SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — The smell of roasting coffee beans emanates out of the Flying Crow Coffee Company’s studio through the outdoor vents, creating an outer foyer of flavors and smells. The fresh aroma, which easily reaches 10 yards in any direction outside the premises, confirms there is no mistaking their one-of-a-kind, small quantity coffee roasting company for any other kind of business.
“We sell coffee in a quality environment. We are not trying to be Starbucks,” said Ben Hills, owner and roaster at the Flying Crow Coffee Company about his full spectrum of roasting recipes, each with a unique flavor profile and the micro cafe.
Two years ago, Ben and Samantha Hills, cafe manager and human resources director, bought a propane roaster to start their household experimentation with coffee roasting methods in the garage of their Westminster home. Only six months later in September of 2018, the Hills bought a red industrial electric roaster and opened a roasting studio in Springfield’s downtown district.
The Hills have since developed their unique recipes from specific flavor profile combinations with a vineyard feel and a depth that opens new doorways of flavor to coffee drinkers.
Now, Ben is making barrel aged nano-batches of coffee blends that smells like bourbon but without the taste. These concoctions are as complex in taste as his more than 11 rotating varieties of blends and single origin coffees.
The Hills have recently named and labeled their latest coffee offerings with powerfully evocative images of the late 1800s and turn of the century themes in Edgar Allen Poe tribute blends such as “Nevermore,” “Raven Dusk” or their “Hartness House 1904” blend.
Beyond the blends, the Hills also focus on specific individual coffee bean harvests.
“We carry approximately eight single origin varieties from specific locales around the world,” said Ben about the company’s coffees that are organically sourced and fair-trade certified.
In just a few short months of opening their studio, the Hills were widely received by the Putney Food Co-op, Springfield Food Co-op and sold exclusively on the menu at the Flat Iron Exchange in Bellows Falls.
Eighteen months later, 10,000 pounds of coffee beans have been roasted and sold. Now, the Hills are collaborating with Clever Cow Designs to sell canvas tote bags, tee shirts and hooded sweatshirts which showcase their blends “Dark Times,” “Tres Cuervos” and “Badger’s Blend.”
“Our greatest challenge has been and continues to be keeping up with demand,” Ben said. “I still have a job on top of running the business, roasting and planning. Keeping coffee well stocked can be a challenge sometimes, but we are finally hitting a good predictability.”
You can order Flying Crow coffee on the menu at The Hartness House and The Copper Fox in Springfield, as well as The Free Range and Southern Pie Company both located on the historic green in Chester.
A little less than a year ago, Flying Crow Coffee Company opened a bar with its own hand-roasted coffee varieties that are sold freshly brewed on the chalkboard menu or off the shelf as whole beans or ground.
“I think our greatest accomplishment was opening the cafe and making it as successful as it is,” Ben said. “We did not expect it, especially with some of the concerns folks had brought up about failing past businesses.”
While most coffee is sold in 12-ounce increments, the Flying Crow Coffee Company cafe sells a classic pound bag of grounds.
The community has embraced the cafe with as much enthusiasm as their wholesale businesses have.
“From a service approach, our outreach to the community is being able to provide a high quality product in an environment that allows people to engage in conversation with other members of the community they otherwise would not see on a normal basis,” Ben said. “Beyond that, it’s about providing employment, being charitable when the opportunity presents itself, being involved in local organizations, such as Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, and always remaining agile to the changing needs and wants of the community in regards to the services we provide.”
Ben said his goal is to have an all-inclusive environment, a safe place where anyone can come and have a good cup of coffee, a cruller, cereal bar or muffin and enjoy their atmosphere and good conversation.
The second week of March will mark the Flying Crow Coffee Company cafe’s first full year of brewing and serving their roasted coffee.
“The community has received us wonderfully, we get regular comments like, ‘Thanks for being here’ and ‘It’s so nice to have a good cafe again,’” Ben said.