Liquid Assets: Door County Coffee & Tea Co.
THE PERFECT BLEND FOR 20 YEARS
The perfect cup of coffee is made with the best ingredients, the right process, and by people who care enough to create an outstanding product. At Door County Coffee & Tea Co., located in Carlsville, that coffee trifecta has come together for the past 20 years.
Vicki Wilson, the founder and president of the small family-owned company, leads 40 employees to roast, grind, package, and distribute over 100 flavors and signature blends of premium coffees online, in stores, at their own store, and in coffee shops across the Midwest.
Wilson launched Door County Coffee & Tea in Forestville in 1993. The former senior buyer for Shopko grabbed onto her dream—to produce the best-tasting quality coffee and to deliver it to customers with an unsurpassed level of customer service— and found plenty of coffee lovers eager for her product. She moved the growing company to Carlsville, the heart of Door County, in 1997 where it has flourished ever since.
“We start with the best raw materials— beans and flavorings—and that is what sets us apart from everybody else,” said LouAnn Deprez, production manager and master roaster at Door County Coffee. Door County Coffee & Tea is seriously particular about the grade of coffee beans that are used and only purchases Specialty Class 1 Arabica Coffee beans—the finest two percent of coffee beans grown in the world—and as near to perfect as a coffee bean they can get. They combine beans from around the world for each unique coffee blend.
“We use up to 30 different types of beans to create the recipes we have available,” said Wilson. “There may be up to five different beans in our signature blends.”
Roasting transforms the green coffee beans into the aromatic and flavorful brown beans found in each package of coffee. “Our coffee is clean, clear and crisp.
When we roast the beans, we bring out the best; we enhance it. Coffee beans are like grapes…and the right temperature brings out the best flavor of beans,” Deprez said. Roasting coffee beans is a delicate and time-sensitive art form. At Door County Coffee & Tea, roast profiles from light to dark have a range of 25 degrees.
“The degree of roast and the temperature desired is what really creates a different level of taste. Just six degrees makes the same coffee taste quite different,” Wilson said. “Over 700 chemical changes take place during the roast and oils are released; the darker the roast, the oilier the result.” To prevent burning, the beans are kept in motion by the fluidized air bed roaster which surrounds the entire bean with heat for a smooth, even roast and that appealing caramelized color.
The staff oversees the two thousand pounds of coffee roasted each day in small batches from beginning to end. Vacuum power moves the green beans through the roasting process and to the grinding and packaging areas. It is just after the roasting— while the beans are slightly warm but not too warm to cause evaporation– that flavoring is added topically to the coffee beans in large tumblers.
The most popular flavors of Door County Coffee are Highlander Grogg and Door County Christmas. For Wilson, her favorite is Cinnamon Hazelnut or the single origin Sumatra—both in regular, never decaffeinated. “We do flavor right. Fifty percent of our business is flavored coffee, which is very unusual,” Wilson said.
Designing those favorite flavors is quite the challenge. Deprez works off of basic flavor preferences for the Midwest— sweet for flavor and a light to medium roast—and concentrates on five favorite flavors—vanilla, chocolate, caramel, spice and nuts—with creamy notes added in to enhance the flavors.
“We watch trends and try flavors that sound good to us,” Deprez said. “There is no true science. You play around and experiment and if you hit a winner you count your blessings.”
And they have been, twenty years and counting.