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From the bean to the cup, a work of art

Since buying his island-based coffee roasting company a year ago, Hugh Robertson has happily sold beans to cafes, restaurants and latte stands area-wide.

Only one thing has nagged at him about the endeavor.

“We just felt like if we really wanted to achieve the objective of delivering a glorious cup of coffee all the way from the roasting to the cup,” he said, “the only way to do that is to deliver the cup ourselves.”

That’s how Bainbridge Island Coffee Roasters came to set up a European-style stand in Winslow Mall, just in time for the holidays.

But contrary to some customers’ perception, the stand isn’t a temporary holiday respite for weary shoppers; it is, Robertson hopes, a permanent part of the Winslow Way landscape.

It’s also just one, albeit high-profile, tine in a multi-pronged approach to coffee that starts with high-quality beans bought at a fair price and roasted in small batches.

Like a fine single-malt whisky, Robertson says, espresso can be an acquired taste: “You can’t conceal a bad espresso by throwing a bunch of flavors on it.”

So his business partner, island master roaster David Adler, takes what’s known in the business as a “third wave” approach, roasting high-quality beans just 25 pounds at a time, and factoring in the type of bean as well as conditions like temperature and humidity.

“It’s that small-batch, artisan approach, where the roast master is listening and smelling, and totally tuned in to the roast part of the process,” Robertson said.

“Tuned-in” describes another facet of Robertson’s business: community involvement.

Through the company’s Bridges of Hope program, non-profit organizations can arrange to sell Bainbridge Island Coffee Roasters coffee and keep $4 for every bag they move. Participating organizations have included Bainbridge Island Little League, kids’ soccer teams and Cross Sound Church.

“Coffee’s something that so many people love and drink. Why not provide a platform for someone to use this to raise funds?” he said.

The final burst of steam, which takes the operation full circle, is the Bainbridge Island Roasting Company’s team of baristas, whom Robertson takes great pride in training using the methods of David Schomer of Seattle’s Cafe Vivace fame.

The process requires books, videos and hands-on practice before budding baristas ever serve a customer.

“When I interview or look for baristas, in a way I’m looking for artists,” Robertson said. “We want to try to elevate espresso to the level of art.”

On Winslow Way, Robertson and Adler’s operation will stay focused on coffee, with a few aligned products like teas, chocolate and coffee gift sets. After all, it’s pointless to try to go up against the bakeries.

Except in one market space.

“We do see a need for an awesome bagel,” he said.

Find Bainbridge Island Coffee Roasters at Winslow Mall and at www.bainbridgeislandcoffee.com. They’ll be closed for a holiday break but will reopen Jan. 2, with hours of operation 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Nourishing a growing trade

New moms sometimes feel that breast feeding should come naturally, and end up disappointed in themselves and frustrated by the process if it doesn’t.

As a lactation specialist, Melissa Bonghi’s job and passion are to help nursing moms get the specialized assistance they need to be successful with breast feeding, on their own terms.

“The mother-baby diet is so individual and dynamic,” she said. “One size does not fit all.”

Bonghi, an accredited La Leche League leader for 10 years and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant since 2005, has just set up a new office in the Sportsman Club Business Park.

Before settling in to her spot next to Bainbridge Pediatrics, Bonghi served clients in their homes and plans to keep home visits a part of her practice. But this way, she says, mothers have a choice about their venue, and a place to go.

“New mommies really just don’t know, where can I get help?” she said.

The office also gives Bonghi space to offer hospital-grade breast pumps for rent, breast pumps for sale for women who are headed back to work, and accessories like hydro-gel comfort pads, nursing bras and belly bands for discreet nursing.

Taking advantage of her proximity to the pediatrics clinic, Bonghi is also offering breast feeding classes in the lobby of Bainbridge Pediatrics at 7 p.m. the first Friday of each month. They’re geared toward pregnant women, new nursing moms and partners.

“I’m just so happy to be able to help moms. It’s a passion for me, and I love doing it. And I so understand how every mother is unique in her experience,” she said.

“What I really want to do is help moms reach their own goals and get to the point where they feel good about their breastfeeding experience.”

Bainbridge Lactation Services, at 9431 Coppertop Loop, is open during business hours and by appointment. Call Bonghi at 780-8371 or 790-9488.

– Lindsay Latimore

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