Who doesn’t love a family business success story? Royal Mile Coffee is a literal mom and pop roastery in southern New Jersey. They’ve been selling their beans online since December, but the time has come for them to make the jump from femto-roastery in the garage to nano-roastery in a 128 square feet studio, part of a shared working space called the SoHa Arts Building in Haddon Township, New Jersey, “just across the bridge from Philadelphia.” Owners Jess and Jamie Blanchard are sourcing coffees from Cafe Imports, Olam and Coffee Shrub, and say they were very inspired by companies like Joe Coffee and Counter Culture Cofee in their journey to bring locally-roasted specialty coffee to south Jersey.
As told to Sprudge by Jess Blanchard.
Can you tell us about yourselves?
We are a mom and pop (and baby!) coffee roastery specializing in single origin beans. We’ve existed online since December of 2013 selling mostly to a large online community that has been incredibly supportive and forgiving while we get on our feet.
Like many others in this industry, our passion for coffee was born out of an “a-ha” moment. Jamie was on a contract job in Austin, TX and had Cuvee Coffee at a cool shop called Cenote. He loved it so much that he brought home a bag and it started us on the journey to find places in Philly doing coffee right. Joe Coffee had just opened in Rittenhouse and Ultimo Coffee had been named best shop in the country, so we went to both of them the next day. Joe’s cold brew and Ultimo’s espresso were a knockout punch for us; we haven’t looked back since. We might even have a picture of that espresso somewhere.
We believe that you need to do what makes you happy in this life, and coffee is one of those things for us. In between raising a toddler and Jessica’s full-time day job, almost every free minute of our lives are consumed by the starting of and promotion for the business. We also run a British music and culture website called BritpopNews.com (another one of our passions), so we keep ourselves more than busy.
Can you tell us a bit about your new space?
The studio is located within a “makerspace” or shared workspace called the SoHa Arts Building. We’re big believers in making the most of space and eliminating excess (we drive a tiny Prius C, live in a very small house, and recycle/compost as much as we can), and our studio space follows that pattern. At only 128 square feet, we have one of the smaller rooms in the building — but it’s perfect for us.
In addition to housing the roaster, our plans include a brewing station with all the tools and toys, and an area to host cuppings or guests who want to try a freshly brewed cup.
What’s your approach to coffee?
In our own small way, we want to continue on the path so many greats like Counter Culture and Joe have blazed before us. We’re in a part of New Jersey that is close to Philly (where there are some awesome contributors to the third-wave movement) but south Jersey itself doesn’t have many craft coffee roasters to call its own. In the land of diner coffee and grab-and-go, we feel our coffees need to be approachable to people who may be new to what we’re doing, so we try to have a variety of origins and flavors available to help ease people in. It also helps that we ourselves gravitate toward different tastes. We typically have a fruity, “wow” Ethiopian (Jamie’s favorite), something more spicy and savory (for Jess), and we’ve also come up with our only blend — an espresso that is a tad darker than the others for people used to a more roasted flavor.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We use a beautiful small-batch Huky 500. We liked the idea of a former shop teacher making each one mostly by hand and the ability to work in small batches. In time we’ll graduate to something larger but for now it aligns with what we’re doing. We’ve been sourcing coffees from familiar names like Sweet Maria’s/Coffee Shrub, Cafe Imports, and Olam. One of the things we like best about this industry is how supportive everyone is of each other. Chris (Schooley, of Coffee Shrub), Matt (Brown, of Cafe Imports), and Brandon (Thiessen, of Olam) have all been extremely helpful.
What’s your hopeful target opening month?
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
The studio itself is a mostly DIY project with help from professional plumbers and some handy family members. But it’s worth mentioning that the space as a whole is one gigantic craft group of chocolatiers, photographers, artists, and bakers. We take inspiration from the talented people around us and the support system that fosters.