Something’s Brewin’ in Wolfeboro
Local Couple Offers Specialty Coffee Roasted on the Shore of Back Bay
By Mark Foynes
“It all begins with the beans,” explained Troy Lucas, co-owner of Lucas Roasting Company, a purveyor of high-quality coffees based in Wolfeboro.
Troy loves talking coffee. He’s the master roaster for Lucas. If you walk into his establishment, which he runs with his wife and business partner, Jennica, you will likely walk out knowing a lot more about coffee when you leave.
Troy has been roasting coffee beans for about 17 years. He explained that it started out as a hobby, somewhat akin to home brewing.
“There was a lot of good coffee out there, but nothing that quite suited my taste,” he said. “It’s something I’m passionate about and learning the art of roasting the best quality beans was something I immersed myself in once I got started,” Troy added.
While he did solicit tips from master roasters as he was getting started, Troy said he is “largely self-taught.” He said he would take copious notes after each batch was roasted to document the qualities of each variety of coffee beans.
“It was a learning process in the beginning, but as time went on, some things became almost second nature,” he added.
After perfecting his craft, Troy began to consider launching a commercial enterprise that would allow him to make a living doing what he loves. At the time, he and his wife, Jennica, were living in Broadway, Virginia. In 2007, the Lucas Roasting Company was launched.
In 2016, the Lucas’s packed up and headed north to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. “It was like coming home,” said Jennica, who spent her early years in Epsom, moving to Virginia at the age of 12.
When the Lucas family first relocated their business to the Granite State, they set up shop in Alton Village at the previous site of the Fiddlehead Farm grocery store.
“It was a good location to begin with,” Troy said of the 1,000 square-foot facilities. “It was spacious, so we had plenty of room for the roaster and for the inventory.”
However, the space - located near the rear of the building - was not conducive to operating a retail component of the operation, which was one of their goals. The space was also adjacent to an auto mechanic.
“They tried to be good neighbors, but there was always the smell of exhaust, which was inevitable,” Jennica said. Although walk-in customers were few at their former Alton location, both agreed that the combination of the aroma of high-end coffee and auto fumes was not the kind of olfactory ambiance they were looking for. The space was also not conducive to having a small cafe adjacent to the roastery.
As their lease was about to expire, the Lucas’s began searching for another home base not too far away.
“We really wanted to have a small retail space where someone could come in and enjoy a cup in addition to our main business of roasting and selling the coffee [in bean and ground form],” Troy said.
While in-house coffee service generates some income that supplements their wholesale business, corporate sales, and mail order operations, the major driver was that they wanted a space where they could connect with customers face-to-face and establish one-on-one relationships with fellow coffee lovers.
“A lot of times people will know exactly what they want, but other times, they don’t quite know, so this space gives us a chance to talk with customers about what they’re looking for,” Troy said.
In this regard, Troy and Jennica somewhat play the role of matchmaker, hooking customers up with just the right roast.
Like in wine tasting, where there’s a certain lexicon that denotes the flavor quality of each vintage, the Troy’s use a parallel vocabulary to describe each of their coffees. Phrases like “smooth, not aggressive,” “herby aroma,” “full bodied,” “chocolaty,” and “not overtly strong” are among the frequent descriptors.
To this end, Lucas roasts single bean offerings, as well as blends. Troy said their regular espresso is a multi-bean blend that incorporates caramel and chocolate overtones that enhance the undergirding coffee flavor.
While I sat at the Lucas’ three-stool coffee bar, Troy offered to make me a sample. Not wanting to get too wired up, I initially declined having had a cup earlier. But he offered me a decaf, so, in the interest of advancing my style of immersive journalism, I accepted his generous offer. Right there on the spot, he brewed me an iced decaf espresso Americano. The grounds are from single-origin beans from Brazil.
I’m used to coffee weak and docile; what I usually brew at home would be hard pressed to defend itself. In spite of being a decaf, flavor-wise the brew Troy cranked out for me was the equivalent of bringing a pistol to a knife fight.
“This is unlike any coffee I’ve ever tasted,” I said.
“Well now you know what real coffee tastes like,” Troy replied. From some people this could be taken as a little highbrow. But Troy’s kind eyes, down-to-earth demeanor, and sincere passion for his craft blunt any element of snobbery. Plus he was right.
