The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2007-03-30/460783/

Day Trips

By Gerald E. McLeod, March 30, 2007, Columns

Independence Coffee Co. handcrafts its coffee the old-fashioned way – one small batch at a time. The little coffee roaster off the wildflower-lined highway north of Brenham produces its gourmet coffees and teas with pride.

"Coffee is very personal to someone's palate," says Ragan Bond. "Some like it dark, some like it lighter, but there is nothing more relaxing than sitting on the porch with a special cup of coffee." Bond shares the chores with his wife, Christi, at the coffee company that has taken over an old gas station across the road from the miniature horses at St. Clare Monastery.

As the head coffee roaster, Bond has honed his enjoyment of a cup of java into an expansive knowledge of the brew. Although they didn't know it at the time, Ragan and Christi started on the coffee-roasting career path when they moved to the Brenham area in 2000.

Soon after they arrived, Christi opened a coffee shop across from the Washington County Courthouse in Brenham. "I just wasn't happy with the quality of the coffee beans we were getting," Bond says.

Bond's purchase of a 66-pound coffee roaster gave him the excuse he needed to quit his job as an energy trader and the two-hour commute into Houston. "Being a coffee roaster is an expensive and time-consuming investment," Bond says. "If you're going to do it, you have to decide to jump in all the way." The couple sold the coffee shop to concentrate their energies on distributing gourmet coffees and teas.

Bond learned coffee roasting at a school in Florida. As his knowledge grew, so did the business. Independence Coffee can be found in nearly 20 grocery stores in the area, including the Whole Foods stores in Houston. The Brenham HEB sells 150 1-pound bags of the coffee every two weeks, an amazing amount for a small, rural store. "They seem to like blends and flavored coffees the most," Bond says of Brenham coffee drinkers. "I think they like to experiment with different coffees."

Bond says that Americans are generally becoming better educated about coffee. Beans from around the world are being recognized for their special characteristics. Like a winemaker puts his personal touch on a type of grape, a roaster will stamp his style on a coffee bean. "Gourmet coffees only cost a couple of cents per cup more," he says. "That's not much for a great cup of coffee."

What makes small, gourmet roasters different is what Bond calls "profile roasting." As the beans are being roasted, the temperature is held at a more constant level. This allows the coffee to roast a little longer, which gives the bean a deeper, more complete roast. "By roasting longer, more of the sugars and tannins in the bean are caramelized," he says. "I think it makes a bolder, better-tasting coffee."

The little coffee company north of Brenham is happy to show tour groups of 20 or more through the roasting process by appointment. The shop at 9107 TX 105 N. at the junction with FM 2193 opens Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm. During the summer the days shift to Wednesday through Friday. The coffeepot is always on, or try one of their custom-blended teas. For more information, call 979/836-3322 or go to www.independencecoffee.com. Like Christi Bond says on her phone message: "Life's too short to drink bad coffee."

Spring is a great time to take a jaunt through the countryside of Washington County. FM 390 from Burton to TX 105 is a historic and scenic road that passes through the village of Independence and past the Antique Rose Emporium plant nursery.

The nuns at the monastery of St. Clare miniature horse ranch open the gates Tuesday through Saturday from 1:30-4pm. (Closed the week preceding Easter.) For information, call 979/836-9652 or visit www.monasteryminiaturehorses.com.

Chappell Hill Lavender Farm's gift shop is also near the Independence Coffee Company. To find out when the next cutting season will be, call 979/251-8114 or go to www.chappellhilllavender.com. The next time you're in Round Top, sample the coffee company's fine brews at the Coffee Connection Espresso Bar and Cafe.


822nd in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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