Ever since 2005, John Johnson of Tehachapi has been roasting coffee as a hobby.
"I started out with a popcorn popper and then I went from there," said Johnson.
Last November when he retired, Johnson's wife, Karen, asked him what he planned to do with his free time.
"She asked me if I wanted to take it to the next step, and I said I thought it was a great idea," said John.
The Johnsons ended up buying a small coffee roaster and got to work. For the past month, they have been selling their coffee on their website under the label Oak Summit Coffee Roasters.
"When John and I first started talking about starting a coffee roasting business, I thought I would simply be the assistant to the Roast Master. I am that indeed! But in a two-person operation, that also means that I am the webmaster, the marketing director, the chief financial officer, head of shipping, and all things in between," laughed Karen.
However, as much as she jokes about it, Karen says she thoroughly enjoys marketing coffee with her husband.
"It is a blessing to be part of John’s passion, and to have a vital, integral part in the business," Karen said. "I enjoy working alongside him, bouncing ideas off each other, and working to build this enterprise from the ground up. I have a background in IT, so the analytical side of me loves that aspect of things. And I love coffee, so from my perspective, this is a win-win!"
The Johnsons arrived in Tehachapi 29 years ago, and today they have a kiosk located at their home where they sell the coffee as well as offering shipping through their website.
Their coffee flavors are a Columbian in a dark, fresh and medium roast and a Papau New Guinea in a medium roast. John is currently working on an organic roast.
"The hardest thing about roasting coffee is keeping the roast consistent. Everything comes into play: humidity that day, the temperature whether it's hot or cold, the whole process of monitoring the system. When I'm working on roasting, it is definitely a hands-on process," said John.
During the process of roasting, the coffee beans give off different aromas at the different stages of roasting.
Said Karen, "First, there is the scent of freshly cut grass. Next there is a whiff of hay. That is followed by the fragrance of bread baking. In addition to scents, there are also sounds. At a certain point, the coffee beans crack. This is known to coffee roasters as the “first crack.” It is an exciting sound to hear because from this point forward, the true flavors begin to emerge."
Depending on the roast, the first crack may signify that the beans are nearing completion. Other roasts, such as French roast, continue through a second crack. The color of the beans changes during the process as well, going from a faint grayish green to the darker brown tones coffee drinkers know and love. During these transformations, the coffee roasting temperature must be monitored and adjusted on a minute-by-minute basis.
Said Karen, "All these nuances are tracked by the Roast Master. Managing this entire process is what makes John the star of the show."
According to John, all the coffee he makes is roasted to order and is "extremely fresh." They roast on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Whatever orders they get, they put in the kiosk or shipped by the following day.
Said Karen, "There is a world of difference between freshly roasted coffee and something that has been on a shelf for months. That is the crux of our business model: Life is too short to drink stale coffee."
For more information, visit oaksummitcoffeeroasters.com.