One bean at a time

Cultivating coffee culture

Kile Brewer
Posted 12/13/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Most people have never had a truly good cup of coffee.

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One bean at a time

Cultivating coffee culture


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Most people have never had a truly good cup of coffee.

A home brewer using pre-ground beans in a can will provide a sufficient taste and aroma, but Green Cove Springs-based coffee roastery Brass Tacks Coffee Co. is looking to provide the traditional coffee drinker with a chance to try something different.

“Most people have never even seen a green coffee bean,” said Steven Kelley, Brass Tacks’ owner. “You have to change consumer habits and be able to gradually educate them and provide information when the customer is ready.”

Since opening the doors to Spring Park Coffee in 2011, Kelley, a Green Cove Springs native, has grown his business with the gusto of a caffeinated coffee obsessive. With that obsession came the natural progression into roasting his own beans to provide customers with the freshest and best tasting coffee he could.

“We’ve been roasting for about five years now,” Kelley said. “We took part of the kitchen and that became the roasting area.”

In the back of the shop, Kelley and his staff began roasting in small batches, and through trial and error, really got the hang of the process. Kelley named his coffee Brass Tacks and, eventually, Spring Park Coffee became a customer of the brand, which Kelley sees as the future of the operation.

“This is one of those things that when we first got into this, it’s scary, you have to be willing to give up everything to be an entrepreneur,” Kelley said. “If you can make it through it, you wind up in a situation where you end up doing exactly what you want to be doing everyday of your life.”

Kelley had his eye on a storefront at the opposite end of the building from Spring Park Coffee at 328 Ferris St., and when it became available, he made the move from the back of the kitchen. Brass Tacks will go from using a small roaster that churned out five pounds of roasted beans in 15 minutes to a new custom Diedrich roaster that will roast about 25 pounds in the same amount of time.

As you walk into the new roastery storefront, the yellow and grey color scheme and smell of toasted beans is an immediate burst of personality as your feet transition to the glossy concrete and epoxy floor. The space feels modern and clean, but lacks the sterility of a typical production site for a wholesale company. To the immediate left of the door is a cozy nook where customers can sit with a cup of espresso to wait for a roasting demonstration. Past the roaster is a room that will feature a full espresso bar and cupping area for visitors who want to learn the qualities of good coffee. The space will be open at regular intervals to allow the public a comfortable glimpse into a side of coffee production never before seen in Clay County.

The roastery will officially open this Friday, with roasting demonstrations, cupping and refreshments available to the public from 5-7 p.m. that day and Saturday evening. Kelley will also host a special celebration for the sixth anniversary, to the day, of Spring Park Coffee’s grand opening after the open house Friday.

“We plan to do a roast about every half hour or so,” Kelley said. “So come by, grab an espresso, and when you show up you’ll probably be minutes away from the next roast.”

In addition to the upsized roastery, Kelley will also be opening a standalone Brass Tacks Coffee Co. cafe in Jacksonville’s Tinseltown area sometime early next year. The location will provide guests the chance to sample Brass Tacks’ roasts and blends. The cafe will also serve as a model for their initiative to do what they call cafe startups where they are approached by a prospective coffee shop, a cafe in a church, or a coffee cart operator who has an idea and needs the training, equipment and coffee to make their dream a reality.

“You need help from other local coffee shops, you need them to be providing a positive experience and serving delicious coffee,” Kelley said. “We really hope that people will keep giving these independent shops a chance.”

It is all part of Kelley’s goal to spread coffee culture through Northeast Florida, and even the Southeastern U.S. For him, stores like Urban Bean in Orange Park, and Jacksonville-based roastery Bold Bean aren’t enemies. They are allies in the fight to bring specialty coffee to a wider audience.

Melissa Warren, daughter of Urban Bean owner DuWayne Hegel, said that though they buy their beans from another roastery, they are excited to see a roastery get up and running at home in Clay County, for the same reasons Kelley is happy to see their specialty coffee shop in Orange Park.

“We’re trying to create a coffee culture, as well as a coffee community,” Warren said. “There’s not a very big culture for that here – yet.”

As Kelley continues the operations at Brass Tacks, he looks to the future, hoping to bring his coffee to trade shows and the Specialty Coffee Expo when it returns to Atlanta.

“We are all kinda in this together, bringing the specialty coffee culture forward in this area of the country is really going to be a group effort,” Kelley said.


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