For many people, mornings include drinking a cup of coffee as they start their day.
Local Coffee Roasting Co.’s Jenni and Tyler Valliant want to provide coffee drinkers the opportunity to experience a quality local brew, created with lots of time and love.
“So many hours go in just for a small order,” said Tyler Valliant, who co-owns the roastery with his wife, Jenni. “Every roast is handcrafted — meaning, for those 12 minutes, I am standing there, staring at this machine, monitoring it and making tiny adjustments as we go.”
Roasting coffee beans on a smaller scale is considered an art form, likened to the creation of wine and bourbon. And every package of Local Coffee Roasting Co.’s coffee is created by the pair in their warehouse space in Roxana.
“We buy from importers who have already dealt with the legal processes to get the beans to the United States. We call them ‘green beans’ — they’re raw coffee beans that are the color green, are very small and dense,” explained Jenni Valliant.
“The roaster is like a big oven. It’s gas-powered, with a drum that spins and turns the beans as they cook. We have the decision to do a lighter roast, medium roast, darker roast, when to pull it, how long to do the drying phase… There are little tips and tricks you can use to change the flavor of the coffee.”
Once the beans cool, they are packaged and delivered to local businesses for sale.
Currently, Local Coffee Roasting Co. coffee is sold online and at 3BB Café and Heidaway in downtown Bethany Beach, at McCabe’s Gourmet Market in South Bethany, at Johnson’s Table in West Fenwick, at Magee Farms in Selbyville and at Good Earth Market in Clarksville.
“It’s been great to start a friendly relationship with all the cafés. If they ever need anything, we’re right down the road. When they call, we answer,” said Jenni Valliant.
“We’re happy to come in whenever they need us,” added Tyler Valliant.
Focusing on being a local roastery is extremely important to the Valliants, who chose to solidify that mission in the business’ name.
“We wanted something that played off the vibe of the community. This is such a tight-knit community at the Southern Delaware beaches. We had so many friends and family that really wanted good, quality coffee down here,” said Jenni Valliant.
And, being roasted locally, their beans offer the highest-quality coffee to customers.
“When you can say, ‘Our coffee was roasted 10 miles down the road earlier this week,’ that’s a big deal, I think. The quality of coffee goes down so quickly with time. We want to be as fresh as possible on the shelf,” Tyler Valliant said.
Aside from their staple roasts, which include a Local’s Blend, Cold Crew Blend and Skip’s Blend — a decaf option created as a healthy coffee option for Tyler’s dad — they also offer single-origin roasts from Brazil, Colombia, Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia. All of their roasts are 100 percent organically sourced. They are even looking to offer a variety pack, so coffee drinkers may try their offerings and discover what roasts they enjoy the most.
“People should try different kinds to find what they want,” encouraged Jenni Valliant.
But if their current slate of offerings aren’t what a given coffee drinker or café is looking for, Local Coffee Roasting Co. will work with customers to create a custom roast or blend.
“We know what we like — but what we’re working on learning is how to judge coffee on a greater scale. If there’s 10 different people in the room, there’ll be 10 different opinions,” said Tyler Valliant.
“It’s been interesting. It’s a balance between what we like to drink and enjoy, and what the general public likes to drink,” Jenni Valliant added.
And part of finding what people like to drink can be clarifying some myths about what creates at coffee’s taste.
“People think the darker the coffee, the stronger it is. People use the word ‘bold’ a lot — ‘I want a bold cup.’ To me, that would be a light roast. It’s got more flavor.”
This is not the first business venture for the couple, who married last June. They also own Valliant Artistry, a video, photography and design company, while Tyler is a photographer for the Coastal Point newspaper.
The two met at Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church when they were in middle school and reconnected while they were both attending Indian River High School. After graduation, Tyler Valliant went to film school in Florida, and Jenni moved to Newark to study teaching at the University of Delaware, but the two continued dating.
After they finished college, Tyler moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film, and Jenni followed him. It was there that the two first fell in love with coffee.
