The turn of the century saw the beginning of the transition from second to third wave coffee. This meant pairing down the choices of drinks and their additives for a more refined curation of coffees. For Boston Stoker, it also meant the continuation and expansion on the direct trade relationships started in the mid-eighties when Don Dean bought his first bag of La Minita beans from Costa Rican farmer, Bill Mcalpin.
“Second wave coffee started seeing importers traveling to the farms they got their beans from, bringing back samples of new varieties and neighboring farms,” Henry said. “Third wave was more about roasters traveling themselves, and I was lucky enough to experience that firsthand in 2005.”
Longtime employee, John Penick was supposed to accompany Don Dean on that trip down to visit Mcalpin’s farm, but health concerns lead him to cancel. Having worked full time at the company since 2003, starting off as a barista at the Dayton International Airport kiosk, Henry took John’s place to travel with his father.
“It was a real light bulb moment for us and how we do direct trade,” Henry said. “We should buy all coffee this way. Not only did it give us an insight into the farms and the methods in which the coffee was handled and dried, but it also gave us a greater appreciation of the workers, from the farm owners to the migrant laborers.”
Growing his role at Boston Stoker, Henry began talking with the farmers and importers the company already worked with to develop more direct relationships with farmers and co-ops from all around the world.
“A lot of trips at the beginning was just learning how coffee was done around the world,” Henry said. “We’d take what we’d learn and bring it back to develop a training program for the baristas back home. Everything from the varieties of coffees, the effects of micro climates, cupping practices, it was all still new at the time.”
As knowledge from the baristas grew, so did the desire learning from the customers. In 2006, the downtown Dayton location that had opened just three years before hosted the company’s first public barista competition with a grand prize trip to Mcalpin’s farm in Costa Rica.
“People were excited with coffee and the culture, but it would still be hard to convince them to wait a few extra minutes on a pourover,” Henry said. “Dad was always very purposeful though about making real experiences over that maximum perceived convenience though. As drive-thrus became part of coffee culture, he made sure that Boston Stoker never had a faceless speaker box, but a big window where you could watch your coffee being made.”