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roasted in the berkshires

Celebrating connections in specialty coffee

Celebrating connections in specialty coffee

Learning coffee origins through farmer-roaster relationships

This is an exciting time for specialty coffee roasters because of our deepening relationships with the farmers who produce our coffee. Our connection with farmers is a crucial partnership built on trust and trying new things to achieve great results, and what we do would not be possible if not for the growers.

The Triunfo Verde Co-op in Jaltenango, Mexico grows coffee that thrives in the lush climate of the Triunfo Biosphere Reserve.

The Triunfo Verde Co-op in Jaltenango, Mexico grows coffee that thrives in the lush climate of the Triunfo Biosphere Reserve.

With these stronger relationships come transparency and traceability, which allow us to to learn the story behind each coffee before we roast it. Our Mexico Jaltenango Chiapas is a microlot coffee produced by the Triunfo Verde Coop, whose farmland is situated near the largest cloud forest in mesoamerica, an ideal growing climate for coffee. In Chalatenango, El Salvador, farmer Jose Armando Portillo grows coffee that we love for its balance of bright citrus and sweet, creamy flavors. We know that he comes from a long line of coffee farmers with traditions so powerful that they have “coffee in their blood.” These are the farmers we want to support, who take care of their natural environments and fold coffee farming deep into their family histories.

This knowledge informs the decisions we make while roasting, from differences in farming and processing techniques to climate and experiences with roasting past lots from farmers. Though roasting is an incredibly important part of the process, appropriate brewing techniques ensure that we realize the true potential of every coffee. Baristas at our newest coffee bar, Uptown Tunnel Coffee, prepare all drip coffee as individually brewed pour overs to bring out the best possible flavors in each cup. With this slower, manual brew, we can more easily pick out the flavors that make each coffee special, and start dialogues with customers about the stories behind our coffee.

With coffee consumers increasingly interested in where their coffee comes from, attention shifts to coffee farmers and their individual stories, as well as the growing techniques that make their crops unique. Specialty coffee today feels like a celebration of coffee and its providers, connecting us all in a way not previously possible. We are proud of its evolution so far and excited to be part of where it is headed.

Playing with Fire

Playing with Fire

Tunnel City Coffee roasts for a better cup in the northern Berkshires

Tunnel City Coffee roasts all its specialty coffee in small batches at its Norad Mill roastery in North Adams, MA. 

Tunnel City Coffee roasts all its specialty coffee in small batches at its Norad Mill roastery in North Adams, MA. 

Those who frequent Tunnel City Coffee's cafes in the northern Berkshires might know a little about the work that goes into creating the best experience for our customers, but it's more involved than one might think. From roasting to cupping to brewing, we follow a rigorous process of quality control not unlike one at an average testing facility or science lab. Our roastery at the Norad Mill in North Adams, MA, is our site for trying out new roasting techniques and coffee cuppings to taste test each roasting variation. 

It’s a game of taking creative risks to extract every potential flavor in a new coffee. 

This spring, Tunnel City began offering high-scoring microlots from coffee producing regions around the world, creating even more room for experimentation. Most recently roasted in its vintage Diedrich oven was a Costa Rican microlot coffee produced by the Aguilera Brothers family operation at Finca Toño in Los Robles de Naranjo. This limited-run coffee with sweet fruit and caramel notes is the result of bold and precise testing at the roastery, playing with heat and timing to create the perfect storm for this particular bean. 

Roasters at Tunnel City Coffee test each new roasted coffee for balance and flavor using a process known as "cupping."

Roasters at Tunnel City Coffee test each new roasted coffee for balance and flavor using a process known as "cupping."

At least 8 hours later but not more than 24, our roasters test for flavor and balance through a rather sophisticated process known as cupping. This involves weighing out the appropriate amount, grinding the coffee to its optimal coarseness with a burr grinder, and using a pouring kettle to add the right volume of just-boiled fresh water. 

A serious cupper must be well-rested for a cupping and with taste-buds unaffected by powerful flavors like onions or hot spices. This interferes with the impression the coffee will make on the cupper and ultimately, the customer. 

The idea of exceptional specialty coffee is that significant time and effort goes into producing something one of a kind, but the truth is that the work continues even after the coffee is bagged for delivery to roasteries like Tunnel City Coffee. It’s the passing of a torch from those who produce to those who roast, and we can’t think of a more beautiful relationship.