Beth Cleveland discovered the joys of roasting coffee when a customer came into Peach Palette store. It inspired her to open Cleveland Organics in Fort Valley, which offers award-winning roastings.
Residence: Fort Valley
Occupation: Craft coffee roaster, Cleveland Organics-Morning by Morning Coffee
Q: What got you interested in this side of coffee: being a roaster and provider of craft coffees locally and online?
A: I didn’t even know you could roast your own coffee or what it was all about until a man walked into a business I had downtown, the Peach Palette, and wanted to know where they could get a good cup of coffee. I didn’t really have an answer, then he came back later with a sack of coffee beans he’d roasted. He loved coffee and was an amateur coffee roaster. Then, another guy came in, a younger guy who had taught the other guy. They thought I’d be interested and said they’d get me roasting coffee.
Q: Were you a big coffee lover?
A: I drank coffee but I wouldn’t say I was a big coffee person, no. But Peach Palette was a shop I had for groups and kids to come do things like pottery painting and we had a kitchen where we did cooking classes. We’d do classes and have ladies in to teach who were famous for their biscuits or pies or jams or whatever. So we were sort of an artsy, food-oriented place.
Q: You were already a businessperson?
A: I’d been a minister of music and interim in Fort Valley, Perry and Vienna for years. Then I opened the business partially for a place church groups could do things. I have a degree from the University of Georgia in interior design and Wesleyan College in voice performance. I’ve used them both. Then the coffee guys came and got me roasting. That changed a lot. I started out playing around using an air popcorn popper — you know, the kind everyone had in college and you have stuck in your attic. It was fun and I started getting geeky about it trying different beans and methods. Friends started asking for my coffee, then others wanted it. I got a real roaster and now we’re doing it for coffee shops, businesses, churches and have big online sales.
Q: Peach Palette is no more? Did you have any other food background?
A: Cleveland Organics has taken it over in Fort Valley. But there is Peach Palette in Perry that continues. Our business is a family thing with everyone involved but each focused on particular things. My husband, David Cleveland, is president of Cleveland Tree Co., which is a field nursery supplying trees and evergreen shrubs wholesale to landscapers. Then there’s Cleveland Organics. Cleveland Organics is mainly organic pecans, confections and the coffee. We grow organic pecans on 50-plus acres, which will increase. Right now we grow a small, limited amount and have no trouble selling out. Morning by Morning Coffee is part of Cleveland Organics. We produce fresh roasted organic coffee. My son, Tom, handles growing and producing the organic pecans and I’m focused on confections and coffee.
Q: All this in Fort Valley?
A: Fort Valley — Peach County, yeah. David was born and raised here working on his family’s peach and cotton farm. He’s also chairman of the board of directors of the Development Authority of Peach County.
Q: But you don’t grow coffee here, right?
A: No, no. We source worldwide from places like Columbia, Brazil, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Ethiopia and a few more.
Q: For different flavors?
A: Every cup of coffee is affected by the origin of the bean with factors like country, region, climate, soil, elevation and how the bean is processed. Then there’s how the bean is roasted which has a big impact on final flavor. Then there’s the coffee’s grind and how it’s brewed. You’re looking at a lot of different taste traits like sweetness, acidity, light or heavy, creamy and smooth — mouth feel — bitterness, nutty, fruity and, of course, how everything balances. Aroma is involved. And with brewing there are lots of processes plus the quality and type of water, time brewed and on and on.
Q: Lots of factors — sounds like it can get complicated. Is it?
A: It’s science and art. The production and roasting takes attention. Making coffee at home can be complex or simple. Get good, quality coffee and make it.
Q: You must have a good “taster” to do this? Produce craft coffee with different, specific flavor profiles?
A: It develops. It takes constant tasting as I’m roasting. Tasting the beans themselves and sometimes cupping.
Q: How long do you roast beans?
A: We have a 22-pound roaster and are looking at larger. Most of us roast 16 to 22 minutes — plus or minus — targeting desired flavor and qualities. You have to stick close to it, keep the roaster clean. You don’t want burned coffee in your roaster — yuk!
Q: You say craft coffee. What do you mean?
A: It’s the idea craftsmanship. Art and science, again. The idea of handmade skill and quality and then for us, using that to come up with great coffee and custom coffees for individuals and commercial customers.
Q: What sort of customers?
A: Really across the board. There are places and businesses like The Big House, that’s The Allman Brothers Band Museum who we make Blue Sky coffee for. We’re in places like Village Marketplace and Travis Jean in Macon, T-Bone Nursery in Milledgeville and closer by in Warner Robin, Perry and here in Fort Valley in places like Between Friends Coffeeshop & Cafe, Grillmaster barbecue, Lanes, Tapatio Mexican Restaurant and Five Points Pharmacy. Then there are online sales which are huge. That’s how we sell the most. Local people even order online and pick up here. And we're the official coffee of The Creek, 100.9 FM.
Q: Where is online and where is here?
A: Online is at www.cleveland-organics.com/shop and you can see there where we are to pick up.
Q: You mentioned churches. What about them?
A: We can help do fundraising with groups plus with we can provide for church’s coffee shops or spots. We can also make small bags — say one cup size — with special labels with their name on it that they can give to visitors. We’ve worked with places like Southside Baptist in Kathleen and Lighthouse Baptist on Sardis Church Road. Really, part of our business idea was to be a blessing and help missions. We’re working on how to be able to best do that.
Q: And you mentioned confections?
A: Coffee bean-wise, we have organic chocolate covered coffee beans, including white chocolate. Our Caffeine Crunch won the 2012 Best New Product Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America based out on the West Coast. Then there are our organic pecan treats like Chocolate Covered, Salt & Pepper, Sugar & Spice and Twisted. Twisted won the 2011 Flavor of Georgia award. We have other jams and confections, like our award winning Coffee Toffee Bark.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at email@example.com.