There was a time when beer was beer and coffee was coffee. For the end of the day, there were Budweiser, Miller, and Coors; Michelob was a treat. Coffee was served in Styrofoam cups, and Dunkin’ Donuts had a monopoly. Chock Full o’ Nuts came in the yellow can, and Maxwell House was “good to the last drop.” In 2019, Starbucks reported no less than 17,710 stores — just in the Americas. But the times are changing — or have changed — and more and more people value “homestyle” or “craft” brews.
Sociologists attribute this rising interest — in both the bean and the barley — to a backlash against the superstore-ization of America. If there is a “small-time” movement underway, then Martha’s Vineyard is certainly at the epicenter.
Cookies, hand-labeled baked goods, kombucha, chickens, and even marijuana — people pride themselves in shopping small, and shopping local, especially on the Island.
In this proud tradition, James Boyle and Jessica Sears plan to enter the market with their own brand of throwback goodness, Gay Head Coffee. The Local had a chance to sit down with them recently at Lucky Hank’s over some farm greens, pickled onions, feta, and housemade vinaigrette.
TL: So, before we get to coffee, tell me a little bit about yourselves …
Jessica: Well, we come from pretty humble backgrounds. My mom was a public school music teacher for 34 years.
James: And my dad teaches furniture and cabinetmaking at Green Hope High School [in North Carolina] — which is maybe where I get it from?
TL: That’s right. I know you both have full-time jobs. James is a craftsman, and you’re a third-degree black belt, certified yoga instructor, and a CEO?
Jessica: Yes — sort of. Well, yes.
TL: And what is your company?
Jessica: Bold. We do leadership consulting.
TL: Interesting. And so two kids in their 30s — not really kids — decide to start a coffee company. Is this a side hustle, a main hustle, or somewhere in between?
James: Kind of none of the above. I know this might sound strange to some people, but for us, it’s really about love. The project is a way of commemorating the day we decided to spend our lives together on the beach in Gay Head.
TL: So, a love story inside of coffee?
Jessica: Yes. No matter where we’ve been, we’ve always had a common routine where we spend the morning sipping coffee and talking. Friends would come over, and eventually they started asking us if they could take some coffee home. That’s when we thought that maybe we were onto something.
James: Like you said, being in our 30s, we just bought a house on the Island — it’s not easy. We’re not trust-funders. And so of course we’d love it for the coffee to become an income stream, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to make a product that’s about something rather than a means to something. It’s a way to contribute to our community.
TL: Speaking of community, I know you got engaged in Gay Head, but why choose Martha’s Vineyard?
Jessica: I grew up on Cape Cod, and James grew up in Topsfield, and I would always go to Nantucket as a child. We met in North Carolina, but James convinced me to visit him here when he was working at North Tabor Farm [in Chilmark]. And the rest, as they say …
TL: Cool. OK, tell us about the coffee.
James: So we started with a Bocaboca Coffee Bean Roaster that made about one bag of coffee at a time. Then we got a bigger roaster that was custom-made in Turkey, and living in a coffee shop in New York City. It makes about 22 bags of coffee, which is still not that much.
TL: And so you’re doing all the roasting in your house?
Jessica: Yes. We’re a micro-roastery, if you will. We don’t have a storefront or anything like that.
TL: And so what can we expect to be coming out of the house?
James: Well, coffee is a lot like wine in that it all depends on the climate and the weather. Different microclimates produce beans with unique flavor profiles, which allows us to have small batches with nuanced flavor profiles. That’s something that bigger coffee companies just can’t do.
TL: Great. What else?
Jessica: Our logo and packaging are near and dear to us. We are in the prototyping phase right now, so expect to see something classic and nostalgic.
James: Just to look for Gay Head Coffee being available in local M.V. supermarkets and stores sometime in 2019.
For more information on Gay Head Coffee, follow @gayheadcoffee on Instagram, or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.