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Enjoy Magazine

The Coffee Connoisseur

05/27/2014 12:00AM ● By anonymous
Sam LaRobardiere, Scout Coffee

ENJOY: When and how did you start roasting coffee?

SAM: My dad does regular missions trips to Guatemala, and one year on a whim, he brought back a bunch of green coffee beans. It was the first time we’d ever seen coffee beans that were not roasted. We just figured we’d roast them like you roast anything else, in the oven. We put the beans out on a cookie sheet, cranked the oven up and started roasting them. Before we knew it, the whole house was completely smoked out. So our first attempt was unsuccessful. Then I hopped on the Internet and found out all you need is a hot air popcorn popper, and you can roast small batches of coffee. I bought one and roasted those beans up. It was a whole new adventure, learning how to do it well, and it awakened something that was a lot of fun for me. I made Christmas gifts for people out of the coffee beans, and it became a hobby for me.

ENJOY: How did it turn from a hobby to a business?

SAM: We moved out here to Redding from Washington, D.C., a little over two years ago, and I had a friend who had a much larger setup than I did for roasting coffee. I tagged along with him, and started roasting on a larger scale. After a few months of that, my friend decided he was going to take a job back in New York. He sold me the equipment and his one account. I saw the vision for fresh-roasted coffee in Redding and thought there would be a lot of businesses that would benefit from it and be excited about it. We officially bought the business on April 1, 2013.

ENJOY: What do people love about your coffee?

SAM: Everything we roast is organically grown. People are just loving the fact that Redding has a local coffee roaster that’s roasting organic coffee. They love the fact that it’s fresh. What we really focus on is single origins instead of blending. When you find a coffee from Guatemala or Ethiopia, a lot of people will blend them - but it kind of dumbs down the flavors a little bit. Each origin has a unique flavor to it. We find the best beans we can and let those origins be showcased, so people get a real different experience with each one.

ENJOY: What is your business philosophy?

SAM: Education, hospitality, quality and freshness. We are all about excellent coffee. We’re about freshness, so when we sell our coffee in stores, we want it to be off the shelves within 30 days of roasting. That’s a pretty tough standard to maintain, but we try really hard to maintain it. The other thing is hospitality. In the coffee market, if you’re a customer and don’t understand coffee like the roaster does, you can walk away feeling a little out of place and that you don’t fit in. We always want you to feel super welcome and super invited, and we want to provide a real approachable atmosphere so you can really learn. I also feel like people should be able to get it at a reasonable price. I hate spending an arm and a leg on coffee. If you can get good coffee at a reasonable price, people will accept the invitation to the adventure more readily.

ENJOY: What is your goal?

SAM: We want to expand into our own facility. We’re still trying to feel out whether that looks like a coffee shop for us or something else. We’ve really been focusing on the roasting and we’re loving that aspect, but I can really see it morphing into something where we’ll create an organic momentum, of people grabbing a hold of the coffee and saying, ‘We want more of this.’ When supply warrants it, I’d like to be sourcing all of our own coffee, or at least progressively more and more of our coffee - visiting coffee plantations, working with the farmers, ensuring that we’re getting the most excellent product from start to finish.

ENJOY: Where did your business name come from?

SAM: When my friend offered me this business, I knew we wanted it, but we didn’t have the capital to buy it. We prayed about it, and ended up feeling like we were supposed to sell an international Scout, an old, retro, super cool vehicle. It was sitting in the garage, because we hadn’t had the money to get it out on the road. It sold in literally minutes for more than I expected. We ended up naming the business after the sacrificial car. Also, the scout is always at the forefront, checking out new territory, kind of on that cutting edge. That’s where we want to be.

ENJOY: As a North State newcomer, what do you think so far?

SAM: My stress level has dropped about a million percent. We just went full time last week - Redding has been so incredibly supportive of what we’re doing. We’re really appreciative and thankful to this county. It has really provided a solid foundation for our company. We wouldn’t be here without the support. I can’t even believe I actually make enough money to support my family off roasting coffee. It’s like a dream come true.

Come join us at Enjoy the Store during the month of June for free sampling of Scout Coffee. At Enjoy the Store, we celebrate our local and regional talents by offering products like Scout Coffee because our vendors love what they do and it shows in their amazing products.