Coffee roaster Mark Small checks on a batch of fresh-roasted beans at A&E Coffee Roastery in Amherst. Barbara Taormina
Coffee drinkers who stop at A&E Roastery & Tea in Amherst for a latte, espresso or one of the daily brews are accustomed to the friendly greetings and the attention to detail that the staff and owner Emeran Langmaid pour into every cup.
Now Langmaid, who has spent years studying the art of roasting, blending, brewing and serving coffee, will bring her expertise to Elm Street in downtown Manchester, when she takes over the J. Dubs Coffee shop next week.
At her ‘cupping table,’ Emeran Langmaid tests the quality and flavor of different coffees.
Jim Whitney, who opened J.Dubs with his wife, Felicia back in 2008, said he will miss the business, but it was time to move on and try something new. And it helps that he’s leaving his customers, employees and his award-winning shop with Langmaid.
“Emeran is actually my coffee mentor,” said Whitney, who has served A&E roasted coffee since his first day behind the counter. “She taught me everything I know about coffee.” For Langmaid, the expansion into Manchester is part of a coffee career that has been gradually evolving.
“I am a calculated risk taker,” she said as she sat at a table at the Amherst roastery watching a steady stream of customers coming through the door for cups of coffee and tea, and batches of beans and tea leaves.
“I’ll take a chance when all of the stars kind of align,” she said.
For Langmaid, the coffee constellations started taking shape back in the ‘90s when she and her husband Adam, the A in A& E, joined a growing number of people who began roasting their own green coffee beans at home.
The couple shared their coffee with family, friends and a growing fan base who appreciated the flavor of fresh-roasted beans.
But coffee soon became more than a hobby. Langmaid, who was busy with a career in textile technology, liked how roasting beans offered the chance to produce a high-quality product that could tap into a supply chain of small-scale coffee growers who used environmentally-sustainable agricultural practices. In 2001, she left a job at Eastern Mountain Sports in Peterborough and launched a small organic coffee roastery and café at Amherst Plaza.
“I like working directly with producers and negotiating a fair price,” she said, adding she recently bought four bags of beans from a Honduran woman who was supporting herself and her daughter by growing coffee on about an acre of land.
As a wholesaler, Langmaid said she enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with buyers such as J. Dubs who can pass the story along to their customers. Last year, she qualified as a licensed Q Grader, an elite group of international coffee professionals who assess the quality of coffee and guarantee industry standards.
Langmaid began expanding the retail and café side of the business when the roastery moved to its current location on Route 101A. The site, an older home converted into a commercial building, offered plenty of space for roasting, and several rooms for tables and cushy sofas and chairs.
“We want to engage people in the story of coffee,” said Langmaid. “It’s about conversation and community.”
And cafes and coffee houses provide a setting for those conversations and connections, an aspect of community that’s lost when coffee is reduced to a Styrofoam cup handed out a drive–thru window.
“Our purpose is to provide a positive experience, and showcase the nuances of fine coffee,” she said, adding the roastery’s espresso cream soda, strawberry oolong iced tea and other specialty drinks are affordable luxuries for most budgets.
As Langmaid spoke, a customer who was looking over glass containers of coffee beans for sale by the pound put a bag in place and opened a brass spout. But the bag wasn’t lined up quite right, and a shower of fresh-roasted beans fell and crackled across the roastery’s shiny hardwood floor.
The woman immediately began apologizing, but Langmaid smiled and assured her that slews of beans hit the floor, one way or another, on a daily basis. For Langmaid, a coffee shop is about making customers feel comfortable, and making quality coffees and teas accessible.
Langmaid isn’t sure yet how A&E’s coffee philosophy will fit at the new shop. Although the Amherst roastery sells plenty of coffee-to-go to morning commuters, the shop is more of a relaxed destination where customers can come, sit and linger. J.Dubs is an urban, fast-paced shop that caters to a different clientele.
“We plan to operate under the guise of J.Dubs for a week or two,” said Landmaid. “We want to meet Jim’s customer base and settle in.”
The café will then close for a couple of weeks for renovations. Langmaid plans to add some seating to the shop which will reopen at the beginning of July as A&E Coffee.
Although Langmaid seemed concerned about keeping track of all the details of the expansion, her years of experience and commitment to the specialty coffee and tea industry will likely serve her well in dealing with any troubles ahead.
“When I got into this, I didn’t know I would enjoy it as much as I do,” she said. “It really satisfies everything I want out of work.”