Byron Bailey’s roeLA Roasters
article by Mary Napoli | photography by Brad Arender
“I’ve got to drive to New Orleans tomorrow for some chicory,” says Byron Bailey of roeLA Roasters. As owner and creative force behind the company, the drive to retrieve premium chicory is as important to his career as any meeting around a long table between high powered executives. Bailey is a Monroe resident, Calhoun native and coffee aficionado who recently began supplying local java addicts with the most fresh, flavorful and incredibly delicious coffee beans available in our area.
RoeLa Roasters is a dream come true for those who have strong affection for a high-quality cup of joe. From coffee connoisseurs who enjoy the fragrant beans in various preparations to those who simply want a fine brew to begin their day, the superiority of the beans that Bailey imports, expertly roasts and delivers to locals’ doors are pure perfection.
His extensive culinary background gave him a solid foundation on which to build his career in coffee. After graduating culinary school and a decade cooking alongside some of the most respected chefs in New Orleans’ finest restaurants, Bailey was ready to return home to the Delta and begin a new adventure. His first stop was Lake Bruin, where he made long-time love and business partner, Jill Reese Bailey, his bride. From there, the couple set up shop on the north side of Monroe and began making preparations to take roeLA Roasters to the public.
“I have always enjoyed coffee, and I learned a lot about the roasting business from my friends at French Truck Roasters in New Orleans,” says Bailey. “The more I learned, the more I realized how much of my culinary knowledge could be applied to roasting coffee and creating something that I know people will enjoy.”
When it comes to preparing a meal, Bailey knows that fresh, quality ingredients make all the difference. To ensure the best product, many chefs look to local farmers who can offer fresh food that is accessible to the region rather than importing ingredients from hundreds of miles away. When quality product is used, it requires minimal preparation to bring out the desirable, unique flavors. Bailey understands the importance of investing in a first-rate product.
“The same applies to coffee beans. I’ve researched and traveled to find high-quality beans by the best growers in the world. These beans have been sourced and stored properly, which is extremely important to the quality of the beans. Coffee purchased in a store comes from a blend of who knows how many different kinds of beans and is roasted who knows when. I can trace the exact origin of all the beans I offer, and I purchase them at the peak of freshness. They aren’t roasted until they are ordered by the customer, and I deliver that day, or the next morning. It doesn’t get any more fresh than that.”
The heavenly fragrance of freshly roasted beans is enough to fill a room with its dreamy aroma. RoeLa offers single origin beans from Guatemala, Kenya and Costa Rica, as well as a well-balanced breakfast blend (the Tallabena Blend) and a richly complex espresso blend (Oxbow Espresso). In addition, roeLa offers a New Orleans cold brewed concentrate that makes preparing a cafe style iced coffee effortless. By steeping the blend of dark roast beans and chicory in room temperature water for 20 hours, Bailey is able to extract the unique flavors of the beans before filtering the brew. Mix with milk to desired strength, add the sweetener of your choice, and throw in some ice for the perfect hot weather pick me up. It’s a summertime luxury that instantly becomes a necessity after that first sip.
Bailey expertly roasts the beans he purchases in a massive, shiny contraption that traveled halfway across the world before landing in Monroe.
“That’s an Ambex 5000 from Turkey,” he says motioning to the giant, gleaming machine made of bright red polished steel and chrome. “Its the Corvette of roasters,” he says as the motor growls and comes to life.
The Ambex is no Easy Bake Oven, to be sure. Roasting the coffee is not simply a matter of throwing in the beans until a timer alerts that the job is done. Bailey’s extensive knowledge of the process shows in his work.
“The roaster measures heat and temperature to bring out certain flavors in the specific profile of the beans. When the process goes from exothermic to endothermic heat, I control it manually to accentuate exact flavors. I take a very hands-on approach to have control over each individual roast, so that I can precisely dictate how the coffee will taste. In the culinary world, one of the most complex flavors of any savory item is the vanilla bean, which has twenty to twenty-five flavor profiles. In comparison, a coffee bean has up to 250 flavor profiles, so it’s a big world.”
Like wine, coffee beans grown in a specific equatorial region have certain profile flavors. Similar to growing grapes, the environmental conditions where the coffee beans are grown make all the difference. The soil and water determine the unique flavors of the crop, as well as the farming methods. For example, the Mexican Single Origin that roeLA offers contains a profile with citric, chocolate, lemon-lime and nutty flavors. When roasting the beans, Bailey encourages each individual type to develop certain flavors from the profile they possess. From there, he blends different types of beans together to create a unique roast with balanced flavor and enhanced depth. This takes serious skill, a discerning palate and genuine knowledge.
Bailey’s expertise allows him to create his own delectable blends, but he also offers to work with clients to design their own unique blends, based on their individual tastes. This service is available for individuals, companies or as gifts for the holiday season. Recently, Monroe superstar Chef Cory Bahr sought Bailey’s services to create a signature blend that is only available at Restaurant Cotton.
“We worked on it together to create a South American blend that included the flavors he felt would best compliment the cuisine offered at the restaurant. That specific roast is unique, and they use it in different preparations. It’s offered as a table-side French press for two to four people and in various espresso drinks. During Sunday brunch, they offer a fantastic cold brewed cocktail.”
Bahr understands and often promotes the value in eating locally and patronizing area businesses. RoeLa Roasters not only offers the delivery of an undeniably fine product, but one that is crafted locally with pride.
“I enjoy coffee and preparing roasts that I know are of an exceptional quality and taste. Good coffee comes from good beans. Mine is made with a lot of care and a little love. I just got in 900 pounds of fresh beans that I can’t wait to get into and share with everyone.”
Catch your next caffeine buzz by placing an order on roeLA’s website, www.roelaroasters.com, or find them on Facebook.