September 1, 2021 1245 PM
MARFA –– There’s a new spot in town for residents to buy beans for their daily caffeine fix now that Marfa Coffee Company has opened its doors for business, offering up freshly roasted bags of beans imported from all over the world. And while the beans are international, the roasting company –– owned by Marfa residents Lesley Brandt and Coleman Morris-Goodrick –– is decidedly local. Rather than turning the business into the next Folgers, the couple wants to run a roastery that reflects the slow way of life out here in Far West Texas.
“For the most part, we want to keep the company as simple as possible,” Brandt said last Friday at her roasting headquarters housed inside the late Brit Webb’s old service station just west of the four-way stop on San Antonio Street. “We are doing more artisanal, small batch kind of stuff,” Morris-Goodrick added.
Having launched just two months ago, Brandt roasts about 60 to 120 pounds of coffee beans a week with her built-to-order roasting machine that sits in the back of the building, vaguely resembling a 19th-century steam engine. Nearby, there are bags and containers full of green, unroasted beans sourced from all over the world, including from Ethiopia, Colombia and Guatemala.
Brandt said that she’s been selling beans pretty much every day so far, either from people dropping by the shop or from online orders placed on the company’s website, where a 12 ounce bag of beans goes for around $17. Brandt has recently been attending the farmer’s market on Saturday, and local pizzeria Para Llevar has been brewing some of her beans. The roasting company has also been providing its product to a handful of Airbnbs in town and has bags for sale at Desert Rose Provisions in Alpine.
Despite taking things slow with the company, Brandt is an old hand at coffee, having worn many hats in the industry for most of her working life. All throughout high school she worked as a barista at a coffee shop and roastery in Idaho Springs, Colorado, and up until recently, residents could find her behind the The Sentinel bar making caffeinated drinks most mornings. “Since I’ve been 15, I’ve been making coffee,” she said.
Brandt also ran a roasting shop for 15 years up in Fort Collins, Colorado, so this latest foray into the roasting world is nothing new for her. “Roasting is a sensory process. There are so many factors in coffee that you have to just make it the same way to figure out where you went wrong or highlight what you want,” she said. “Here, we’re constantly trying to figure out the density of the bean.”
“It’s kind of like the scientific process where you change one variable at a time,” added Morris-Goodrick, who himself grew up around the coffee trade. “I have a different history with coffee. My dad worked for Folgers coffee when I was a kid. Coffee has always been a part of my life,” he said.
Yet he hadn’t been directly involved in the coffee business until he started working for Brandt up in Fort Collins. The duo, now married, moved down to Marfa two years ago to enjoy life at a slower pace.
Morris-Goodrick also runs his own business in the same building where he makes knives and repairs bicycles. “We created this space where Coleman is able to work on bikes and make things with his hands. We created a work environment we want to be at,” Brandt said.
And given the communal nature of their offices, which are also connected to the Stop & Read bookstore, the couple wanted to give the space a name that reflected Webb’s old service shop. Morris-Goodrick said, “We started to call it the tire shop, and we put it on Google as the tire shop, and then people are like ‘Oh can I get my tire fixed?’”
People also can’t buy brewed coffee at the store, leaving the fate of the coffee largely up to a customer’s own brewing skills. “My brother and I are always discussing how coffee is difficult because I’ll sell you this bag and you could take it home, but you don’t know how to make coffee so it tastes like shit,” Brandt said. “But with a beer, you buy it and it tastes good.”
Despite that, Morris-Goodrick said that he’s rather content with operating a roastery in West Texas, saying, “Hopefully the business doesn’t go away. I don’t think the rest of our story has been written, but it’s a pretty nice set up.”