“When you talk about the FreshFarm, their bread has flour milled in North Carolina, and the wheat could be grown in the center of the country! That’s why, for us, we weren’t going to get into that silliness,” said Mitch Berliner, co-founder of the Bethesda Central Farm Market, which features a coffee roaster, a fishmonger who sells shrimp from the Carolinas and the Voights’ bottles of olive oil.
Although Finkelstein pays an importer to bring in beans from Central and South America and Africa, he practically coddles them once they’ve arrived.
In Qualia’s cramped backroom, he dumps the beans in a huge drum roaster, which spins and heats them into temperatures soaring well past 300 degrees Fahrenheit. With the help of computer software, Finkelstein monitors how fast the beans heat up. And he constantly inspects the beans with a wooden scoop as they swell and gain flavor during the precious roast.
“What sticks in my craw is that some markets always shut me down when I ask about applying,” he said. “If they were fully informed about the value-added of locally roasted coffee, I wouldn’t be bitter about it. It’s fresher and tastes better.”
Finkelstein and other Washington area roasters say they do not understand why FreshFarm bars them but permits breadmakers who are using wheat grown and milled elsewhere in the country.
Prince, FreshFarm’s executive director, said breadmakers are asked to use eggs, fruit, and herbs raised and grown on local farms for flavored breads and pies, and that all products are handmade.
Ned Atwater, the owner of a Maryland bread company that sells at several of Prince’s markets, sympathized with the roasters. “Why Fresh Farm chose bread over coffee, I am not sure,” he said. “But I am glad they did.”
At the Dupont market on Sunday, many people drinking out of Starbucks or Le Pain Quotidien cups said they would have preferred buying from a roaster at the market.
Mike Chlipala, 24, a District engineering programmer for Living Social, used to live in San Francisco, where he visited markets that did have roasters. “I actually came to this market expecting to find a roaster,” he said.
Some coffee roasters are so accustomed to hard times that they are seeking new revenue opportunities, so to speak.
Arondo Holmes, 54, who owns a coffee farm in Honduras and roasts his beans in a District warehouse, said he’s tacked on new items to his repertoire: kimchi, pickled okra, hot pickles and horseradish pickles, typically made with cucumbers and cabbage grown in Virginia, depending on the season.
Pickles, it turns out, are a lucrative business for Holmes, who sells his wares at farmers markets in Falls Church, Dale City and Purcellville, and Kensington.
“Pickles allow me to follow my passion for coffee,” Holmes said. “Pickles move fast.”