Boynton (Florida) native brings Caribbean specialty coffee business home

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A report by Chelsea Todaro for The Palm Beach Post.

A couple of “coffee connoisseurs” expanded their specialty coffee business fromthe Caribbean to Boynton Beach last month.

Boynton Beach native Cathy Smith created Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters with her husband, Ramsey, to bring hand-selected specialty coffees, coffee programs and related equipment and services to upscale hotels and resorts, cafes, restaurants and gourmet grocers across South Florida.

Smith, 37, said they opened the business in 2012 while living in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, but moved their shop right off Congress Avenue at Bay O, 1420 Neptune Dr., opening in Boynton on Sept. 24.

“St. Thomas is a small island and we like Palm Beach County,” Smith said. “South Florida is a natural market to expand considering its similarities to the Virgin Islands — such as tourism and weather.”

Smith said she and Ramsey were introduced to specialty coffee when they lived in Washington, D.C.

“When you walked into a cafe they would do pour-overs on a cup of coffee and that was the first time we saw that,” Smith said. “So Ramsey started roasting in a little roaster at our home that he bought off EBay $40.”

Intrigued by whole bean coffee roasting, Smith and Ramsey moved to St. Thomas and began selling whole coffee beans to small businesses.

“We always wanted to have a business and it just so happened our passion was coffee,” Ramsey said. “When we went down (to St. Thomas) we saw there really wasn’t any any available coffee brand so we wanted to establish one.”

Within six years, Smith and Ramsey brought their products to larger, high-end resorts in St. Thomas such as The Ritz-Carlton, Peter Island Resort & Spa and Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort.

“For us, hospitality is a way of life,” Smith said. “Unlike the big national brands, we craft our coffee one small batch at a time.”

Smith says the beans are hand picked from the crop as soon as they are ripe, then they roastt them in a giant machine built in Germany in the 1950s called a Probat.

Ramsey said they make light to dark roasts in the Probat and then let the beans cool before they bag and deliver the coffee. Packing dates are written on bags so businesses knows how fresh it is, Smith said. Their products come from countries such as Colombia, New Guinea, Ethiopia and Guatemala. Ramsey often travels to see farmers and become familiar with organic farming practices.

“Our master artisans gently manipulate the roasting process, capturing the flavors that separate an average roast from a memorable one,” Smith said. “The underlying flavor profile is always sweet.”

All of Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters’ coffee is specialty coffee, meaning it has reached 80 points or above on a scale that measures body, after taste, acidity and flavor.

Only in business for a week, Smith said she and Ramsey have already sold their products to Coyo Taco in West Palm Beach and The French Market in Boca Raton. She also does orders for a few other businesses in Broward County.

They plan to host weekly Saturday coffee mornings in November when locals can taste their coffee and see how they are roasted.

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