Navy veteran and teacher brew up a business at Mystic home
Mystic — If you had told Lisa Lambert a few years ago that she'd be standing in a 495-square-foot coffee production facility adjacent to a newly purchased home and packing coffee to ship, she probably wouldn't have believed it. Coffee seemed like her husband's thing.
But a year and a half ago, Jonathan and Lisa Lambert started selling their organic specialty coffee, under the name Absolute Bearing Coffee Company.
Lisa is often in the "coffee lab" tinkering and filling orders at 6:30 in the morning, before heading off to her job as an eighth grade math teacher and specialist. Jonathan served in the Navy for 20 years, entirely in Groton, retiring in 2016 as a senior chief. He now works at Electric Boat.
"Between his career and my career, we have 42 years combined of building relationships," Lisa said, which has helped their coffee business. She said with Absolute Bearing, the Lamberts have tried to instill in their kids that "we both had a career, but that doesn't mean that's where it ends."
They have four kids: one about to graduate college, one in college, a 10th grader and a seventh grader.
With the pandemic throwing a wrench in normal fundraising, the Lamberts used their coffee company as a fundraiser for the Falcon Music Boosters at Fitch High School, where son Luke plays in the marching and jazz bands. With 40% of proceeds going to the program in the monthlong fundraiser, Jonathan said they raised $1,533 for the music program.
Lisa said they also donate coffee to submarines about to leave for deployments.
This summer, one can expect to again see Absolute Bearing at the City of Groton Farmers' Market at Washington Park.
Jonathan said there's a "stigma attached that somehow what we do is super complicated" but it's not. At the farmers' market, he asks, "What do you drink right now?" and then helps people figure out what to get.
He said they saw the same people every week last summer, which helped them build momentum. And Lisa said they actually grew during the pandemic, and saw they didn't need a brick and mortar store.
The company delivers for free within 25 miles, does Friday pickups at Sutton Park, and ships. Ordering is available on the company's website, absolutebearing.coffee, and coffee is around $15 a pound.
Absolute Bearing also is teaming up with the East Lyme-based sustainable food startup Healthy PlanEat.
No cream and sugar needed
Jonathan said he first got into home roasting in 2008, when he was at a school in Massachusetts with an instructor who home roasted.
"I had my first cup of coffee that was Colombian that was home roasted, and I usually take a lot of cream and sugar, and I didn't need it," Jonathan said. He bought a small machine, then a bigger one, and then got a 5-kilogram roaster by Ambex last March.
The roaster is hooked up to a laptop, which Jonathan says allows them to make a flavor profile; they have specific ways to roast based on the type of bean. Roasting takes about nine minutes, and after the beans cool, they're put in tubs to de-gas for three or four days.
Right before the pandemic, the Lamberts went to Coffee Fest in New York. Lisa said it "was great to be exposed to that but also very overwhelming," and it showed them the importance of teaching customers about coffee.
By that point, they had started selling their coffee, after bringing it to their respective workplaces and to baseball games.
Their coffee company is named after the nautical term for the angle between an object and true north. The Navy theme extends to the coffee varieties: A blend of Colombian, Sumatran and Honduran is named Vulcan Death Watch, a long type of watch for submariners that would lend itself to needing coffee.
Other origins of coffee they sell include Ethiopian, Mexican, Nicaraguan and Peruvian. They get their coffee from the importer Royal New York.
The Lamberts moved to their home on Noank Road in August, finding themselves wanting more space as family members did remote learning and worked from home during the pandemic. The views of the Mystic Harbor from their driveway are alluring, but steps away, the smell of coffee awaits.
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