Many people enjoy a good cup of coffee, or two, in the morning. But Will Cury's love of coffee takes a far more intensive approach.
Several nights a week, often after a long day at Newport News Shipbuildingwhere he works as an engineer, Cury retreats to a back room in his Hampton house. In the center of the space sits a large coffee roaster.
He carefully measures out different batches of beans, times the roasting process, cools and weighs them before pouring the beans into small brown paper bags. On the front is stamped the label on his cottage business: Rogue Elephant Coffee Roasting Co.
Cury, 38, and his wife, Renee, 43, sell their coffee each Saturday morning at the Smithfield Farmers Market. It's also for sale at Five Points Community Farm Market and Westside Produce & Provisions in Norfolk, and poured at Blend coffee house in the Buckroe area of Hampton.
His coffee roaster, about as tall as he is, roasts only about four pounds of coffee at a time. He found it through one of Renee's contacts — she teaches at a elementary school in Norfolk — and though it's a labor-intensive process, he likes the ability to roast a variety of different beans.
Near the roaster along one wall are a dozen burlap bags holding hundreds of pounds of raw beans from different countries — Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Indonesia, to name a few. Cury buys them from a New York distributor who recommends different beans and sends him samples to taste.
Cury likes to work with single flavors that are called "single origin" beans, such as Burundi Kayanza Bourbon. But Rogue Elephant also sells two blends he calls Brogden Blend and Critical Mass Espresso. Brogden is made from a mixture of Indonesian, African and South American beans.
"It's great for drinking any time," he says. "It's complex and flavorful."
Growing up in Hampton, Cury remembers always enjoying coffee. He bought his first small roaster in 2004 and started experimenting with different coffees.
"I've been drinking it ever since I was young," he says. Later he discovered that 'the roasting and brewing of coffee is a challenge."
Though he'd like to expand, Cury sees the value in keeping his company small. He feels he can offer more of a variety of exotic coffees than the large manufacturers. And while big companies often stamp their coffees with an expiration date, "we put a roast date on our coffees so people can be aware of its freshness." The coffee he sells at the farmers market on Saturday is roasted on Wednesday night, he says.
"I like my coffee doctored up, but Will is a purist," says Renee, who jokes, "When we go to the farmers market, he doesn't even want to put out the creamer and sugar for people."
Like other people with consuming interests, the Curys often travel to coffee-rich regions. They've been to Puerto Rico and Guatemala. Last summer they did an eco-tour to Costa Rica through the Earthwatch organization where they worked with a scientist who was studying sustainable ways to grow coffee. They work with many fair-trade coffees as well.
At times, operating a small business can get intense. Will remembers one long night when he roasted 105 pounds of coffee in order to fill orders.
"The bagging isn't fun, but it's exciting to know that someone is buying it and enjoying it," he says. "You want to get it while it's fresh. And don't save it for a special occasion – drink it while it's good."
What: Rogue Elephant Coffee Roasting Co.
Owners: Will and Renee Cury
Where to buy it: Sold Saturday mornings at the Smithfield Farmers Market. Also available at Five Points Community Farm Market, Church and 26th streets, and Westside Produce & Provisions, 5015 Colley Avenue, both in Norfolk. Served at Blend coffee house in the Buckroe area of Hampton.