CQ Coffee Roasters in Bedford named by Coffee Review as fifth best in nation out of 30 contenders

Bedford’s Claudia Q. Barrett, owner of CQ Coffee Roasters, is accepting kudos after her coffee was honored as fifth in the country as ranked on a 100-point judging scale by Coffee Review, a publication founded in 1997 and recognized as the world’s leading coffee buying guide.

This month, the Coffee Review published its roundup of contenders for 30 top spots in the specialty coffee industry. Barrett’s coffee, Kenya Krinyaga Karimikui Peaberry, took the fifth-place prize against some heavyweights, including the George Howell Company in Acton, Mass., and Olympia Coffee Roasting Company, of Olympia, Wash.

The Coffee Review’s staffers, Kenneth Davids and Jason Sarley, sampled some 3,500 coffees with origins in Ethiopia, Kenya, El Salvador, Hawaii, Panama and elsewhere. The effort to determine the best coffee is a futile one, states its editor, Davids, as every coffee in the world is an intricate and complex entity.

Nevertheless, the rigorous investigation produced a consensus from professionals – and the honor for CQ Coffee Roasters of being named fifth in the nation.

The CQ Coffee Roasters’ enterprise, founded in July 2011, currently is based in a modestly sized, climate-controlled roastery that is a converted garage near County Road. The site is a showcase for a hefty, commercial roaster, featuring a pair of ceramic heating elements that warm a revolving drum laden with aromatic coffee beans.

Across the room are shelves of glass beakers and testing equipment that helps Barrett determine the alchemy of a coffee – its oils and flavors and subtle tones that perhaps are earthy or reminiscent of a fine Merlot wine. In addition, there are charts and graphs and reference works and professional tomes all about coffee. Barrett said everything works together to make a memorable coffee – locally roasted in small batches for discriminating consumers.

“We exist solely to roast to order,” Barrett said. “We want to be the ultimate in small-batch roasting. You place an order on our website, we roast it specifically for you, let it rest for 12 to 24 hours and, if you live in Bedford or in a town that borders Bedford, we deliver it to your door for free.”

Barrett said that coffee, when done really well, offers an intensity and depth of flavor that reflects not only the inherent complexities of the beans but also the hard work and knowledge that goes into growing, harvesting, importing and brewing the coffee. She said she hopes to redefine how people experience coffee.

The honor of placing in the top five rankings coincides with news from Barrett that she is opening a new roasting and cupping lab in Bedford. Details about the grand opening will be forthcoming in mid-February but she assures regional aficionados that the site is in Bedford, off the Route 3’s airport exit.

The new location will be a place where guests may enjoy cups of coffee prepared in pour-over style, a method in which a small measure of ground coffee receives a gentle pour-over of heated water, enough to make a suitable serving. The location also will carry coffee-related merchandise. It will be open to the public and offer opportunities for educational conversations about coffee and the science of roasting coffee. Free tasting events, called cuppings, will illustrate the nuances of flavors that contribute to the redolence of coffees grown in environments ranging from jungles to mountains to deserts in far away lands.

“We will be selling not just our fresh-roasted coffee but also all sorts of wonderful merchandise to ensure perfect brewing,” Barrett said. “It is our hope to excite, educate and engage all of New Hampshire in the wonders of specialty coffee.”

Barrett said the free pour overs will offer visitors a tasty way of finding pleasing coffees for their particular palates. In addition, orders placed online can be picked up at the roasting lab. The roast of the day will be available for purchase in bags. Barrett said she intends for the new headquarters to be a place where those with a scientific bent can learn more about the chemistry behind the process of coffee roasting. It is a process that takes coffee beans on an evolution from their place in the sun to their place in a burlap sack to their place in the roaster and into hearts of coffee lovers.

Barrett took a moment during the roasting of a small batch of beans from Ethiopia to confer with Ron Stelly, 29, a resident of Center Barnstead who is Barrett’s newly hired junior coffee roaster. He is a student of environmental design at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord and president there of the Environmental Action Club, a group that helps promote green practices on campus.

Stelly said that he and his wife, Megan, were customers of Barrett’s and his interest in home brewing as a hobby led to conversations with Barrett about coffee roasting. Barrett took him on after detecting a natural affinity in him for the multi-tasking and intensity required when a batch of beans is being roasted to exact temperature for a strictly mandated amount of time.

“Claudia had a Guatamalan coffee – Huehuetenango – that I remember had a natural sweetness I had never experienced before in a cup of black coffee. I realized right away she has a company that is very special and I wanted to be a part of it,” Stelly said.

Barrett indicated that a full-time position may await Stelly upon his graduation from college. Meanwhile, her pursuit of excellence continues. She researches and screens potential coffees. She roasts samples and tastes them. She believes the dedicated farmers, no matter where in the world they are doing their work, deserve her loving respect.

The CQ Coffee Roasters label is an indication, she said, of her belief that quality lies in buying the smallest lots of coffee she can find.

“Our signature identifies CQ Coffee Roasters as the artist,” Barrett said. “It also certifies that the beans are no longer works in progress but masterpieces and pure art.”

More than $100,000 in sales with exhilarating growth in the past six months are testament to Barrett’s passion for the art of coffee roasting and her dedication to providing customers a pleasure trip of a coffee experience.

Local orders made online and mail orders are welcome. Barrett’s certificate as a licensed “Q” grader is displayed with pride. So, too, is her expertise displayed – in every cup of coffee produced by CQ Coffee Roasters.

This month’s specials include three featured coffees. Consider trying a Kenya Kabare AB with smooth, juicy and balanced notes nutured on the slopes of Mount Kenya.

Also offered is Ethiopea Sidama Deri Kochoha, whose cupping notes are those of lemon drops, sweet cream and butterscotch. The third of the morning wake-up calls is Ethiopea Zonegediyo Kochere Yirga Cheffe, beloved for its aromatics of sweet peach and apricots.

For more information on CQ Coffee Roasters, visit www.cqcoffeeroasters.com or find CQ Coffee Roasters on Facebook.