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Aug 12, 2009 1:59 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Fresh-roasted coffee can be found in several shops on South Fork

Aug 12, 2009 1:59 PM

While Starbucks, 7-Eleven and independent delicatessens still command a lion’s share of the coffee business on the East End, there are outlets for discerning customers who want the rich, bold, complex flavors of fresh-roasted coffee when they need a pick-me-up.

In addition to the Hampton Coffee Company, there are two roasting operations on the South Fork that peddle just-roasted custom blends from their own storefronts and sell their beans to a variety of retail shops and restaurants in the area.

At Java Nation in Sag Harbor, the husband-and-wife team of Andrew and Cheryl Bedini have been roasting coffee for 15 years. The couple discovered fresh roasted coffee in the early 1990s on the West Coast, where the “coffee craze” preceded its sweeping of the nation by several years.

“Nobody had ever heard of Starbucks back then,” Mr. Bedini said recently. “You couldn’t get freshly roasted coffee anywhere out here in 1992. We fell in love with the roasting process, and we just thought it would be perfect on Main Street.”

Arguably, it was perfect. The line of coffee seekers often extends well outside the door of Java Nation, where it snakes between the customers who choose to mingle about on the patio after getting their morning joe.

The Bedinis—Cheryl is the company’s roastmaster—roast approximately 2,000 pounds of coffee beans a week from 15 different origins and six custom blends in the high season. In addition to the bustling retail business, they sell their blends to a handful of local restaurants and have a small but far-flung list of mail-order clients who get their favorite Sag Harbor blends sent to them. But about half the beans the Bedinis roast are sold as whole beans that customers take home to roast themselves.

“People come in and buy five pounds,” Mr. Bedini said. “We actually tell them not to buy so much. I tell them, ‘We’re open every day, you can come back.’”

Benjamin Haile is looking forward to having such problems. He has been roasting coffee for four years but is just starting to make it himself. He learned to roast coffee at a course given by the company that makes the most popular brand of roasting machine and started his business in the reverse order of the Bedinis, founding his company, Thunder Island Coffee, on the wholesale distribution of its blends. He is now opening his own coffee shop on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation boundary with Montauk Highway.

The company sells its coffee to large grocery chains, including Whole Foods, and several local specialty stores like Wild by Nature, Schmidt’s and Catena’s.

Thunder Island uses only 100-percent organically grown coffee beans, grown by native farmers in Peru and Guatemala and sold between native peoples only. The operation is Fair Trade approved.

“Our whole thing from the start was that we wanted to get into organic coffees and buy only from native farmers,” Mr. Haile said. “They don’t want to use pesticides and chemicals, and they couldn’t afford them anyway. We support them having healthier lives.”

Mr. Haile, a former New York City social worker, put his first roasting machine in the back of the Thunderbird Coffee Shop on the Shinnecock reservation—it was owned by his sisters at the time. But his operation has grown and Mr. Haile moved, with a bigger roaster, to a barn-style building of his own on the reservation.

He hopes his coffee roasting talents appeal to a busy retail clientele as well.

“Roasting coffee is like music,” he said. “Each person who does it gets the basics down and then develops their own approach to it. There are different tastes.”

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