There’s a line that separates the coffee enthusiast from the obsessive. I’m not sure exactly where it is, but when you start roasting your own beans, you’ve sailed on by. Brian Dwiggins, owner of Borealis Coffee Roasters, Rhode Island’s newest coffee roaster, crossed that threshold long ago. I visited Borealis Coffee Roasters at Historic Lorraine Mills in Pawtucket, and after speaking with Brian, it’s clear he’s just the sort you want to go pro.
While Brian has been a jack-of-all-trades professionally, his wife Jessie reports his desire to get into the coffee business “is the only thing he’s been consistent about.” Brian’s increasing obsession began as a young coffee groupie in Anchorage, Alaska, dating baristas in high school. It involved a pilgrimage to “coffee camp,” Coffee Lab in Waterbury, VT, to train on roasting, and culminated with the purchase of an old 5 kilo Probat Roaster. Along the way there has been another interest that has proven to be symbiotic: his work as a freelance lighting technician in the New England film industry.
Frustrated with the quality of coffee available to him, Brian bought a small Behmor home roaster, which looks something like a toaster oven. Ultimately he went from vetting coffee shops on caffeine runs to supplying coworkers on set with home roasted beans. Inevitably he began to look for the next big thing. Brian’s lust went where most dark and frustrated needs go: Craigslist. After showing one too many people pictures of the old, bright orange Probat roaster for sale there, a chorus of voices said, “you’ve been talking about this for years, why don’t you do it.”
Buying a coffee roaster is no small investment; as Brian puts it, it’s “like buying a car.” After thinking about the lean times in film production, waiting for the phone to ring, soon his dream sounded like a sensible plan B. Wife Jessie says, “the whole project has been divine timing.”
Brian found a perfect fire-safe, food-safe space in Lorraine Mills. It had it all, one former tenant left a raised platform for their glass blowing that seemed a pedestal begging for a roaster, another had painted two walls bright orange, perfectly matching the roaster he’d been ogling. Feeling it was meant to be, the roaster was delivered in the middle of June, and Brian roasted his first batch on July 13.
Since then, Borealis has mostly been doing wholesale business, and Brian’s movie production connections have given him steady trade. Still working fulltime in lighting, Brian found an eager partner in Team Crafty, a Boston-based craft services company. He began fueling crews working long late hours, with 30-50 pounds a week of his Team Crafty Roast, a delicious Columbian. As time goes on, Borealis has been slowly expanding, and has appeared as a guest roaster in its first café, my favorite one at that, Angelina’s in Bristol.
You can purchase Borealis coffee online, at very competitive prices. They’re offering a range of single origins as well as blends, and shipping is free through their coffee club, or on larger orders. You can also look for them soon at the Attleboro farmers market. 429-8774.