Larry’s Beans is a local independent coffee roaster that buys organic coffee beans directly from fair trade relationships with small farm cooperatives. My wife and I have enjoyed drinking their fine coffee ever since we moved to Raleigh and a few weeks ago we had the opportunity to tour their coffee bean roasting facility located along the fringe of downtown Raleigh adjacent to the historic five points neighborhood. What is so unique about their operation is that they not only pride themselves on providing top notch organic fair trade coffee, but the folks at Larry’s Beans also put the old adage “think globally, act locally” into action by employing numerous sustainable practices at their bean roasting facility.
I was really impressed with the turnout and how informative the tour was. I was expecting a small group but was surprised to see about 80 other people there. Obviously the people of Raleigh take their coffee drinking very seriously! The friendly crew at Larry’s Beans provided a great deal of insight into the art selecting and roasting coffee beans and how their operation isn’t just a business venture but a way of life that incorporates sustainable practices. The bean roasting facility is situated in a small industrial park within eyeshot of the downtown Raleigh skyline, yet through a unique layout that incorporates open air offices and a sunny courtyard they have managed to create an atmosphere that makes you feel like you are a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
We arrived a few minutes early for the tour and mingled with other guests the courtyard while being treated to samples of their various coffees. They also had a great little spread of veggies, humus, and crackers and to top it all off they had live samba music being performed by a local Latin band called Samba Jovem. This only made the tour worth the trip! While I was excited to see the inside of the plant I could have easily spent the afternoon ducked into a shady corner of the courtyard sipping my coffee and listening to the Latin music. The tour was broken into two sections, the first comprised of a tour of the coffee bean roasting operation and a lesson about the different characteristics to look for when tasting and judging the quality of good coffee. This was followed by a question and answer session with chief roaster Brad Brandhorst and Larry himself.
The second part of the tour featured examples of how they use sustainable practices in their day to day business operations including how the facility uses “clearstory” to produce natural lighting, and solar hot water tubes and open air offices that reduce electrical heating and cooling demand. Other tour highlights included an overview of Raleigh’s only biodiesel station, rainwater cisterns used for toilet flushing, the use of biodegradable coffee bags, and of course Larry’s famous Veggie Bus that runs on recycled veggie oil.
The tour we attended was held on May 15th and I understand that it was their last tour of the spring. However, my understanding is that they do plan on holding additional tours in the fall starting in September. Because of the popularity of the tour you need to sign up for the tour in advance via email. Visit their website for more information. I would also recommend joining their facebook fan page or emailing them directly if you want to get more information about future tours.
I’m a big fan of buying local products and an even bigger fan of using sustainable practices so it goes without saying that I’m a big fan of Larry’s beans coffee. It was a real treat to see their operation and I enjoyed meeting the friendly staff there. I hope to make another visit in the fall. In the meantime, you can find Larry’s Bean’s Coffee at locations throughout the Triangle. A few of my favorite places to enjoy a cup of their Joe are New World Coffee in North Raleigh, Third Place in Five Points, Taylor’s BP off Six Forks in North Raleigh, and when I need a bag of beans so I can brew my own at home I hit up Wine 101 in Wake Forest. To view additional photos I took during the tour check out my flickr photo album.