The short story of how Blake Dorsey came to be an in-home coffee roaster is that he needed a job that would allow the Redding husband and father of two teen-age sons the ability to keep a watchful eye on the home front when his kids needed him most.
His dream occupation wasn’t necessarily something that could make Dorsey and his wife Kim wealthy, but he sought a a venture that would at least pay the mortgage. And it had to be fun. And creative. And maybe delicious.
After the concept of micro-roasted coffee percolated to the top of Dorsey’s mind, it was love at first roast.
It’s been a year since Blake settled on the idea of in-home coffee-roasting as his newest vocation. After Dorsey completed all the paperwork and paid the fees, he launched his Ancient Fire Micro Roast Coffee, permitted in Shasta County via the passage of this year’s California Cottage Food Act.
He created an Ancient Fire Facebook page, too, where Dorsey sometimes posts announcements of freshly roasted coffee, and sale locations.
Dorsey is proud of the fact that he’s a small-scale roaster, preparing about 4 pounds of beans per batch, 40 pounds a week. It’s a tedious procedure that takes place in a 450-degree oven. It requires a sturdy wire threaded through the closed oven door that Dorsey constantly jiggles, which keeps the coffee beans moving so they don’t burn. The process takes about 25 minutes. And once in a while, it can prove painful, too, such as the time one hot fully-roasted coffee bean managed to leap down inside Dorsey’s glove. His ever-present reminder is a tiny coffee-bean tattoo.
He’s learned to let his nose be his guide when it comes to knowing when the beans are done. To a novice nose, he said the beans might smell burnt, but Dorsey’s learned to take the beans right to the roasting edge before he removes them from the heat.
Dorsey’s roasted, finished beans sit and rest for 24 hours, which allows the flavors to settle in and make themselves at home.
After that he loads the beans into his own Ancient Fire 1-pound paper bags (not 12-ounce, which is the coffee industry standard). The bags sell for between $11.99 to $12.99 each, and are offered whole-bean in a dark roast, mild roast, and a blend of both.
He’s found local markets to sell his coffee: Tops Market (formerly Sunset Market) in Redding and Weaverville, and Kent’s Meats in Anderson. Dorsey’s coffee is already picking up converts with each cup tasted, including yours truly, who’s been a Peet’s girl all my coffee-drinking adult life.
Yes, I have fallen in love with Dorsey’s Dark Earth blend. I’m sorry, Peet’s, but it’s over between us (except for decaf, which Dorsey doesn’t offer).
Dorsey’s coffee is complex and dark the way I like coffee, but it’s not the least bit bitter. Normally, I drink coffee with cream and sugar, but when I first sampled Dorsey’s coffee, I drank it black, to appreciate it in its pure state. I’ve been an Ancient Fire Micro Roast Coffee fan ever since.
Although Dorsey joked that he chose coffee-roasting because he wasn’t the muffin-making type of Cottage Food vendor, it seems that it might have been tons easier to bake muffins than to follow the myriad steps Dorsey takes to roast coffee, starting with ordering Arabica green coffee beans from New Orleans, that were first shipped from Brazil.
Right now, he says production is just about right. He’s meeting the demand of his retail vendors, but he’d very much like to find a north state restaurant that would serve Ancient Fire Micro Roasted Coffee. He knows that day will come.
In the meantime, he continues to take his coffee to the public via his meet-the-roaster events at Tops and Kent’s, such as the most recent Saturday at Tops in Redding.
He has a line-up of coffee-tastings planned in the coming weeks, including one at Kent’s Meats in Anderson Fri. Nov. 22 from 9 a.m. until about noon, and Tops in Weaverville Sat. Nov. 30 from 9 a.m. until about 11. Later on that same Sat. Nov. 30 afternoon he’ll have a booth at the annual Lewiston Bridge Lighting and Fireworks event from about 1 p.m. until the lighting.
He’s confident enough about the addictive flavor of his Ancient Fire Micro Roast Coffee that he’s pretty sure that once someone tastes his brew he’ll have a new customer hooked on his coffee.
The first cup’s free.
Click here to order a sandwich online from the Weaverville Tops Market.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.