“It started with our Los Angeles coffee dates. We would wake up in the morning and, before getting creative with film, we’d take a coffee date. We’d walk down two blocks to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf,” she recalled. “It became a regular thing. We ended up going there so often … we thought we should start our own coffee business.”
After a few years in Los Angeles, the two decided to leave the “dog-eat-dog” life there and move back to Sussex County. Last June, the two married, and decided to start their own roastery.
“When we came back here, there were a couple coffee places… But we needed to create our own in order to get the coffee of quality that we wanted in the area. Otherwise, we’d have to go to Wilmington or Philly,” said Tyler Valliant.
“Before we had the roaster but were very into coffee, Jenni bought an old-school ’90s popcorn popper called the Poppery II. The first time we ever made coffee, it was a Christmas gift and we roasted a whole bunch of coffee and we gave it out in little jars. ‘Jenni & Tyler’s Coffee.’”
“It took me so long to roast it,” recalled Jenni Valliant. “But people were like, ‘That was a really good gift. I would buy that!’”
Being an entrepreneur comes naturally to Tyler Valliant, whose family has always owned their own businesses.
“We’ve always been dreamers,” he said. “I’ve always felt my mom and dad, with Seacoast Realty, set the bar really high, and I have to do something worthy of the Valliant name… Everything came together with coffee.”
The couple, who have been together for almost 12 years now, said working together has been a fun experience.
“I love it,” said Jenni Valliant. “For the most part, we can be busy doing two separate things, and we’ll connect across the room and can usually tell what each other is thinking. There’s an unspoken communication, I guess from going on for 12 years.”
“We’re a good team. I talk a lot and am loud and energetic. Jenni brings the chill vibe and connect with people,” added Tyler Valliant. “It really, really helps us. We play off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a good way.”
And, unlike the film industry, the coffee community has eagerly embraced them and their new endeavor.
“We go to coffee shops and we’ll end up striking up a conversation with the owner and talking for hours, and that’s huge. I can think of many instances when that’s happened,” said Tyler Valliant. “In the film industry, I couldn’t just pick someone out in public and say, ‘Hey, I’m a filmmaker — can we talk for an hour?’ But, with this, they’re always like, ‘Absolutely — I’d love to!’”
Tyler Valliant noted Christian Heneghan from Drifting Grounds in Bethany Beach, Jon Felton of Clatter Coffee in Frostburg, Md., and Chris Thompson of Philter in Kennett Square, Pa., as being among those who helped them get started.
“The coffee industry is very welcoming. It’s not so much about competition as it is about helping each other out and making a great cup of coffee,” said Jenni Valliant.
“It’s refreshingly supportive community,” added Tyler Valliant. “With everyone we’ve met here, everyone is onboard with bringing more gourmet coffee to the area.”
Although Local Coffee Roasting Co. was founded just last year, the Valliants are already discussing expanding with a larger roaster.
“We definitely have plans to grow. We grew way quicker than what we thought we would,” said Tyler Valliant. “It seems like every week we have someone new interested or somebody calls… We’re really going to have to work hard this summer. We’re going to be really busy.”
“We’re looking forward to it,” added Jenni Valliant.
He said the two might like to open their own café one day further down the road.
“I’d love to have a coffee roaster in a café where you can go, sit and have a cup of our coffee that we roasted yesterday and watch tomorrow’s being roasted,” said Jenni Valliant.
At the end of the day, the two said they hope they can cultivate more than just a great brew.
“We want to help develop the coffee community here. We want to give people something to congregate around,” said Tyler Valliant.
“We just want everyone to get together and have good conversations over a good cup of coffee,” added Jenni Valliant.
For more information about Local Coffee Roasting Co., visit localcoffeeroastingco.com, www.instagram.com/localcoffeeroasting or www.facebook.com/localcoffeeco. Those interested in serving Local Coffee Roasting Co. brews may call (302) 228-7317.
By Maria Counts