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Artist brews up a good cup of coffee

Gerry Samms, shown (above) at his roaster, is the entrepreneur behind Granddaddy’s Roastery, an artisinal coffee brand he launched in an effort to get “a good cup of coffee”. – COURTESY OF MELISSA SAMMS


MILLVILLE – “Tim Horton’s doesn’t do it. It’s too far away,” laughs Gerry Samms. “It was borne out of not being able to get a good cup of coffee.”

In order to get his good cup of coffee, Samms launched Granddaddy’s Roastery sometime around 2015. If nothing else, he would at least cut down on his drive time.

“It didn’t seem to matter where I went. The closest decent cup of coffee was Brewed Awakenings in Corner Brook,” offers Samms.

Over five years later, the sole proprietor and resident coffee concourse is quietly developing a niche market and loyal following for his freshly roasted coffee beans. Despite the coffee’s brand name, Samms is not actually a granddaddy.

“I’m next to Granddaddy’s Brook,” he says.

Samms imports the green beans in bulk wholesale. They come in huge sacks, some weighing as much as 130 pounds. The most recent order he placed was for a little over 630 pounds.

“This order is Costa Rica, Columbia, and I think I had one Guatemalan in there.”

He tends to stick to South African green beans for the most part, though he will order in from Africa every now and again too.

“I find the African ones too expensive unless I wanted a small order for myself,” says Samms. “I don’t think it would sell. You’re getting into coffee that you would need to sell for 23, 24 dollars a pound.”

Granddaddy’s coffee is an artisanal coffee. Artisanal coffees tend to be smoother, more flavourful and more complex and considered more distinguished. Roasters of artisanal coffees are mindful of the delicate balance between the oils, aromas and flavour when roasting their coffee, and Samms is no exception.

“It’s mostly based on senses. There’s nothing automatic about my roaster.”

Samms’ roaster is actually a barbecue fitted with a special rotating drum inside that roasts the beans to his exacting standards. The unit requires a minimum of 40,000 BTUs to roast the beans at around 600 degrees. It’s not as simple as chucking some beans into a barbecue and yanking it out after a few hours.

A true artist, Samms takes every conceivable factor into consideration when roasting, because it can all affect the delicate beans and the end result flavour.

“Depending on the day, the weather, the ambient temperature and whatnot, I can do a 10 pound roast in about 25 to 30 minutes,” explains Samms.

If it seems tricky to calculate roasting time based on humidex, Samms seems to have it figured out. He says he’s only scorched one batch.

“It’s like a blowtorch going off,” he laughs.

While big brand coffee producers rely on automatic roasters to tell them when a bean is ready, for Samms it is entirely sensory.

“It’s an artisanal thing. It’s the amount of time that it’s been in there. It’s the crack of the coffee. You can hear it cracking. It’s almost like popcorn popping.”

Samms doesn’t wait until the cracking is finished, because if it cracks a second time the bean goes from a medium roast to a dark roast or even an espresso-type coffee.

“By that time the roots of the coffee – when I say the roots of the coffee I mean the origin of the coffee – is gone,” explains Samms.

Before he even started roasting, Samms learned as much as he could about the process. He says it’s still a learning process.

“I would hope that I never give up that learning process. At no point do you ever get to know everything about the topic.”

When he wants to blend the bean, he does so after roasting. That’s because beans from different regions don’t always roast at the same rate. Samms’ love of coffee can be traced back to his career working in foreign countries. An offshore worker, he’s spent time in South East Asia, West Africa, Russia and his last 15 years before retirement were spent in South America. Samms was immersed in local culture, cuisine and coffee.

“In South America you get some of the best coffee that I’ve drank anywhere,” he offers. “I said if they can do it here, there’s absolutely no reason why I can’t take their bean and do it at home.”

He was still working in South America when he first began experimenting with roasting his own beans.

Granddaddy’s Roastery coffee is available at a couple of stores that tend to carry locally sourced and crafted products, such as E. W. (Hockey) Gale’s Store in Millville, or at Main Street Convenience in Port aux Basques. It’s $15 per pound, and customers can also order directly from the Roastery via telephone at 695-8999.

“I still have a few customers that order directly from the roastery,” says Samms. “It’s the same price as it is at Hockey’s.”

Samms says that so far he’s received nothing but positive feedback from the local coffee lovers.

“One guy here in the Valley, he said, ‘That’s all I drink now’, so that’s a nice compliment,” chuckles Samms.

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