Island Joes Gourmet Coffee Of Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida has an ambiance all its own as any traveler knows. Added to the attraction of the slow and easy lifestyle is the beautiful and breezy atmosphere that many residents describe as paradise. For Joe Wells, that paradise has brought him a way of life that has added to his knowledge and changed his perspectives.

His family has changed too, and so has his standard of living. Coffee roasting has brought Joe Wells and his family into a place not only known as paradise, but the 21st century.

Here is what Joe has to say about the coffee trade in Key West, Florida, and about what the coffee roasting line of work has meant to him.

abs) How long has Island Joe been in business? What gave you the idea to begin the business?

Joe) We have been commercial roasting going on 5 years. Our motto is "Born out of Necessity and Crafted with Passion." So lets look at "Born out of Necessity" Living in the Florida Keys one learns to do for ones self, so we wanted a fresh roasted cup of gourmet coffee- everyday! We had been home roasting for sometime and started asking some of customers at our gas station in Marathon, Florida what they thought of our coffee. Well, they where very impressed and soon started asking us for some to take home, then our winter visitors, who travel north for the summer, begin calling and emailing us, asking for our coffee. Hence Island Joes Coffee was born.

We are family owned, myself, my two sons and my daughter. This business has really brought us closer, as we get to interact with people from all over the world through our coffee i.e. We have customers in China, England, Canada and all across American. Coffee and coffee houses have always created a social sconce i.e. artist, writer etc. "Crafted with Passion" Each and every roast is done by a family member and we all make sure the other is doing it right, as we care about our product which we feel leads to the last part of our motto "The Proof is in the Cup"

ABS) What would be your favorite coffee product? And why? -

JOE) WOW, good question. When we begin developing our Signature Gourmet Blends, we tried to cover the pallet of many customer from a light roast to a French roast, including all points in between. As, like wine, we think you should drink choose a gourmet coffee blend to drink depending on your mood, the time of day, is it morning, afternoon or night. Parr your coffee with your mood, your food and/or your dessert. Do not get stuck thinking their is only one type of coffee.

I drink our French roast Deep Blue in the afternoon when I am on the run, as it is a rich, full body and smooth cup of coffee which seems to give me a little filling when I do not have time to stop and eat. Our Smugglers Brew is a great coffee with anything sweet, anytime of the day or night, because we have added a little French roasted Guatemalan coffee, which gives our Smugglers Brew hints and tones of semi-sweet chocolate tones. On the lighter side, we created our Misty Morning which is a medium roast with a full body, but most importantly it is low acidic, sometimes noted as the Key West Hangover Coffee. Then one of the highest rated coffee is our Beemer's Breakfast Blend, which offer a crisp and bright cup of coffee, just right for the morning. So hopefully I have answered your question, by saying it just depends when I say what is my favorite. I suggest people try different blends for different times in their life.

I would like to touch our our Espresso Blends, two which rate in the top 5% in the world ( 90 Mile Stretch Espresso (90 out of 100), Black Flag Espresso (90 out of 100), then we offer our Shark Bite Espresso (Creamy and Rich) and our gourmet espresso blend, which one might find in local shops in Northern Italy, Villa Espresso. Why, because again, we like options. So many times, you go to the supermarket or a restaurant, order an espresso and you have one option. We offer four, again believing people should have choices in life.

ABS) How do you view the coffee industry? Independent as opposed to corporate. Do you think certain parts of the country are more "into" coffee houses, than others?

JOE) Coffee house have been around for many many years and all over the world. Sometimes as a fad, perhaps, the Seattle craze a few years back, but then again, I think that help small roaster like Island Joes Coffee. Even the large chains have been good for us little guys, as it has taught the consumer, they have more than one option in life, thus we get sought after by many, who are looking for the ultimate cup of coffee and who no longer wish to been told what they have to enjoy. So in general corporate always has it good and bad points, as does the being small.

It use to been the western U.S. enjoy the dark French roast with burnt undertones, then the east coast was more into medium roast profiles, but in the last 10 years or less, we have seen this change as people on the west coast wanted to try something different, then the same with the east coast coffee drinkers, so I guess like most things in life, always be prepared for things to change, then as far as history repeating itself, well, I do not think we have been full cycle, so we must all wait and see what happens in the future.

ABS) What are your plans for the future of Island Joe’s?

JOE) Our goal is to always grow slow, not losing our passion for roasting coffee. Growth is good, because we feel when growth is control, then their is a learning curve, thus we wish to continue to learn, as this will help us maintain our quality control and produce a true cup of gourmet coffee for many years to come.

ABS) Many people don’t really know what coffee cupping is, can you explain it to them? Is it the same as wine tasting

JOE) Yes your could compare cupping coffee as to a wine tasting, but add some grinds in your teeth, look for a private place to spit, then you have coffee cupping. Basically, we will roast our coffee to a medium roast profile, as this tends to gives you a more rounded taste of the roasted coffee. Take some coffee grinds, place them in a cup, add hot water, then take a spoon, fill it with the coffee and then the fun part (be careful the coffee is HOT) and suck the coffee from the spoon hard into your mouth, trying to get the coffee to cover you entire mouth as one time, this way you will be able to tells which taste buds are affected first and the most. Then beginning coffee cuppers sometimes will have different fruit on hand, as a mean, to judge the acidity and taste. Coffee is from a fruit, so a banana might have an acidity of 3 from a 1 to 10, then an orange might be a 7. You are getting into ph levels here. But basically, you must train your pallet in order to be able to properly describe a coffee and all this comes from years of cupping. On the job training is the best way to go here, as we cup all them time, which in turn, also helps us maintain quality control.

Individual coffee roasters like Joe and his family form the basis for a source of enjoyment that is unique to many individual pallets. As is seen in Joe's story snowbirds in Florida began asking Joe about his wonderful blends and then he began a business to satisfy their demands. As is also evident Joe has pursued these customers all over the world (or they have pursued him).

Today, the individual coffee roasters, like Island Joe's, form the source for a growing number of people throughout the world who crave a different type of coffee throughout the day. Coffeehouses find Island Joe's the place to attain unique blends to offer their ever growing customer base.

And all of this out of a cup of joe.

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About The Author, A Brewster Smythe
Interview with Joe Wells, of Island Joes Coffee.