Both Troy and Jennica are coffee evangelists. It’s almost like they’re on a mission to help folks liberate their taste buds and help them unlock the true flavor potential of some of the world’s finest coffee beans.
Troy’s commitment to his suppliers is expressed by something of a mission statement published on the company website: “Our burning desire is simple – educate coffee consumers on conditions in the world’s coffee growing regions while producing incredible coffee, with only the best beans from around the world, for everyone to enjoy and share with others.”
Troy elaborated, “That’s where we get our motto: ‘Supporting the world’s coffee farmers one cup at a time.’”
The business is centered around a natural gas-powered coffee roaster that stands maybe four or five feet tall. Troy said the unit is remarkably energy efficient in its BTU output and can roast a load in as little as 14 minutes. He said some of the slower roasts require a couple more minutes.
This level of efficiency is important. Troy estimates that he roasts an average of about 800 pounds of coffee each week. That might sound like a lot - and it is for a two-person operation - but Troy explains it this way: “We’re more small scale and custom than the big guys.”
As for the selection of coffees itself, Troy and Jennica agreed that their customers’ preferences “definitely lean to the darker.” Troy said nationally, Lucas’ Italian Roast is “hands down our biggest seller.”
When the Lucas’s first transitioned to New Hampshire two years ago, Jennica anticipated creating new roasts customized to local tastes to cater to local palettes. “We want to serve the local market,” she explained.
Since their arrival, they’ve devised specialty roasts with names like “Winnipesaukee Sunrise Brew” and “Wicked Dark Sumatran.”
A stop by the Lucas’ King Street establishment is indeed a great way to begin the day. In addition to being able to buy a cup, there are also a number of coffee-related items for sale including bags of ground coffee for home brewing, coffee-making accessories like bean grinders, and even empty burlap coffee bean bags.
“They’re actually a pretty brisk seller,” Jennica said.
Troy agreed. “People come up with all sorts of creative applications for them, from drapes to folk art, all sorts of things you might see on Pinterest.”
While the small selection of gadgets does bring in some revenue, both Troy and Jennica agree that really they are helping provide people passionate about coffee with the necessary tools to make their own brews at home with quality beans.
The people of Wolfeboro have come to embrace Lucas Coffee Roasters, considering these newcomers to be an asset to the community.
A handful of folks streamed in to buy a coffee while we spoke. One of them was Alan Vittum, who described himself as a regular. He said that he comes by a few times a week to order a regular coffee and a snack. But on the day we met him, he was ordering a regular iced coffee for his daughter.
What keeps Vittum coming back?
“It’s great coffee made by good people,” he summarized.
This seems to be the consensus opinion.
One Google reviewer, giving Lucas five stars, wrote, “Great coffee and amazing people! Wolfeboro and the entire Lakes Region are blessed to have such wonderful small business owners. Keep on brewing!!”
Another reviewer wrote, “[S]ome of the best handcrafted coffee and coffee roasting...created in house and served up with love by a dedicated and conscientious small family business.”
Another five-star commenter wrote, “I love this place. Their coffee is the best I’ve had and the people that run it are great. They really care about their customers, their community, and their product.”
Lucas is poised for growth, in spite of the fact they do minimal advertising.
“They’re finding us,” he explained, noting that the company’s reputation as a premiere small-scale roaster has spread over the past decade.
In some cases, they’re shipping off a single one-pound bag to an individual anywhere in the U.S. The company has also cultivated a number of business clients, some of whom commission them to create a custom blend for their own companies.
“Many of our business customers like having a custom blend that they can associate with their business,” Troy said, adding, “There’s a prestige associated with having your own roast.”
The Lucas website says, “From Fortune 500 and 500+ employees to small companies who just wish to serve their clients and staff better coffee, we can handle it all. And don’t forget to ask us about helping you to extend a winning image for your company by private-labeling some of our products for your marketing campaigns!”
Even if they’re under the gun to fulfill a major order to a corporate client, Jennica and Troy Lucas always have time to brew you a fresh cup on the spot and talk coffee for a few. Stop on by.
The company’s facility is located at 7 King St. in Wolfeboro in the Back Bay section of town. (It’s in the general area of NAPA Auto Parts). Hours are Wednesday to Friday from 7 am to 5 pm and Saturday from 7 am to 3 pm. Enjoy a cup on site or take it to go. Online orders for roasted beans and ground coffee can be made at www.lucasroasting.com/shop or by phone at 540-908-1290.