Coffee connoisseur says secret to roasting is in the bean - Tom haymen

Tom Hayman said coffee is a lot like wine.

“Coffee will have different notes of flavor depending on where it is grown,” said Hayman, owner and operator of Grains of Sense Coffee Roastery and Tea Gallery.

“I’ve been working with the same importer for about eight years now,” Hayman said. “Coffee, like many crops, is seasonal so we get coffee from different parts of the world throughout the year.”

Hayman said he currently is roasting coffee from places that include Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sumatra. Each coffee bean has a different flavor depending on the soil, elevation and humidity present in the region where the beans are grown, Hayman said.

“We had an Ethiopian coffee that had a note of mango in it, which is one of the largest crops exported by Ethiopia,” Hayman said. “We have some coffees that have notes of blueberries or strawberries. … The beans really pick up what is present in the soil.”

Hayman roasts his coffee beans in a roaster that can roast about 10 pounds of beans at a time. The process — which takes about 12 minutes — transforms the chemical and physical properties of the bean by removing water from it. Hayman monitors each batch as it roasts and adjusts the heat or airflow in the roaster.

Although roasting coffee beans properly is a skill that comes with “a lot of practice,” Hayman said the process itself is simple.

“All it takes is heat, air and time,” Hayman said. “It is a simple process but you have to pay attention and keep the temperature and airflow where you want it.”

Hayman said the strength of the coffee is determined by how long the bean is left in the roaster. The longer a bean is roasted, the stronger the coffee.

“You can hear the beans cracking in the roaster as they start to expand,” Hayman said. “Roasters will refer to the ‘first crack,’ which will be your lighter roasts. The ‘second crack’ is the threshold where you start getting into your darker roasts.”

After the beans are roasted, they are air cooled before going into storage bins for about 24 hours, Hayman said.

“Like wine, coffee has to breathe,” he said. “Air is one of the most important aspects in preparing coffee beans.”

After the beans have aired out for about 24 hours, Hayman starts preparing “blends,” which are a mixture of coffee beans selected to complement the various flavors present in the beans.

“You have to find out which flavors work together well,” Hayman said. “Some flavors you know won’t complement each other at all.”

One of his best-selling blends, the Thomas Blend, was created by Hayman’s 15-year-old son.

“He was about 12 years old when he came up with this,” Hayman said. “He was smelling the different coffee beans we had roasted and picked three he thought would go well together. Since he was only in fifth or sixth grade at the time, I had to adjust the math a little but I stuck to the same formula. Three years later and it is still one of most popular blends.”

Hayman has been roasting coffee professionally since 2008, after he sent his brother — who Hayman jokingly refers to as a “coffee snob” — some coffee that he roasted and blended in his home.

“I had been roasting coffee at home for my own enjoyment for a few years,” Hayman said. “I sent some to my brother and he said that it was really good. It was kind of divine inspiration from there.”

Hayman started selling his coffee at the farmer’s market in Harrisonburg until moving to Lynchburg in 2013. He opened his shop at the Lynchburg Community Market in 2014.

“I really like it out here,” Hayman said. “I’ve had some customers ask if we were going to open up a shop in other areas, but it just feels like home here.”

Jennifer Kennedy, manager of the Lynchburg Community Market, said Hayman has been a “wonderful edition” to the list of vendors.

“Some coffee will have various fruit notes, some will have chocolate notes and some will have more earthy notes. There are so many different variables that you can have coffee from one region that tastes different from one year to the next.”

The secret to bringing out the flavors in the coffee bean, Hayman said, is in the roasting.

“Roasting is what creates the flavor,” Hayman said Wednesday at his shop, located in the Lynchburg Community Market, 1219 Main St. “Unroasted beans don’t have that characteristic coffee flavor.”

Hayman said the coffee-roasting process starts with his selection of coffee beans, which are imported from countries around the world.

“What you can’t often get is the relationship with the person that makes a product,” Kennedy said. “People can get that here. When you drink his coffee you can really taste the love and attention that goes into his product. And once he knows what style of coffee you like, he knows how to make you exactly what you want.

“That is the kind of relationship you can’t get anywhere else,” Kennedy said.

Stanley Johnson, who lives about two blocks from the Lynchburg Community Market, said it was the smell of roasting coffee beans that first brought him to Grains of Sense.

“I moved to the area a few months ago and just kind of walked into the market one morning,” Johnson said. “I immediately was attracted to the smell of fresh-roasted coffee. It’s one of those smells that remind you of home. I’ve been coming back here since.”

In addition to his Lynchburg regulars, Hayman said he still sells coffee to customers from his days at the farmer’s market in Harrisonburg.

“One lady we used to sell coffee that moved to Sydney, Australia, for work,” Hayman said. “She still puts in orders a couple of times a year and we ship it to her. Recently, she was in Los Angeles and she had me ship her 14 pounds of coffee to L.A. She loaded it into her suitcase and took it back with her to Australia.

“That is a personal point of pride for me,” Hayman said laughing. “It is really humbling.”