Troy Lucas is coffee.
As the owner and operator of Lucas Roasting Company, LLC, Lucas is not only well versed in virtually every aspect of the coffee world, he is also one of its most enthusiastic citizens. On Tuesday, March 13, Troy Lucas and his wife, Jennica, visited Common Grounds to discuss the agricultural, economic, aesthetic and socio-political aspects of their business.
Students descended upon Common Grounds to sample some of Lucas Roasting’s best coffees, including their Brazilian Bob O’ Link (this month’s special). Lucas gave them a taste of what to expect in coming months: the Lucas’ recently secured a deal with Selva Negra, a “full-service ecolodge, organic farm, and bird-friendly coffee estate in the Highlands of Northern Nicaragua,” according to the company’s website, and recipient of the SCAA’s 2008 Sustainability Award honorable mention.
Amidst the abrasive grinding of beans and the gentle but intense chatter of caffeinated students, the Lucas’ explained in detail their tedious and painstaking process of selecting suppliers. “We’re looking for the highest quality of product,” said Troy Lucas, who also explained that some of their suppliers are farmers that “only produce three or four bags of coffee a year.” Small farms and direct interaction are some of the things that Troy Lucas cares very deeply about. He works very closely with farmers to teach them how to produce premium coffee, and is dedicated to “forming relationships to improve the quality of coffee” produced.
Lucas Roasting also looks to ensure that conditions on the farms from which they get their supply are just. They look at things like health, education, and other benefits provided to the employees. “We’re looking at the community around the farm and what it is doing for them,” said Troy Lucas.
Alyssa Weaver, Junior and barista at Common Grounds, is pleased with the transition to Lucas Roasting. “We were looking for something more local,” said Weaver, noting that Lucas Roasting is situated in the nearby Broadway, VA.
“The [Brazilian Bob O’ Link] is my favorite, because I like the darker roast,” added Weaver. Lucas Roasting is a “small batch” roaster, and they only roast on demand, which ensures the freshness of their product.
Another somewhat controversial topic that the Lucas’ discussed was their recent move away from the “Organic” label. The USDA recently broadened their definition of organic to incorporate genetically modified foods, a decision that the Lucas’ do not wish to associate themselves with.
“I feel like it’s a violation of ethics to have an organic symbol on anything that is genetically modified,” said Troy Lucas. Although the Lucas’ are committed to not using genetically modified foods anyway, they feel as though the establishment is the problem here. “A lot of it is just for marketing,” said Troy Lucas, referring to terms like “Organic” and “Fair Trade.”
“Coffee isn’t just a crop,” according to the company’s website, “[It’s] a community of passionate people… from the coffee farmers to the roasters to the baristas.” Look for Selva Negra coffee and others from Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic in the coming months.
by David Sorenson