Photos and story by Carly Browning
On a bitterly cold Tuesday, I knocked on the door of Copper Horse Coffee in Ithaca. The sign on the door said closed, but a friendly bearded man opened the door and welcomed me in. It’s an artist’s space, that much is clear. A giant metal roaster stands on one side, with levers and buttons and lights. It is massive. Around the rest of the room is passion. Pictures on the wall of coffee types and geography, horseshoes hanging off shelves—this is the Copper Horse Coffee Roastery and Tasting Room.
The Tasting Room is open by appointment only, for a cup of free coffee and a chat with Roaster Jesse Harriott and I was lucky enough to spend a few hours with him. Harriott, along with partners Kristian Woodall and Caleb Scott founded Copper Horse in September of 2014 and produce several different roasts and blends of coffee available for wholesale around the area. Harriott has more than 10 years of coffee and roasting experience and joined forces with Woodall, the owner of Carriage House Cafe, to begin the coffee roastery. Woodall introduced Harriott to Scott who, with his extensive background in sales, helped get the roastery off the ground.
Their vision is reflected fully in their slogan: Coffee is Culinary – Personal – Just Good. Harriot explains to me that coffee isn’t just about the final cup, it’s about the process as well. As head roaster, he considers himself to be a chef. He experiments with the beans and their roasting temperatures, tweaking each order until it’s just right.
Additionally, coffee is all about people. “Whether its sourcing, whether it’s accounts, or whether it’s just with the coffee community in general, we know it’s a personal thing. And we know that we’re bringing our personal style to it,” Harriott says. He pauses after this to take temperatures and record information about each roasting on a sheet—he’s meticulous in his work.
“We’re not trying to say that we’re the very best coffee in the world,” he says about the Just Good ending of the slogan. “We’re trying to say, coffee should always be good. Whatever coffee I put in front of you, it should be good.” And let me say the cup of Enrique Torres he put in front of me was every bit of good. I’m not a coffee connoisseur; I barely even drink it. I worried about walking into Copper Horse and having no clue what Harriott was talking about. But that’s the other part of the slogan—“I like to make sure I talk to everyone very plainly. I just want to be able to talk about what I love to do with people, but I always want it to be a two-way conversation,” he explains.
The last part of the slogan speaks to their ethical decisions on sourcing their coffee. Although “local” isn’t necessarily a part of the conversation, because these coffee beans don’t grow in the Finger Lakes, ethical practices can and should be. Harriott emphasizes his relationships with growers and his commitment to fair trade. It can be difficult because there are only a few people who actually control the travel of these beans, he explains, but he has the power to make just decisions and he exercises that in every shipment they get.
You can find Copper Horse Coffee at Carriage House Cafe as well as for wholesale right from the roastery. Send them an email or give them a call to drop by for a free cup of coffee and a chat with a passionate roaster.
Carly Browning is a senior at Ithaca College and the writing intern at Edible Finger Lakes.