Sunday, April 15, 2018

Roaster of the Week: Master Roaster Tom Isaia

Tom Isaia, owner and founder of wholesale roasting company, Coffee Express, is like the "village
elder" of coffee in southeast Michigan. Since 1982 he has been roasting specialty coffees and supplying cafes across the region with a wide variety of roasted coffee and excellent customer care. He's the one everyone in this corner of the state talks to when they are first thinking of starting a coffee business. You name 'em: Zingerman's, Mighty Good, Espresso Royale, Espresso Elevado, yours truly (Artisan Coffee Imports) and at least half a dozen more -- we all got some of our first learning and encouragement from Tom Isaia. 

Tom loves community. First, he has built a community with his dedicated staff at the Coffee Express roasting plant in Plymouth, MI. Genevieve, Sue, Walt, Doug and Scott are the friendly people I get to see when I visit. In addition to fostering the coffee community in southeast Michigan with his ad hoc advising, Tom was the key organizer of a Michigan Coffee Conference (the "MICoffeeCon") back around 2011 and 2012. This was a well-organized coffee conference held on University of Michigan's campus, attracting professionals from three states and Ontario.

His proudest moment as a roaster? I'm guessing Tom would tell you it was when he was part of the 1st place winning team at the  2015 Roaster's Guild Retreat in Lake Delavan, WI. I had the opportunity to be there, also, coincidentally, and I was not on the winning team. Tom will tell you how there was some great chemistry between his style of roasting and the other roasters. They were able to blend their skills perfectly to achieve the "best roast" -- and they had a lot of fun doing it. The fact that this retreat is a community-building event, also, is one reason Tom enjoyed it so much.

A further tribute to Tom's dedication to the craft is the fact that he established the first SCA-certified lab in the state. He has the Agtron reader, the moisture readers, stellar brewing equipment, and my favorite - a wall-size map of the world, but only the latitudes between Capricorn and Cancer! In this lab he is able to host a variety of SCA courses and instructor-led workshops on-site at the roastery.

So needless to say, Artisan Coffee Imports is proud to have Coffee Express as a customer. Take a glimpse of the video below where Tom is roasting up 1 pound of the Rwanda Ejo Heza on his latest toy - a Giesen W1A, 1 kg roaster.

Despite Tom's long history and success in the coffee industry, he is far from "done" with innovating and trying new things. His next venture - gelato! As in the truly Italian type! He was in Italy last year training to create an authentic product and the samples I got to taste were delicious!
RGR 2015 - Winning team!

Getting the profile just right - a team effort.

MI Coffee Con 2012

Trevor Corlett at MI Coffee Con