Harvester Market, and farmers markets such as the Fresh Chicks Farmer’s Market in Peterborough, Peterborough Farmer’s Market and the Wilton Farmer’s Market.

Parker House Coffee is available ground in pint jars for $6, or whole bean in quart jars for $12, or in Keurig-compatible single-serve cups for 12 cups for $12.

For more information about Parker House Coffee, visit www.parkerhousecoffee.com or find them on Facebook.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com.

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