Food Interviews

RI Coffee By Way of Hollywood

The Bay Magazine ·

Calling the historic Riverside Depot home, Borealis Roasting Company is a welcome addition on Riverside. Not just a new stop to grab a cup of coffee, Borealis prides itself in being a part of the process from bean to brew. Order your morning jolt while immersed in the aroma of roasting beans that are toasting in the open kitchen just beyond the counter.

Brian Dwiggins, whose connection to the stars extends beyond the name of his coffee roasting company, hopes that the artisanal process of coffee production will be understood, revered and respected as a part of the vibrant Rhode Island culinary scene.

So you got your coffee roasting start in the movie industry?
The cafe had its soft opening late last year, but the Borealis story started a few years before that. I started roasting coffee as a side gig to fill in the gaps when I wasn’t working as a freelance lighting technician in the film industry. I roasted my first batch for Borealis at the Lorraine Mill in Pawtucket in July 2014 while working full time on movie sets. My first roasts were served on set of the Johnny Depp movie Black Mass. 

It was towards the end of 2015 that I realized I wouldn’t be able to grow the business and continue to work full time in the film industry. A friend of mine told me about the Riverside Depot and after taking a look at it I fell in love. I decided that if I was waiting for a chance to go all in, it would never get any better than this location.

What is the story behind the name of your coffee? 
I am very happy to have grown up in Alaska. It has a strong coffee culture and it helped shape who I am today. I wanted to pay homage to my roots, so we played around with names that would loosely reference that: Borealis means “from the north” in Latin.
Aside from the influence of your Alaskan upbringing, what else shapes your love of coffee?
Coffee was always a way to connect with my friends.  We would make plans to meet at a local cafe or diner to figure out our plans for the night. Eventually our palates matured and the diner coffee gave way to lattes and espresso drinks. It was usually more about the cafe culture than the coffee, at least until I got to college.

The best coffees, to me, are those that really maximize the potential of the bean. Some dark roasts lose those origin characteristics that make a coffee unique, and many light roasts end up being really grassy tasting. I tend to favor coffees more in the middle because you can get a really nice sweetness, balance and complexity. 
Why did you want to offer the entire process of coffee production, from bean to cup?
I think it’s important for people to know where their food comes from, and coffee is no different.  Showing the path from seed to cup is a way to validate that we truly care about our product, but also show people that there was a person in Central America or elsewhere that planted the coffee seed, tended the crops, worked the soil, handpicked it, carried it down the hillside, drove it to the mill, sorted it and so on. There’s a long chain of custody, and coffee isn’t something that just happens. Any step along the way can ruin the fruit from a meticulously grown plant.

I think it’s our responsibility as roasters to show that relationship so people can begin to understand what they are paying for. I’m glad people like my coffee, but we’re just the end of a long process.

Coffee has also fueled your love of travel. Do you have a favorite destination?
In February, I went to Honduras solely for the purpose of visiting coffee farms and finding something exciting to bring in. The time I spent on the farms and wet mills learning about their trade was an amazing experience. I actually drank coffee in the kitchen of the woman who grew the coffee we were drinking while we watched her husband mill the coffee cherry. That was pretty special. 

How does it feel to be part of such an exciting artisanal food culture in Rhode Island?
I hope to continue and add to the work that has been done before me. The coffee culture is really building and customers are becoming more aware of how diverse coffee can be. I hope that as we work we can build upon our collaborations with other small businesses. I buy as much as I can from producers working out of Hope and Main in Warren. We don’t offer a full menu, but on Saturdays Rebelle Artisan Bagels does a pop-up from 9am-12pm. We also host No Joke Smoke BBQ for Waffle Wednesdays; they offer one sweet and one savory waffle for a mid-week brunch option. It helps all of us to support each other. 
Where else can we find your coffee?
We’re really excited to say that PVDonuts just started serving Borealis as their hot coffee offering! Stock Culinary goods on Hope Street in Providence, The Pantry at Avenue N in Rumford, Rogue Island in the Arcade in Providence and occasionally The Black Pear in Barrington sell my retail bags. I’ll be at the Hope and Main market in Warren on Sundays.

Borealis Coffee Company

250 Bullocks Point Ave, Riverside

Borealis Coffee Company, coffee, coffee roasting, coffee beans, The Bay Magazine, Holly Vine, Brian Dwiggins