Jackson boasts local java roast

By Alli Hill

Barefoots Joe has become a campus staple over the past two years. The multiple seating areas and constant stream of music have become popular among students and faculty, but some say it is the quality coffee served by the baristas that draws crowds.

The provider of Barefoots coffee may come as a surprise to some.

John Elford, owner of Gusta Java in Jackson, became interested in the process of coffee-making six years ago while on a mission trip to Nicaragua.

While working in the hillside one day, he noticed plants with red, cherry-like blooms. After inquiring with the nationals, he learned they were coffee plants. Little did he know how much the people’s lives in the area depended on the success of the coffee business and how much his own life would be impacted by it.

“The workers get paid $1.50 a day and the farmers get $1 per pound of coffee sold from their farm,” Elford said. “In the United States, we sell a pound of coffee for about $10, and I wanted to know what happened in the middle.”

Elford began learning about the coffee-making process in hopes of managing his own farm in Nicaragua and providing jobs for the local people.

Elford orders coffee beans from all over the world. He chooses beans from farms he knows and trusts. The integrity of the production of the bean is just as important to Elford as the taste.

Beans go through a process before ever reaching the white “to-go” cups in Barefoots.

They start on the limbs of coffee plants, hidden away inside of a bloom. Those blooms are picked by hand and then carried down the mountain to the wet mill, where beans are cleaned and sorted.

Inside the wet mill, workers remove the skin and pulp and rinse the green coffee bean. After they have been rinsed, the beans are sent to the dry mill.

The dry mill is a large patio where the coffee beans are laid out and raked several times throughout the day. They are turned and dried evenly.

At night, workers bundle the beans in large tarps and bring them indoors to avoid the morning dew.

The dry mill takes seven days to complete. Once dry, the beans are packaged into large burlap bags and shipped all across the world.

Once Elford receives the large bags full of coffee beans, he roasts them in a commercial roasting machine. The green, unroasted beans are inserted at the top of the machine, which then heats and cooks them while rotating.

“You roast a lot by your ears,” Elford said. “You hear the first crack of the outer skin, then they start crackling like crazy. The crackling noise comes from air entering them and breaking the outer skin.”

The outer skins are collected in a tray at the bottom of the machine, separate from the beans.

Coffee is the second most widely exported product in the world, next to petroleum. Elford said 70 percent of the world’s population drinks coffee, and he wants to provide the highest-quality possible.

Currently, Elford is in the process of renovating an old building on Airways Boulevard and turning it into a new coffee shop and roasting warehouse. He is also turning an old ice cream shop off Carriage House Drive into a drive-through coffee shop. Both locations are expected to open on June 1.

The main coffee shop, connected to the roasting warehouse, will be slower than the drive-through location, but the coffee will be ground and brewed once an order is placed. Elford said it would take about four minutes to wait on a fresh ground and brewed cup of coffee or other specialty drink.

While Elford’s latest projects will provide two new coffee shops to the Jackson area, it is not in competition with Barefoots.

Barefoots is a coffee shop exclusive to Union’s campus, which provides an area for studying, socializing, and enjoying high-quality coffee.

For more information on Gusta Java’s coffee and ministry in Nicaragua, go to www.gustajava.com.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.