Our Co-op friend and producer, Leni Calabrese, owner of Perfect Day Coffee, a small batch coffee roasting company located in Frenchtown, NJ, is passionate about providing great coffee. I learned so much from sitting and chatting with him.
We began discussing the art and alchemy of coffee making. As a professional photographer with a master’s degree in photography, Leni started out roasting coffee as a hobby before making it his profession. Yet, he notes, there are similarities between the two professions. “With photography, you start with science and a clear idea of what you want to get done. But you don’t really want the finished product to just be this thing you started out to do. Coffee in many ways is the same. Coffee has over a thousand compounds, more than any other food or beverage. There are so many different variables in making coffee you can’t use only science. At one point you have to taste it as an artist and go from there.”
When I asked Leni why he chooses only organic coffees, I learned something I didn’t know. He explained that the planting, growing and processing of coffee cherries (beans) from trees is labor intensive, and often takes place in indigenous countries, always on high ground, and using a lot of water. “If not using organic practices, the pesticides can pollute the workers and the greater community. Waterways can easily become infected in coffee producer areas.” Leni added that it’s getting easier and easier to find good organic coffees and that the better coffee makers understand organic is important to people.
Perfect Day Coffee beans come from Africa, Indonesia, and Latin America. One of the coffees in particular has a distinctive taste and a distinctive story. “It is from Amaro Gayo, the only woman-owned co-op in Ethiopia. She hires 70-90% women during the season, and she’s brought fair trade practices to Ethiopia. There are hospitals and roads named after her. I named the coffee Dark Bunny after her. Her nickname is Bunny.”
Leni says he would rather have the coffee taste better than have a good story, but admits that in some instances, you end up with both. Mostly, he cares about providing a great coffee, consistently roasted to its potential. Leni is a people person and loves watching someone’s face as they sample one of his coffees. “I don’t even care if someone likes the coffee right away. I first want people to think, this is distinctive; this tastes different from yesterday’s coffee.” Leni himself is tasting coffee all the time but doesn’t drink a lot of coffee. “I have about 3 cups a day but I have a lot of teaspoons of coffee throughout the day. I’m always trying new coffees.”
Growing up in New York, rooted in an Italian family with a love for coffee, hanging in the village, with lots of coffee shops – the place before cell phones to meet up with friends and make evening plans – the coffee business was a natural for Leni. He’s been living and working in Frenchtown, NJ since 2005 and started Perfect Day Coffee 2 ½ years ago.
You will have two opportunities to meet Leni and taste his distinctive coffee. Join us on Fun First Friday, Sept 4, from 4:30 – 6:30, to sample an iced coffee blender drink, coupled with healthy homemade desserts. There will also be a Perfect Day Coffee sampling on Saturday, Sept 19, 10 am – 12 noon at the Co-op.