Firecreek Coffee Company has taken over the location of Red Rock Coffee, on Hwy 179 behind the Village Artists Studio. Not only is Firecreek roasting and distributing coffee from the VOC location, it is also setting out to improve the palates of us coffee drinkers through the advent of "coffee cupping" or coffee tasting done by slurping coffee from a spoon.
Owner, Mike Funk, has been in the coffee business most of his working career. For twenty years in Seattle he built and supplied espresso carts. Over the next five years, in the yuppie Denver market, his niche business morphed into building espresso machines, supplying Java Coast coffee stores in Hiltons, Doubletrees and the like. Six years ago, the opportunity arose to open Firecreek Coffee in Cave Creek and roast and supply coffee to the finest valley hotels and food purveyors like A.J's and Whole Foods. When Mike discovered that Red Rock Coffee was for sale, he reasoned that coffee could be roasted and distributed from here to the same valley locations and potentially more N. AZ locations. Mike and his family have had a long relationship with Sedona as they have had a second home up the canyon for years. The planets aligned and here he now has his business. Mike, his wife and 6 year old daughter continue to live in Cave Creek for the present, Diana Hughmanick is the local manager.
Some of you may remember Red Rock Coffee's outstanding barista, Greg Suekoff. It was Mike's hope that Greg would be a part of the new-old business, but for the present he is living a dream with a coffee/resort business on Maui. Maybe someday he will return. Diana and her crew are all trained to serve you a full menu of coffee and tea drinks, as well as smoothies. From 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. seven days a week, Firecreek will offer great breakfast and lunch sandwiches, paninis, a soup of the day, salads, and baked goods. Mike intends to keep the cost of meals under $10, some much lower.
The original floor space of Red Rock Coffee has been expanded to house an impressive cast iron coffee roaster, seen through a wall of glass. A much larger lounge area is dotted with comfortable tables and chairs. The bar, when finished, will be faced with Alligator Juniper. We are looking forward to seeing the completed project and taking part in some exciting opportunities.
During our interview with Mike, he used the term "third wave" to define Firecreeks position in the coffee business. Third wave has to do with differences in relationships as well as growing climes, bean types, harvesting, milling, and roasting. Each affects the quality of your cup of coffee.
First Wave: Robusta coffee, a lesser quality of bean, is grown in low lying orchards where coffee "cherries" can be mechanically picked. Not all beans necessarily ripen at the same time; therefore, consistency is difficult to obtain. This coffee comes to us as "Mrs. Olsen's Finest", according to Mike. We think he means Maxwell House or Folgers.
Second Wave: Arabica coffee, high quality, is grown on large farms in areas of the world between The Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, where it doesn't freeze. Mill owners may blend together beans from a majority of growers in a region. Often, companies like Starbucks and Peets take these beans and "dark roast" or caramelize them to give consistent flavor-the vanilla overtone we've come to recognize.
Third Wave: Handpicked Arabica beans are sourced from small farms and single estates (fincas) throughout the world. Coffee is purchased directly from the best small farmers in an area. Growers receive a sustainable price for their product and there is transparent tracking of that special crop from the tree to the roaster. The beans are "light roasted" to maintain the individual characteristics of each crop.
Firecreek Coffee Company is riding the "third wave." Its motto is, "It matters to them, they matter to us!" "This mantra developed out of an appreciation to both our customers and our suppliers," Mike said. "We appreciate the commitment to quality and sustainability that everyone in our supply chain honors. Our customers are a very special group of local Arizona chefs, coffee shops, and consumers, who choose to invest a bit more to honor our values and those of the farmers that we purchase from." Firecreek hand roasts in small batches of 25 pounds or less so the beans can be air cooled. Larger roasters quench beans with water to save time and money, muting the flavor and subtle nuances Firecreek works to preserve.
As well as purchasing coffee beans, look for the opportunity to participate in a "cupping class." Coffee is rated, much like wine, on a100 point scale. Good coffee ranks 80-90 points. Rarely is a coffee given more than 94.
Twice weekly, Firecreek will teach systematic tasting, allowing you to slurp as you discover that coffee has celebrated nuances in greater number than wine. Even if your mother didn't, readers, we give you permission to slurp away!
Thanks, Mike, for sharing some of your knowledge and aspirations with us. The Firecreek Coffee Roasterie can be reached at 928-284-JAVA (284-5282) and at www.firecreek.com. Readers, let the wonderful aroma of coffee roasting lead you to stop by and welcome Mike, Diana, Joshua, Tia and the rest of the crew. We wish them years of success.
To your health and happiness,
Jeff and Suzie at The Dunnery