Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Roaster Spotlight: Charlie May Coffee Of Oakland, California

For our final Roaster Spotlight of the year, we’re taking a closer look at Charlie May, “a growing coffee brand based in Oakland.” What started as a series of mobile pop-ups has now become a brick and mortar location in the Chabot Park neighborhood, owned and operated by Annalysa and Arianna Cruz, two sisters who are influenced by their family’s Filipino and Chamorro heritage. They offer some really delicious drinks at Charlie May, including a Champorado Mocha based on the popular Filipino rice porridge, as well as a Latiya Latte, which riffs on the classic Guamanian vanilla custard dessert.

Roasting their own coffee is an important part of the work happening at Charlie May. I spoke to Annie and Ari Cruz of Charlie May to learn more.

Roaster Spotlight is a feature series on Sprudge presented by Bellwether.

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Tell us a little more about the story of your company—how and when did you get started? What is your background in coffee?

Charlie May started in 2021 as a Bay Area cold brew coffee and tea pop-up. Our signature beverages aim to reduce cane sugar consumption by sweetening with coconut sugar, monk fruit sugar, and agave. With this in mind, we wanted our coffee to pair well with our unique flavor profiles.

Annie got started in the coffee industry during college. She worked in a couple different shops dabbling in training, roasting, and coffee buying.

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Ari’s background is tech and sales but picked up coffee in 2020. Her knowledge continues to expand and with her tech background, pushes Charlie May as more than just a coffee shop.

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When and how did you get started roasting? Why is roasting important to your project—what does this control over the product offer your business?

We started roasting coffee in July 2022 with our Bellwether roaster. We wanted quality, in-house roasted beans to streamline our beverage’s profiles. Roasting allows us to maintain quality across all aspects of our brand from retail beans to espresso beverages and it allows us creativity.

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What do you like about working with a Bellwether? Was there a learning curve? Tell us more about your experience.

We began working with Bellwether back in September of 2021. At the time, we did not have a location but we’d pick up roasted coffee for our pop-ups. We’d done extensive research on Bellwether and knew we’d want one in our future. In July of 2022, we had our Bellwether Series 2 roaster installed and it immediately became a topic of conversation. Aside from the roaster’s aesthetic, the values and ethics of Bellwether were aligned with ours. By roasting on a zero-emission roaster, we’ve reduced our carbon footprint and are able to provide quality coffee in the process. With knowledge of coffee roasting, learning about Bellwether was simple and intuitive.

Their team is definitely one of the reasons why we like working with Bellwether. From the start, they’ve been so helpful in making sure that we’re geared up and ready to go in our shop. Since they all come from extensive coffee backgrounds, we got to pick their brains on everything from roasting to their thoughts on our floor plans. They’re essentially an extension of our team. We are able to focus on what we do as a coffee brand.

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Tell us—what does being a coffee roaster mean to you?

We take pride in being a coffee roaster. Having in-house roasted coffee speaks to our brand and has a level of craft that translates to our customer base. We enjoy talking about coffee profiles and notes with our coffee enthusiasts and being a coffee roaster allows us to dial in to what our clients like.

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The Peppermint Champorado at Charlie May.

Do you have a favorite coffee to roast? Is there one you find more challenging?

Our favorite bean to roast is Nicaragua La Estrella. Its quality bean with delicious notes that agrees with many clients’ palates and with our beverages. The different manners in which we brew it, (espresso vs cold brew) showcases its malleability.

Thank you. 

All photos courtesy of Charlie May. Follow them on Instagram. 

Roaster Spotlight is a feature series on Sprudge presented by Bellwether.

Read more Roaster Spotlight on Sprudge. 

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