Just Love Coffee franchise owners benefit from the talent and skill of our seasoned roastmaster
When Jason Smith became Just Love Coffee’s roastmaster, he found himself quickly going from a small, home-roasting operation to a much more robust setup. What he describes as a “very steep” learning curve has paid off, however, in award nominations and a growing line of high-quality roasts that draw coffee aficionados into every Just Love Coffee franchise on a daily basis. Here is how he sees the brand’s evolution to date, and what lies ahead:
What were the early days of Just Love like?
Rob [Webb, Just Love’s founder] already had created our core blends and had built out some profiles for what would come next. I learned my way around the roaster, which was a 12-kilogram machine that could roast 25 pounds at a time, because I needed to understand its capabilities.
I also connected with other roasting professionals and the Specialty Coffee Association, which was then the Specialty Coffee Association of America, so I could get more insights and up our game. Their curriculum is master-level stuff, and it has greatly improved my skills and what we are able to do with our roasts.
You’ve got a new roaster — what does it do for the product line?
It’s capable of about three times what our current one can do and has some automation features alongside manual ones I use now. That means I can switch between the two if I want to make a change during a roast and has some other features that will be a very nice addition to the roasting process.
We also can add to our product line more quickly. I’m now roasting several blends alongside our single-bean products, and we are going to start rotating them in and out so we always have something new to offer our customers, as well as favorites that will be available pretty regularly. It also means I can add something in quickly if beans become available, such as a recent batch we got from Papua New Guinea. Being able to produce these unique, small-batch roasts alongside our more regular ones is really amazing.
Now we are roasting close to 1,400 pounds a week, or around 95,000 pounds a year. And those numbers are just going to keep on going up.
What’s your bean-buying process like?
We work with brokers, and they have people all around the world who are experts in grading the beans at their point of origin. They know the coffee growing and buying infrastructure in each country, and they have strong relationships that give us buying power.
We also have a direct relationship with Mission Lazarus in southern Honduras, a missionary site with a very large coffee farm on their property. I have had the privilege of going there a couple of times to work on the mission and also spend some time on the coffee farm, so it has been a thrill for us to roast some of their beans.
What do you demand from coffee suppliers?
We want a guarantee that the beans are responsibly sourced, and that our brokers are working ethically with the farmers. Our coffees need to carry certifications that show they are at the high end of what’s available in that particular market.
How have you improved as a roaster?
One major thing is I don’t jerk the heat around during roasts anymore! The rate of rise, or how fast the temperature is changing during the roast, is vital to the process. We are now using a program that allows me to watch those curves on my computer and assess the rate of rise more closely. That means I can make a change more quickly and with less guesswork.
There’s so much that can be done incorrectly! You can bring too much heat early on, or not enough heat at the end, and you wind up baking those beans. They taste like bread and crackers. I don’t know that my learning curve will ever end, because each bean is slightly different, and changing the roasting process can give you a different result that, hopefully, provides the taste you are after.
How big a role do the franchise owners play in your buying and roasting process?
We hear from them about what is selling well, what their customers like and what they’d like to see more of. That is really important, because if we are hearing from several franchise locations that there’s a specific issue with a coffee, we can make adjustments. The franchise owners are our customers, and we are determined to give them a great line of beans so they can increase sales and grow their businesses.
After the launch of two successful locations in Nashville and Brentwood, Tennessee, one of the hottest cities in the nation, Just Love Coffee is primed for expansion in 2019. Led by an executive team with proven experience in growing franchise systems, Just Love Coffee & Eatery is an ideal investment for both new and experienced entrepreneurs who want to get in on the ground floor of the most exciting business opportunity in the $12 billion U.S. coffee shop industry.