Nate Van Dusen, Co-Founder and Director of Quality at Brio Coffeeworks let us in on another news tip–a new roastery and training lab popping up in Burlington with plans to open in early August. Brio took over operations of Black River Roasters in May and are building out their new digs at 696 Pine Street, which Van Dusen describes as “smack in the middle of Burlington’s up-and-coming Rail District.”
“We sell coffee primarily to specialty cafes and restaurants in Vermont,” Van Dusen explains. “After growing up in Vermont and Chicago, we’ve been in Washington, DC for 15 years, where we were introduced to specialty coffee (murky-style) and honed our crafts…Magda as a barista and Nate as an amateur roaster. We both also have backgrounds working at origin, as development consultants for DC consulting firms and NGOs.”
As told to Sprudge.com by Nate Van Dusen.
Can you tell us a bit about your new space?
The new space is in Burlington’s South End neighborhood. The South End has really taken off over the past 5 years, on the back of Burlington’s booming creative and craft economy. Our neighbors will be Lake Champlain Chocolates and their new bean-to-bar brand, Blue Bandana. The South End is also home to some of Burlington’s hottest craft breweries: Switchback Brewing Company, Citizen Cider, and (coming soon) Zero Gravity.
The neighborhood consists almost entirely of repurposed/reclaimed industrial warehouses, auto repair, and auto parts stores. The warehouses have generally been broken into smaller units and are now mostly occupied by design firms, food companies, advertising firms, and local artisans (wood, glass, metal workers). The company whose Vermont operations we bought (Black River Roasters) and are rebranding has been operating out of a South End warehouse for several years.
Our new space is a refurbished auto parts store that also houses a yoga studio, design firm, frozen yogurt shop, and burrito shop. We’re excited about being a part of the South End community and are exploring partnerships with other companies in the neighborhood as we build-out our space and launch our brand.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Our approach to coffee is all about collaboration. We think that great coffee comes out of the exchanges between passionate professionals at all levels of the coffee supply chain. In Vermont, this means working closely with our cafe and restaurant customers to ensure that they are getting the profile of coffees that best meet their needs and that they have the capacity to prepare espresso drinks and coffees that will impress. We believe that SCAA standards and protocols for drink preparation, cupping, grading, etc., are powerful tools for creating an amazing consumer experience. But, coffee is also a subjective experience, so we seek out opportunities to engage customers and suppliers in a conversation about what they like or don’t like about a particular coffee. This impacts how we source, blend and roast our coffees.
Coming out of careers in international development, my wife and I are also passionate about the potential of coffee to transform livelihoods in the developing world. We’re revisiting our sourcing practices and using our networks, particularly in Africa, to experiment with more direct relationships and to satisfy our commitment to sustainability. This will be a long-term project.
Our focus on collaboration requires that we have a more inviting and public space. Our current space isn’t conducive to hosting trainings or public cuppings, or to having a storefront where we can interact with customers directly. The new space will allow us to do all of the above.
What kind of equipment do you have lined up?
We roast on a [Diedrich] IR-12 [coffee roaster], which we’ll be bringing with us to the new space. For the bar and training lab, we’re procuring a new 2-Group La Marzocco Linea Classic MP [espresso machine]. I’m also just finishing a rebuild of a 2006 1-Group Nuova Simonelli Appia [espresso machine] that we’ll be using for events that require us to be mobile. Other equipment:
What about coffee?
In terms of coffees, we’re really excited about the Ethiopia Sidama Guji that we’re currently featuring and will be adding some beautiful new coffees to our lineup in the coming months, including a Sumatran Dolok Natural from Sriwijaya and a pulped natural Brazilian Fazenda Itaoca from Ally.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives?
Yes! Our designer and brand guru is Lindsay Button of Design Button. She’s based out of Washington, DC, but is a transplant from the Burlington area. We’re also commissioning custom pourover stands from Burlington woodworker Jeff Edwin and a mural inside the new space by local barista (Maglianero’s) and artist Maddie McLennon. Check out this cool time lapse video of Maddie’s renegade mural project at Georgetown:
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