Keep GrindIN’!

Brandywine Coffee Roasters' Valley Ride Blend w/ Artwork by Todd Purse

Local roasters keep Delawareans revved and ready

Stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic have disrupted many Delawareans’ daily lives. But for most of us, one routine hasn’t changed: Coffee is the caffeine-fueled kickoff to any morning, whether you’re working from home or helping kids with schoolwork.

Latte-lovers who previously grabbed a cup of Joe on the go have received a rude awakening. Many supermarket coffees won’t cut it. Fortunately, the First State is home to several top-quality roasters, and many will ship. 

Consider Drip Café, which has locations in Hockessin and Newark. Selling freshly roasted beans became a boon on March 16 when restaurants were limited to takeout and delivery. 

“I learned early on that people would rather buy coffee from Drip Café than a large commercial company,” says owner Greg Vogeley, who debuted Drip Roasting Co. on March 2. “They’d rather support a brand that they have a connection to. That has really helped us out.”

Alisa Morkides would agree. She spearheaded the coffee shop movement in 1993 when she opened Brew HaHa! cafes. In 2015, she opened Brandywine Coffee Roasters.

“Our online sales have quadrupled,” she says. “The stay-at-home order gave our online business a kick in the pants. Once people sample your coffee, they often become regular customers.”

If you’re looking to perk up your at-home brews, explore these Delaware coffee roasteries’ offerings.

North of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal

Brandywine Coffee Roasters
This Trolley Square company made Food & Wine’s 2019 list of Best Coffee in Every State. Credit the coffee, of course, which celebrates the culture and tradition of the Brandywine Valley, which spans parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania. The house blend, Smith Bridge, is named for the landmark covered bridge over the Brandywine River. Silk-screen bag illustrations by Todd Purse sweeten the coffee’s appeal. Purse, the director of marketing, was inspired by Brandywine School artists N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle. “Wholesale and online customers around the world seek out BCR coffee not just for the high-quality offerings, but also for the unique, award-winning illustrations,” says owner Alisa Morkides says. Some buyers even display the bags in their homes. The coffee is available online or at Morkides’ BrewHaHa! cafes, many of which are open for takeout during the pandemic.

Drip Cafe
Greg Vogeley cut his teeth at BrewHaHa! and Panera before going out on his own. He learned how to make a mean latte and craft a menu that went beyond the normal coffee shop. Take his caramel-apple pancakes, studded with bacon, which have been celebrated in People magazine and on Fox 29. Vogeley, who has a degree in music, is a Grateful Dead fan, and his new Drip Roasting Co.’s products often have a musical touch. The house blend, for instance, is named “Bold as Love,” a Jimi Hendrix song that played the day Vogeley opened the Hockessin restaurant. Vogeley started with single-source coffees and is now moving into blends.

Little Goat Coffee Roasting Co.
Little Goat, which opened in 2017, is a “classic coffee shop: We roast coffee and make drinks,” says co-owner Oliva Brinton. Before the pandemic, food was limited to third-party bakery goods. Although deemed “essential” during the state of emergency, Little Goat closed to the public and promoted the online store. As sales to restaurants slowed, orders from grocery stores swelled. “We’re lucky we had these wholesale relationships and online customers,” she says. “We’re going to the post office every day.”

Pike Creek Coffee Roasters
Like Little Goat, Pike Creek Coffee’s business focuses on wholesale and online retail sales. The roaster created Loam Blaster, a dark roast, and Happy Trail, a light roast, for a bike shop that sold the coffee. Since other clients include cafes and fitness clubs, the wholesale side took a hit during the pandemic, says Brad McDowell, who purchased the company in 2018. (It was founded in 2009.) The good news? “Our retail coffee sales have spiked because people are drinking coffee at home,” he says. “We’re grateful for the outpouring of support. You can tell people really feel for small businesses.” Try Blue Hen Blend, a medley of medium-dark roasted South American Arabica beans that honors Delaware’s state bird. 

Roasting Rabbi Coffee
“Releasing the Holy Spark in each bean” is the mission of founder Rabbi Micah Becker-Klein, who has spent two decades studying artisan kosher food and the Jewish perspective on food and diet. The coffee descriptions are delightfully detailed, right down to the farmer. The mashgiach, which means “kosher certifier,” donates a portion of his coffee sales to grassroots peace initiatives.

Below the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal

Amity Coffee Roasters & Café
Amity makes it simple: The single-origin coffees are named for their country of origin, except for the espresso blend, which is called — you guessed it — Espresso Blend. For a limited time, Amity will deliver coffee and bakery items to customers within 30 miles of its Greenwood shop. For future reference, the coffee roastery is in the same building as Wilderlove Handmade and Vintage, so when the restrictions end, you can sip and shop.

Local Coffee Roast
Situated a few miles from the beach, this Roxana roaster is a labor of love. It was founded by Tyler and Jenni Valliant shortly after they wed in 2018. The couple, who use a 4-pound batch machine, specialize in lighter roasts that bring out the beans’ flavor. With names like High Tide, the coffee is popular in beach-area establishments, such as McCabe’s Gourmet Market and Good Earth, a grocery, organic farm and restaurant in Ocean View. There is also a Good Earth Market in Rehoboth Beach.

Notting Hill Coffee Roastery
Come evening, a slightly acrid but not unpleasant aroma emanates from Lewes Bake Shoppe in Lewes, which is home to Notting Hill Coffee. Both are owned by Amy Felker, who founded the roaster in 1991 to elevate the coffee experience. Back then, customers ordered “regular” or “decaf,” she recalls. Coffees such as the medium-roasted, low-acidic Cape Henlopen attract tourists, but there is a dizzying array of flavored and unflavored coffees available. One bestselling item isn’t java. It’s Vanilla Dream, which Felker dubbed “hot cocoa’s sweeter little sister.”

Swell Joe Coffee Co.
Swell Joe was born out of Dave Vitella’s can-do attitude. The co-owner of Surf Bagel decided to roast his own coffee when his previous supplier let its customer service slide. In 2014, he and fellow surfer Drew Johnson started Swell Joe a few doors down from the bagel shop in Five Points near downtown Lewes. Coffee names include A-Wake, which is 100 percent Guatemalan; Blue Ka!, which is Ethiopian; and Mor-feen, a blend of Colombian, Guatemalan and Sumatran beans.