Magic Beans Coffee Roasters co-owner Schuyler Warren said it’s difficult to determine whethe he’s addicted to great coffee, but he certainly does not want to envision a day without it.
He and business partner, Keith Hautala, are trying to transform tastebuds in Lexington to an inclination for freshly roasted coffee.
“We believe when people taste a cup of freshly roasted coffee that their eyes are opened,” Warren said. “It’s like the difference between eating Twinkies and a cake from a pastry chef. Both have a place in the world, and we’re not trying to tell people they shouldn’t eat Twinkies. We just think that if they are interested in a more exceptional, fresh product, we have the answer for them.”
Having lived on the West Coast, Hautala and Warren pride themselves in knowing good coffee, and they have spent a lot of time mastering their craft in a tiny, windowless space in The Bread Box on West Sixth Street. More than 10 years ago, Hautala owned a coffeehouse in Lexington called Magic Beans.
“It was ahead of its time in that it was providing coffee roasted freshly in-house,” Warren said. “It had an incredibly devoted following, some of whom have followed us along on this second journey. So it seemed only right to keep the Magic Beans name out of respect to the old business, the customers who have pined for the beans all these years, and frankly, just because it’s awesome.”
Hautala noted that now there is a proliferation of micro-roasters in the area, lending more credence to the benefits of locally roasted beans. Hautala and Warren both have kept their day jobs, but they are gaining more momentum with Magic Beans. They serve up their brewed beans at events around Lexington because they do not have a tasting room or coffee shop to call home at this point. Hautala said he is just happy to have good coffee in his life again.
“I went through a prolonged period where coffee and I were not on speaking terms,” he said, adding that he convinced Warren last year to join him in the new coffee venture partly to meet a personal need to be around coffee again. “Lexington’s ready for it now,” Hautala said.
Magic Beans hopes to soon sell at the Lexington Farmer’s Market and is trying to get into some local venues like Wine + Market, West Sixth, The Weekly Juicery and other like-minded businesses. But don’t expect to see their coffee packed in with a row of Seattle’s Best or Folger’s. In Hautala’s words, the owners are “freshness fanatics,” and their coffee has a short shelf life. Consumers will likely find it next to the fresh bread.
He joked that other coffee brands must really have “magical beans” if they can last for months on the shelf.
“Not stale and optimally fresh are two different things,” he said. “You can keep eating bread for two or three days after, but it’s not going to taste as good. Coffee is the same way. You can have it outrageously fresh with incredible taste and aroma, to a little bit less overwhelmingly awesome, to something ordinary, and then to something not good.”
He and Warren hope to educate Lexingtonians on what fresh coffee really is and how much better it tastes than what they can pick up at the drive-through window or grocery store.
For now the small-batch roasters roast coffee a couple times each week, working with about 38 pounds at a time. All of their beans are bagged by hand. Their goal is to roast 10,000 pounds per year. The process begins by looking for quality beans that will deliver great quality coffee. Their beans arrive in a light green color and are roasted almost immediately on arrival for total freshness. Magic Beans imports beans from all over the world and often tries out dozens of samples before settling on one type of bean.
Also, the beans they select are single origin, “which means we’re looking for coffees that can be traced to a specific region within the producing country — and then, whenever possible, to a specific cooperative or mill,” Hautala explained, adding that the duo never “warehouses” coffee.
“The disadvantage of ordering as you go is that you are going to be subject to fluctuations in the coffee market,” he said.
In terms of how they roast, their philosophy is to respect the bean and think about perfecting the process from rainforest bean farmer to roaster — making sure the product is never mishandled. They spend a lot of time researching this process.
The names of their roasts reflect the country and region of origin, Warren explained, like Ethiopia Sidamo blend.
“We don’t really play the cute-name game with the beans, primarily because we feature single-origin beans,” he said. “I’m not saying we won’t ever do a named blend, but our primary motto is always ‘respect the bean.’ We want to highlight the phenomenal qualities of beans from around the world.”
Other popular blends have been their Peru Cajamarca and the Sulawesi Toraja (from Indonesia) blends.
The hand-picked bean process is ultimately what drives up the cost, because the company’s overhead costs are very low.
“There’s a certain segment that you will never win over [because of the price],” Warren said. “We’re not interested in changing the world. We’re interested in bringing an exceptional cup to those who find coffee to be an inspiration. And for those people, we offer a good value. Some of the same coffees we offer for 12 dollars a bag can be had elsewhere for a much higher price.”
Despite their extensive knowledge of coffee, the Magic Beans owners maintain a humble attitude.
“What we will do is help you make a better cup of coffee, because we believe in it,” Warren said.