Apr 122005
 
Authors: Karissa Ciarlelli

Some students may be wired on coffee in the late-night hours to aid their study habits, but Jackie Harris' job requires her to be wired on the coffee business all the time.

Harris, a 21-year-old junior business major, has not only successfully started up her own independent coffee roasting business, but she has also taken several unique approaches to the process.

"I roast each batch myself in my small, 5-pound roaster the night before I sell it. This ensures freshness," she said. "And I personally taste each batch, to make sure it tastes just right."

This entrepreneur who created "Jackie's Java" has also taken the new method of what she calls "post-roast blending." To do this, Harris roasts each flavor of beans separately and blends them together afterward.

Coffee beans from different regions of the world have varying moisture contents and densities, Harris said. Plus, the flavors can vary based on the strain of the coffee plant, the altitude and the amount of sunlight where the beans were grown.

"That's why each type of coffee should be roasted separately to extract its optimal flavor," Harris said. "Post-roast blending allows for a unique and full-flavored blend of coffee."

Harris said she ensures her coffee is organic, free trade and free of Robusta fillers, using only Arabica, a high-quality strain of coffee plant.

After seeking tips and advice from her business teacher, workers at the Alley Cat coffee shop and other coffee places, Harris decided to pour everything she could into getting her business off the ground.

"My parents weren't exactly thrilled when I emptied my bank account to buy the roaster," Harris said. "But once I got my first account at the Cupboard, they were excited."

The Cupboard, a gourmet kitchen store in Old Town, proudly sells Jackie's Java and distributes free samples about one time each month. When Harris first met Stacey Baumgarn, manager and coffee buyer for the Cupboard, Harris was only there to purchase a coffee maker.

"She told me she was roasting her own coffee and that impressed me," Baumgarn said. "Coffee roasting is a special art. It's a difficult process."

Shortly after Harris met Baumgarn, they struck a deal and the Cupboard began selling Jackie's Java.

"It's impressive how Harris is able to be a full-time student and maintain a full-time business which requires a lot of personal efforts and attention," Baumgarn said.

While juggling the obligations of being a full-time student and owning her own business, Harris admits that her social life has suffered, but she said fortunately her grades have remained steady. She said school has definitely gone down in priority.

"Jackie takes much pride in her coffee roasting and does everything to make her customers happy," said Nate Davidson, Harris' boyfriend.

Harris started out selling bags of her coffee in August 2004 at farmers' markets across the state of Colorado.

Harris also allows her customers to custom roast their own distinctive blends. On her Web site, she has a feature that allows individuals to create their own mixture of different coffee flavors from different beans.

"There are people out there who are even more into coffee than me," Harris said. "This gives them an outlet to create their own unique blend."

Harris has also created her own blends, including Heaven's Blend and Poudre River Blend.

In addition, Harris specializes in private labeling, where she allows a coffee shop to create its own blend of coffee to call its own. However, Harris will not sell the same blend of coffee to anyone once a coffee shop has claimed it and bought the private labeling privilege.

Someday Harris hopes to buy a bigger roaster, expand her business and eventually own her own coffee shop. But for now, she is happy with her wholesale business.

"I get such a huge kick out of it," she said. "It's something you just don't get at a 9-to-5 job."

For more information, check out www.javabyjackie.com.

"Jackie has already proven that she can compete with the big roasters. I have faith that she will be a very successful businesswoman," Davidson said.

 

 

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