I had a number of unforgettable lessons in friendliness, business acumen, good taste, variety, and coffee last week when I stopped in Fair Mountain Coffee Roasters on West Garfield ave. half a block in from First Avenue. What a fantastic experience.
I had visited this charming neighborhood micro roasting company over a year ago looking for some unusual stocking stuffers for my college age grandson. I was delighted then that they not only ground the blend of beans from a couple of different countries that I wanted, but they even finished off the bag with a special label with my grandson’s name and the date it was ground for him.
This year, I learned they still do that, but so much more.
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PHOTO: Fair Mountain Coffee Roasters owners Greg Lewis and Barbara DiBeneditto
It’s comfortable and neighborly in this causal little place surrounded by magnificent aromas. And owners Greg Lewis and Barbara DiBeneditto are never too busy to tell you the blend they’re featuring that day, or how many folks have taken advantage of the chaff they leave outside for folks to pick up to help their gardens grow. (It makes a great fertilizer!) They’ll answer all your questions about “the coffee belt” (that’s the area 23 degrees north and south of the equator that’s perfect for coffee growing) or the fact that they import pallets of 150-pound bags of coffee from more than 40 different countries. Take up Barbara’s offer to take a whiff of the dynamic spice rub she blends herself, that makes a roast or barbequed chicken you’ll never forget. Better yet, bring your youngsters and introduce them to an antique hand bean grinder. It’s placed low enough next to the counter so the children can grind their own beans, then get to take a bag of them home with them!
But what was simply terrific and another example of why Atlantic Highlands stands out in my book as a downright friendly community, is the cooperative spirit of local businesspeople.
Lindsey Gunn stopped in while I was trying to decide whether I wanted honey infused with ginger or honey from the Pine Barrens. (I opted for the ginger-infused, I’ll save the Pine Barrens for another day.) Lindsey owns Selfless Love Yoga next door, and she was returning a carafe and lots of great comments on how everyone loved the mocha java blend coffee. Seems Lindsey picks up a carafe of coffee from Greg and Barbara every Saturday to encourage her yoga customers to “not just drink coffee but enjoy it.” Lindsey said, and rightfully so, that too many times we drink coffee on the run, think of it as an adrenaline booster, and connect it to being in a rush all the time. Why not relax and enjoy the aroma, the flavor, the fact Fair Mountain beans (are they really beans? They look more like the pits from a cherry!) are all grown in the shade, all on trees that are migratory bird-friendly, and all certified to have been grown on fair-trade farms, which means the farmers are being fairly paid. Lindsey’s yoga folks either sit on their workout pads and enjoy a few sips or wander around the studio engaging in some relaxing conversation with others that simply adds to the yoga experience. (the blend by the way is fantastic, it’s from Ethiopia, with some cocoa and citrus.)
Then I learned Lindsey isn’t the only business that shares talents with Fair Mountain. Carton Brewery on First Avenue is another one. Here’s a home-grown company that has always shared with other local businesses, named their varieties in such clever manners and even tells you which brews are great with which foods in local restaurants. But who would have thought that they buy cold brew coffee concentrates from this other business around the corner and make exciting new beer flavors. Barbara laughed at my surprise…”we’ve been doing it a while, and they use seven or eight different blends.”
Then there’s the Flaky Tart, the spectacular bakery across from the school on First Avenue. Everything they have is spectacular, but the icing on their mocha cake includes the Fair Mountain product and their Pannacotta is raved about all over. Yep, some Fair Mountain coffee products make that special, too.
Only in Atlantic Highlands, I thought, back up 16 steps to my nest among trees and lush grass atop a garage. Only in this community of warm-hearted people, forward thinking businesses, and unique attributes, can companies as diverse as beer brewing, coffee roasting, and yoga-doing create the magic they create on an everyday basis!
Muriel J. Smith writes Known Locally, a column that shares some of the wonderful people and places in the Atlantic Highlands region.