BEDFORD — When Claudia Barrett was 5 years old, she got her first taste of coffee from her Italian grandmother. Now, as the owner of CQ Coffee Roasters, Barrett is a connoisseur of specialty coffees.
Barrett is passionate about coffee and will soon open a 12,000-square-foot wholesale and retail operation on Harvey Road in Bedford, where she will offer seminars on the cupping method and brewing and, of course, have free coffee tastings.
“Like a tasting room for a winery,” she said. “We want to be a resource. We want to educate, excite and engage people in specialty coffees. The word specialty is important because there’s specialty, and there’s coffee. We’re not coffee snobs, we’re geeks.”
The aroma in her garage, where she currently roasts her selections, is exhilarating. Bags of freshly roasted coffee await delivery among a collection of various brewers to make that perfect cup.
CQ’s Kenya Kirinyaga Karimiku Peaberry — a mild coffee with a hint of fruit punch, nutmeg and caramel — recently ranked fifth out of about 100 specialty coffee entries by Coffee Review, a world-wide buying guide. Her Kenya coffee earned 95 points and ranked in the Top 30.
“The Top 5 was just amazing. It was wonderful to see the roasters we beat out. They’re big names in the roasting industry, and we beat them,” she said, beaming with pride.
Her company is among about 350 certified roasters in the country, and she adheres to the Specialty Coffee Association of America guidelines.
“It gives us a common language and gives coffee a quantitative score from zero to 100 to be deemed specialty. All CQ coffees score 90 or higher,” she said. “I really want to change the way people, particularly in New Hampshire, experience coffee. We celebrate terroir, a sense of place, which is a wine tasters term. To achieve that we roast our coffees just right.”
One of Barrett’s coffees, Ethiopia Amaro Gayo, is grown by the only woman grower in her country, and is produced through a dried process.
“The whole cherry is removed and laid out on drying beds in the sun. It develops a really rustic, wild fruity cup,” Barrett said.
She refers to coffee like a fine wine that needs to be sipped and enjoyed. She believes in the art of cupping — a method of evaluating a coffee’s aroma and taste — and manual brewing.
“Always grind fresh, because as soon as you grind it the clock actually starts ticking,” she said.
For the perfect cup, you should begin with a white filter and rinse it under water to get rid of the paper taste, then evaluate the flavor of the roast and add water in controlled pours for aroma.
“There’s so much science in specialty coffees,” she said.
In the ’90s, Barrett was pursuing her doctorate in literature at McGill University in Montreal, when she decided to take a course in Idaho. She was in a cafe working on a paper and realized how much she missed coffee and brewing. She moved to Washington, D.C., and for eight months worked as a barista at a Starbucks, then worked as an assistant manager in a store in Maryland.
“I started getting hands on at Quartermaine Roasters in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s where I learned everything from seed to cupping, barista, roasting and recipes,” Barrett said, adding that many people refer to coffee as beans but they’re actually seeds.
She grew up in the Boston area, and when she was in college her parents moved to Bedford. She moved to Bedford about five years ago with her husband, Jim, when they decided to start a family. The couple has two children, Nathaniel, 8, and Caroline, 7.
“In July 2011, I realized I could be a roaster and have fun at farmers markets,” she said.
Since then, her company has grown, and she recently achieved 15,000 orders in 45 days, and 95 percent of her business is through national mail order. With a small staff of roasters and drivers, she is very select in where her coffee is sold so she can control quality.
Part of CQ’s philosophy is getting involved in various local fundraisers, including providing 12-ounce bags of coffee for the Bedford Historical Society, and helping an 8-year-old Bedford boy who is a brain tumor survivor.
“He walked the length of a marathon for other children suffering from brain tumors. We created a special blend, and it was a lot of fun for us,” Barrett said.
CQ offers local door-to-door coffee deliveries in Bedford on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Thursdays in Manchester.
“We’re kind of the milkmen of coffee,” she said.
For more information about CQ coffees, brewing and cupping, visit cqcoffeeroasters.com.