We asked Maine Hofius, owner of True North Coffee Roasters, how she got started in the coffee business and why her coffee is unique.
1. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET IN TO ROASTING?
The realization that I prefer sensory type of work over full out mind bending analysis. Before True North, I traveled nearly every week installing interfaces for hospital information systems. I prefer puzzles and projects to jockeying for position with people.
This memory – at 25 my husband at the time, Tucker’s father, took me to a cafe in Santa Fe to share his favorite crepes with me. There was a woman working in the cafe, waiting on customers and dancing to the music while looking beautiful, free, at peace and not the least bit foolish. I wanted to be her.
I have a strong belief in my ability to figure out anything that peeks my interest. I also prefer mysteries that require self discovery rather than research.
2. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ROASTING STYLE? WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR STYLE?
We roast the coffees that we love, with the exception of Sumatran. While I am not a fan, it was among the first coffees we learned to roast. It was the coffee we gave away to people to survey our market. It was the coffee that landed True North on Vulcan Flight Operations after being in business for only three months.
Coffees that I love have good structure – balanced body, acidity with layers of flavor. We look for a hint of stone fruit, berry and stay away from citrus and green apple as I do not care for coffees with green apple flavors as they cool. I look for flavors in coffee that I enjoy in food. For instance we started roasting Ethiopian Harrar in 2002 – back when this coffee smelled truly of Blueberry – not the hint of Blueberry found now.
We set True North apart by putting Harrar in our espresso in 2003. At the time espresso in the Seattle coffee scene gravitated toward flavors of nut and caramel. I wanted to create an espresso that tasted more like fruit pie and would pair well with fruit pastries, as our first espresso customers were bakeries.
Years ago the Ethiopian government changed the way specialty coffee could be sold, making it untraceable. Coffee could not be traced from processor to farm – the quality suffered greatly. We stepped away from Harrar and looked for fruit flavor (however not Blueberry) in other coffees.
3. WHAT MAKES YOUR COFFEES UNIQUE?
We play to our strengths – we are small but nimble. As such, we can offer coffees that are in short supply.
We do not follow trends. We look for gaps in the market and fill those that interest us, such as nitro cold brew. There is not another product in Seattle that is a creamy, delicious and yes, aromatic as ours. Thanks to my recipe and John’s innovation.
We were the first craft coffee roastery in Seattle to do the following:
- Put a roast date on our coffee
- Place our coffee on grocery store shelves (True North was in 16 grocery stores in 2002 – we were too far ahead of the market)
- Sell only whole bean coffee (we have always provided grinders for all of our wholesale customers)
- Insist our wholesale customers use coffee appropriate water filtration systems for all of their coffee preparation equipment
- Create custom equipment solutions to satisfy our customers’ needs
Our website highlights what is important to us the romance and mystery of coffee. We believe coffee should be well roasted, fresh, responsibly sourced and reasonably priced. We have no interest in the super light roast style which highlights only acidity. We have hit a nerve with our nitro cold brew, as our customers are threatening to carry it year round.
Stay tuned for more roaster profiles from the top independent Seattle roasters working with us at Bean Box. Click here if you’d like to try Maine’s freshly roasted coffees. We especially like her Stacya’s Blend with tasting notes of chocolate, marshmallow, and caramel. Enjoy!
Cheers to Seattle Sipping,
Team Bean Box