When David Waldman comes to town he will bring with him some seriously good coffee. He will also bring his forty plus years of experience and a coffee IQ which is unmatched by anyone in this region. David Waldman is Head Roaster and owner of Rojo’s Roastery in Lambertville, NJ and it was my privilege to visit the roastery a few weeks ago for a cupping.
The roastery is situated along the Delaware River in Lambertville, NJ in a semi-industrial, spacious building that plays home to the roastworks, water plant (yes, they make their own water), cafe, cupping lab and warehouse. If coffee is the artistic medium in which David works , then this building is the studio in which masterpieces are created. Rojo’s scours the earth for the finest micro-lot coffees and it is under this roof where the perfect marriage between art and science takes place on a daily basis. Rojo’s maintains a commitment to to developing direct, sustainable, and financially beneficial relationships with the small independent producers and the communities in which they live.
David’s development of direct trade relations serves to eliminate the various middlemen associated with the industry and allows him to pay growers what they deserve which results in a finer product that is then expertly roasted to celebrate its inherent quality. The cafe which also lives within the confines of this building is a home of sorts to local luminaries, artists and business people. Heck, Rojo’s even sports a house band. Not many cafe’s in the region can claim that.
On they day I visited, it was a sleepy Monday and a morning rain had just lifted. I walked inside and was immediately met with the wonderful aromas of freshly brewed coffee. The smells were quickly accompanied by the sounds of beans being ground, steam being ejected from the espresso machine, and the overall chatter of a clientele in search of not just a great cup of coffee, but looking for coffee with meaning which is something that Joisey diner-drip just can’t offer. I met with David and he quickly whisked me away to the laboratory portion of the building after I turned down an espresso (which I would later have) in lieu of the more serious work of evaluating coffee. I took a seat at the table right along-side the vintage Probat roaster.
In a flurry of movements which could only be likened to the abracadabra of a true magician, David presented me with a taste of a very excellent Indonesian from Papua New Guinea. This had the spice of a great Indonesian but with a round, savory butteriness not often associated with such a coffee. I was in heaven and destined to fall into the rank and file of the Rojo’s loyal. As we tasted, David told me the story of the Kimel plantation and expressed the importance of altitude on the fruit (higher altitude = sweeter produce/increased difficulty in harvesting). This was a winner, but if that was the first taste i knew the next tastes would be even more incredible… and they were. After another flurry of movements interjected with greetings to the regulars and I was presented with another steaming cup of joe joy. This time it was the Cup of Excellence award winning Brazilian Carmo de Minas. This particular coffee was a treat to all of the senses from the sound of the beans in the grinder, and the belch of the kettle to the rich aromas and the sweetness of the fruit. Each sip was like tasting coffee for the first time and it was magnificent!
A few more brews and some stories told, it was time to pack it in. David sent it home with a Victorian-era siphon brew (which would eventually give rise to the coffee table). This time was a beautifully jammy, Rwandan from Lake Kivo region. I am a big fan of African coffees and this one was just done right. The aromas boomed out of the cup and its flavor unfolded with each sip. One last quick shot of espresso and I was ready to hit the road – not a bit jittery but clear, lucid, ready for the day.
It is an extreme privilege to be introducing Rojo’s Roastery to our shelves starting this Saturday, October 13th. Please join us for a Rojo’s launch party this Saturday as part of our regularly scheduled Breakfast Club at our 9th St. shop. For the tasting with giveaways featuring Rojo’s Roastery, David himself will be there answering questions and brewing coffee. Doing, in his words, two of the things he loves best.