Grounds for change: A surge of coffee roasters in Salt Lake City
New attitude • Publik Coffee Roasters among the “third wave” of bean purveyors whose aim is to extol quality, while turning coffee into art.

By Kathy Stephenson

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: June 5, 2014 02:02PM
Updated: June 4, 2014 02:17PM
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Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Head roaster Ryan Gee gets set to roast a batch of coffee beans in the computerized roaster at Publik Coffee Roasters at 975 S. West Temple. The refurbished building used to be a print shop. Beans from around the world are shipped in and roasted in a high-tech computerized roaster. It's a two-story building and one can look down on the main floor from the upper seating area that has Wi-Fi and meeting rooms. The menu is all toast using Utah-made bread with different toppings: from butter and jam to avocado.

Salt Lake City’s coffee culture is percolating these days with new roasters, shops and a lighter view of how your morning cup of Joe should taste.

Matt Bourgeois, co-owner of Publik Coffee Roasters, a new Salt Lake City coffee business, says it is called the “third wave.”

The first wave, he said, was the spread of coffee around the world and the creation of convenient — but not-so-delicious — freeze-dried coffee found in grocery stores after World War II.

The second, led by Starbucks, was the mass marketing of higher-quality, dark-roasted coffees, espressos and other coffee-based beverages.

With the third wave, the focus turns coffee into art, putting quality over quantity and community over corporate.

“It’s a new attitude,” Bourgeois said. “It’s more like wine and showing what each bean has to offer.”

The result is the spread of high-tech roasting and cutting-edge cafes in cities across the country — including Salt Lake City.

New offerings • Publik Coffee Roasters, Salt Lake City’s newest “third wave” coffee shop, opened in mid-May in a restored print shop at 975 S. West Temple. High ceilings, a wall of windows, exposed brick and reclaimed wood — including a piece that was originally part of a barn owned by billionaire businessman Bill Gates — combine to create the urban space.

The two-story building, where customers can look down onto the main floor from the upper seating area, is part roasting facility, part coffee house and part community gathering spot, with meeting rooms and a large open space for events.

The word “publik” is Dutch for community, said Bourgeois, who spent years in the restaurant industry before deciding to switch gears.

“I was looking into doing something with either wine or coffee,” he said. “The people in coffee were cooler.”

Like most third-wave coffee houses, Publik focuses on buying beans from a single place of origin and customizing the roasting to capture the best flavors of that place. Typically that means a lighter roast than what the previous generation of coffee houses offered.

“With a dark roast, the only flavor you get is burned coffee,” said Bourgeois, who co-owns Publik with business partner Missy Greis.

Publik has joined with other small coffee roasters to source its high-quality beans from farms in Kenya, Panama, Guatemala, Ethiopia and other international locales.

Once the green beans get to Utah, they receive a high-tech treatment in a computerized infrared roaster that includes an afterburner so that the neighbors don’t smell the strong odors emitted.

It’s one of several environmental practices, including solar panels, that the company has implemented.

Saturated city • Even before Publik opened, the list of Salt Lake City coffee roasters looked rather impressive, especially considering many Utahns eschew hot caffeine-filled beverages.

The Salt Lake Roasting Co., Caffe d’bolla and Nobrow Coffee Werks are retail operations that have been around for many years while Jack Mormon Coffee Co., Millcreek Coffee Roasters and Rimini Coffee are well-established wholesalers that sell fresh-roasted beans in markets, grocery stores and restaurants.

But there are several up-and-comers that are brewing attention, including Blue Copper Roasters, Charming Beard, Joffees Coffees and Silver Bean Coffee.

With so many offerings, the question arises: Has Utah’s capital city reached coffee saturation?

Absolutely not, said Jeff Burkley, co-owner of Joffees Coffees headquartered in Salt Lake City. “There are a lot more coffee drinkers in Utah and they don’t want 7-Eleven or Starbucks,” he said. “They don’t want to give to the institution.”

In 2011, Burkley and his Utah co-owner, Mark Isaac, began selling Joffees Coffees in Smith’s Food and Drug stores, donating $2.50 of every $10 bag to the Utah Food Bank. Last fall, the company opened its first retail shop at 2121 McClelland St. in Sugar House, where 25 cents from every cup purchased is donated to charity.

Burkley said the coffees are sourced from Mexico and Thailand and roasted in Alberta, Canada, by the company’s third owner. Roasting at higher elevations — about 4,000 feet above sea level — creates “a smoother profile,” he said. At higher elevations the beans can be roasted quicker at a lower temperature, helping to avoid overroasting and scorching — two of the worst enemies to coffee, he said.

The opening of these new roasting operations is a sign that the food and beverage culture is maturing, said Josh Rosenthal, who started Salt Lake City’s Charming Beard Coffee in 2012. Mostly a wholesale operation, the company recently opened its first retail operation inside the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.

“Everything in Utah is elevating,” Rosenthal said. From chocolate to bread or German bratwurst, “if there is an industry that can be treated artistically it will be.”

And the additional competition improves everyone’s offerings.

“When the new guy comes in, it ups their game a little bit,” he said. “All ships rise in high tide.”

kathys@sltrib.com

Publik Coffee Roasters

Buy bags of freshly roasted single-origin coffee to take home or enjoy an espresso, cappuccino or latte in this newly renovated urban space.

Where • 975 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City.

Hours • Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Food • Toast with a range of toppings, from locally made jam to avocado, is available on bread made by Red Bicycle Breadworks in Park City.

Prices • Coffee and tea, $2 to $4.50; food, $2.25 to $8.

Park City • Publik Coffee Roasters also has a coffee shop next to the Kimball Arts Center, 638 Park Ave., Park City.