Coffee That Cares

Beansmith takes customers on a caffeinated journey

As long as it is chocked full of caffeine and practically lukewarm, for many the best part of waking up tastes, well, something like Folgers. Bitter, earthy to the point of dirt, and a mix of bland and burnt comprise the flavor notes for most morning, grocery-aisle blends. On the other hand, the brews from many java drive-thrus call themselves good because they wallow in sweets. For a drink consumed so regularly, it can be strange to think of how far our coffee comes from its original plant. It’s easy to forget a bean coming before the grounds and easier yet to forget a cherry coming before the bean. Chris Smith of Beansmith, Omaha’s latest (and one of the few) artisan coffee roaster, makes it apparent that his excitement for coffee necessitates a bean that is “as fresh as possible.” In a business that requires the product to travel thousands of miles to the consumers’ mouth, freshness may not be as easy as just a sealed package. Smith and roastmaster Jason Burkum begin the process by selecting single origin coffees that are nurtured from locations that span from Kona to the Congo. Sixteen of these single-origin varieties and a few more flavored options are available in one of three formats: online order, pick-up or from the shelf of a few local shops. Five of the single-origins are fair trade organic coffees. Ethics are an important part of the business model for Beansmith. Beyond the “fair” compensation of their labeled fair trade growers, Smith and Burkum are looking into buying directly from particular farms. This type of exchange would allow for a more complete circle of commerce than even fair trade suggests. There have already been a few stories of ethical success in the roaster’s short history. The Beansmith’s purchase of coffee from the Jinotega region of Nicaragua has been going “to make improvements to the local school, install a small health clinic, and renovate workers’ housing.” In another, portions of the proceeds from a Columbian coffee have been spent on the conservation of the endangered Spectacled Bear. Because the selections are made to highlight the natural flavors of each growing region, Burkum roasts in a light-handed way that differs greatly from the modern tendency for dark roasts. His style gets away from the popular dark roasts, proclaimed as bold, that create flavors that are consistent but boring. Where burnt has become an overarching taste in coffee, Burkum prefers to “react to each roast individually.” Instead of pushing the flavor out, as well as the caffeine (the more you roast coffee the less caffeine it retains), he allows taste buds to witness the nuances of the coffee cherry’s seed. It takes merely one sip of Beansmith’s Nicaraguan Jinotega to appreciate the round freshness that is possible from a light-handed roast. This is an exceptional single origin coffee (a coffee that comes from only one specific location, preferably from one farm) that is delightfully balanced from its bright start to sweet finish. Roastmaster Jason and his brother Graham Burkum, designer of the thought provoking labels, call it their favorite and a selection that typifies what Beansmith is trying to provide for its customers. Remembering the deep aromas of chocolate and pleasant smoke that wafted from the rear of the Beansmith’s La Vista spot, it was easy to understand Chris Smith’s mantra of freshness. A coffee should not taste as if it had traveled around the world, but as if we were brought to it. As I brewed a French press of their Yemen Mocha Sanaani, one of the first places coffee was grown as a crop, I knew I was in for a brief transport to a far off place. Beansmith Artisan Roasted Coffee, 12012 Roberts Rd. Suite C, is open Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 680.1125 or visit

posted at 01:32 pm
on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011


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