East Pole Coffee Co. goes clearFriday June 9, 2017 04:14 pm EDT
"He showed me what green coffee bean processing is like," says Karr, who is now the co-founder and head roaster for Atlanta's East Pole Coffee Co. "I didn't even know it existed. I thought Dunkin' Donuts was fancy.?
In 2013, Karr returned to Atlanta and began working at various coffee shops including Starbucks, Rev Coffee Roasters in Smyrna and Kirkwood's Taproom. At the same time, Jules Tompkins, now East Pole's head of operations and co-founder, was cycling through his own series of short-term barista jobs while studying journalism and moving between coasts.
With a shared passion for entrepreneurship and great coffee, the two friends decided to take a chance. In 2015, they drove down to Orlando and came back with a 1,200-pound roaster. By summer, they were roasting beans in a friend's Grant Park garage.
"I didn't even know it existed. I thought Dunkin' Donuts was fancy.?
The next year, Karr met and befriended Jim Chasteen, co-owner of Atlanta distillery American Spirit Whiskey. Chasteen agreed to rent out a portion of ASW's storage room to Karr and Tompkins, giving them space to grow their fledgling business.
Expertise didn't come overnight. The duo share stories of 12-hour days roasting beans and memories of trial and error. "Finding the balance between body types is where the artistry comes in," says Karr. "Some people miss the mark and burn it or don't roast it long enough at all, so people can taste that."
Now three years in, the Atlanta-based and proudly "Atlanta-focused" coffee company is expanding into a new, individual facility. Together, Tompkins and Karr hope to elevate the roasting process itself with what they call Atlanta's first "totally transparent" roastery.Slated to open in the Armour Yards development by late August or early September, the new digs will reflect East Pole's transformation from a relatively private small-scale roasting company to a larger, entirely more open experience. At the new space, still in progress, paneled windows line the building's street-facing side while stained wood panels fill the remaining walls. Inside, high ceilings are lined with more panels of glass, creating a giant skylight that cleverly illustrates East Pole's commitment to transparency.
No value assignedThe sunny facility will be used to create a "public roasting experience." An enormous, retro-looking San Franciscan Roaster sits in clear view, allowing guests to watch Karr and his team at work. Nearby, the caf̩ area will include a wraparound bar and outdoor patio seating. Spacious wooden benches with plenty of outlets will provide sought-after space for caf̩-dwellers with laptops.
In addition, East Pole will offer private classes to local restaurants and caf̩s, so that employers can send their staff to learn how to brew coffee properly with local beans.
"There are a lot of coffees coming from outside of the city," says Tompkins. "The Pacific-Northwest region is popular for roasting, but our value is that we love Atlanta. We're from here.?
Karr nods. "We're proud to be a part of Atlanta and its evolution towards a coffee town.?
Tompkins points out that he drinks different coffee depending on the day, time and mood, and thus strives to provide an array of flavors and types for their clients. Beans come from all over the world, from Ethiopia to El Salvador, and the guys maintain an open dialogue with their importer. There's no cutting corners. One farm, one origin, one crop, one product: those are the conditions for each bag of beans East Pole sells.
So stay tuned; by the time fall rolls around, East Pole Coffee Co. will be joining SweetWater Brewing Company, American Spirit Works, Georgia Organics and the Fox Bros. BBQ commissary kitchen on Ottley Drive.
"We'll definitely throw a party," says Tompkins. "We're fond of those.?