Monday, November 16, 2009

Joe van Gogh

Our first coffee selection is the Holiday Blend from Joe van Gogh. Joe van Gogh is the coffee that we most often drink at my house. We are fortunate to have such a great coffee roasted right down the road from us. The Joe van Gogh roasting facility is 4 miles from my house and our local coffee shop stocks Joe van Gogh beans exclusively, plus its available in bags at all the nearby grocery stores. It may be a bit harder to find for those of you outside of North Carolina, but thankfully they have an online shop!

On a quest to find out more about Joe van Gogh I visited their roasting facility. I'm not sure what I was expecting- perhaps something like the large wineries I've taken tours of. Large stainless steel machines, towering stacks of boxed beans. Workers in plastic coveralls and booties. But what I found was a casual space filled with the aroma of roasting coffee that, other than the smell, reminded me quite a bit of my own studio! Everything was clean and tidy, of course, but without feeling cold and impersonal. The main roasting machine would look more at home in a museum or collector's gallery than an industrial factory and instead of regular staff break room there was an impressive collection of espresso machines! The day I visited was crisp and sunny with the natural beauty of early fall and one of the walls was opened up to let in the fresh air and sunshine. It amazes me that all the coffee beans that I have enjoyed so much have come from this small warehouse with its piles of bagged beans and its two roasting machines. Somehow its comforting to know that my coffee spent a time in a place that clearly encourages its employees to enjoy their craft and explore the beauty of coffee.

I was also able to get an interview with Robbie, the owner and master roaster.

Me: Can you tell us a little bit about how Joe van Gogh got its start?

Robbie: My friend and I started the first coffee roasting company in Raleigh in 1991. I landed in Greensboro with my own roasting company in 1994 and what we’re doing now is the evolution of that. We got here by way of Chapel Hill and now have stores in Durham as well. (my note: these are all cities in central North Carolina)

Me: How would you describe Joe Van Gogh’s values or motto?

Robbie: We want to be genuine in our artistry and in being a part of our local community.

Me: What do you hope to see in the future for Joe Van Gogh?

Robbie: We want to continue to grow and keep getting better at what we do. We’ll continue to seek out new and exciting coffees, learning and relearning about the coffee and how to do justice to each farmer’s work. We’ll enjoy working with other small business owners to help them and share with them the knowledge and experience we’ve gained through almost 20 years in the industry.

Me: Do you have a favorite type of bean?

Robbie: It changes with different crops but natural processed Ethiopians are always near the top of the list.

Me: What is your personal favorite roast?

Robbie: The one I’m doing right now! It depends on whether I’m in the mood for espresso or filtered coffee that morning. (My Note: this sounds familiar- its like asking Kelly or I what our favorite colorway is-- which everyone we are working on at the moment!)

Me: Do you visit the coffee farms?

Robbie: Yes, but not often. Every couple of years we make rounds to some of our favorite farms and continue to build on the relationships we’ve earned.

Me: Where/How did you learn to roast?

Robbie: I learned to roast at the roaster in the coffeehouse, day by day, roast by roast.
Roast it, drink it, change it the next day!

Me: Which of your coffees goes best with chocolate?

Robbie: Café Femenino Peru can be a chocolate lovers bomb. Almost any coffee will go great with chocolate! (my note: this is one of the coffees that we frequently buy from our local coffee shop. I've never tried it with chocolate but now I'll have to!)

Me: What is your personal favorite coffee drinking scenario?

Robbie: Getting off a plane in Milan and going to the first bar I can find and having an espresso every three hours thereafter! Cappuccinos for breakfast of course.

Me: Is there anything else we should know about Joe van Gogh or artisanal coffee in general?
Robbie: We roast every batch by hand –that is to say there is a roast master minding the coffee as it goes through the development and deciding when to call it done.Fresh coffee is the best coffee. And so we’re committed to roasting small batches to order and working with seasonally fresh green (raw) coffees. Roasting coffee truly is both an art and a science and we hold true toour passion for quality coffee….roast it, brew it, share it!

Now that you know a little bit about the company that roasted your coffee, I'd also like to tell you a bit about the coffee itself. The Home for the Holidays 2009 Blend was just released earlier this month and will only be available through the holiday season. It is a melange which means that it is a mix of darker and lighter roasts designed to bring out the flavors of the beans. If you sip it slowly you'll notice hints of cinnamon and chocolate - perfect for this time of year! But there is more to this coffee than just the great flavor. 10% of net profits of every bag sold are donated to the local branches of Habitat for Humanity. And like most Joe van Gogh coffees it also supports the people who grew the coffee beans. Unlike many larger commercial coffee brands which take advantage of the desperation of third world coffee growers, Joe van Gogh is careful to maintain positive relationships with their coffee farmers and go above and beyond what is required for Fair Trade certification. The Home for the Holidays 2009 Blend supports the coffee farmers of Nahuala, Guatamala as part of the Cafe Femenino Project. These female coffee growers use the sales of their coffee beans to support their communities and build schools and fund environmental projects.


  1. As a former Barista, you could say that I take coffee fairly seriously. Home for the Holidays is my favorite blend EVER. I am incredibly sad that I won't be able to get it fresh after Christmas.

  2. Thanks for the great yarn and coffee shipment AND the history behind the beans and roasting!

  3. love the coffee and the gorgeous Joe Van Gogh yarn. The history is fascinating! So glad I joined this club!

  4. I am so happy I joined this club. An added bonus is that you are local to me and so is this wonderful coffee. I definitely will be looking for more of it.

    The cozy is a wonderful added bonus from the club and I use it all the time.