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Coffee company run by friends from Ledyard starts operations in Velvet Mill

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Stonington — Four friends from Ledyard this week began operations for their coffee company, Roasted Coffee Company, out of the Velvet Mill.

Not seeking a storefront at this point, they're roasting coffee out of an unassuming spot tucked in the corner of a large industrial space on the second floor, and selling 12-ounce bags of whole beans and ground coffee ($12.50) and 18-count boxes of pods ($16.95) through their website, roastedcoffeecompany.com.

Founder Bonde Johnson, 23, explained that he started the company as a sophomore at Florida State University. Getting his degree in nutrition science, he had learned in a food science course about roasting your own coffee.

He started roasting his own coffee, and posting about it on Snapchat and Instagram. Johnson dissolved the company his senior year but got it started up again when a friend with a boutique store in Thomasville, Ga., asked if he could sell Johnson's coffee.

"I decided that when I was going to start this again, that I would not do it by myself, because I understood what it takes to run a coffee company," Johnson said.

So, he reached out to three friends he's known since elementary or middle school in Ledyard, who he said were all "big supporters" of his company the first time around: Caile Johnson (no relation), Stephen Turner and Nick LoBianco, all Ledyard High School Class of 2014.

They got involved in November, and the four call themselves The Brew Boys.

Johnson still lives in Florida while the other three live in Ledyard. With most of the company in Connecticut, Johnson opted to move production from Georgia up here.

He said Roasted Coffee Company gets its raw beans from Theta Ridge Coffee, an importer that carries 65 varieties from 28 countries. He and LoBianco explained the three roasts they sell.

Hot Blonde is made with beans from Rwanda and Ethiopia, and Johnson described it as unique, flavorful and "very different from the typical cup of coffee." He said that pretty much everyone who likes coffee would like Roasted at Home, roasted with beans from Honduras and India. Then there's Southern Roots, a dark roast made from Sumatra and Costa Rica beans.

Turner said that depending on where the beans come from, they're roasted differently. LoBianco explained that the beans can be heated up in the roaster to "first crack," when the beans expand, or "second crack," when the shell cracks. Light roasts finish somewhere between the two cracks, while dark roasts are roasted longer.

He said the roaster will go up to 450 degrees for a light roast and 500 for a dark roast. After roasting, beans are brought to a bed for rapid cooling, and then they go into the grinder or directly into bags.

In the short term, LoBianco said they're hoping for a consistent base of customers, so they can make sure they're roasting consistently rather than having most of their customer base run out of their coffee supply and need to order more at the same time. Turner said they're also looking to get into smaller grocery stores and coffee shops in the area. Long-term, LoBianco said they'd like to open a café.

"We're all about just good vibes and good coffee," Johnson said.

e.moser@theday.com

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