Aldona Bird, Columns/Opinion

Farm-to-cup coffee experience in West Virginia

“I’m always happiest when I’m roasting coffee,” Samuel Bonasso said.
Fortunately for the South Park community, greater Morgantown area community and coffee lovers like myself, he also likes sharing good coffee.
When Samuel and his wife lived on the West Coast they enjoyed access to ethically sourced, freshly roasted coffee. They found a void in the Morgantown area when they returned to start their family.
To satisfy his cravings, Samuel tried roasting coffee beans at home. He said for just toasting them in an oven, they turned out a lot better than he expected. Subsequently, Samuel went through a series of equipment upgrades.
Since 2015, he and his wife have sold freshly roasted beans and brewed coffee at area farmers markets under the business name Quantum Bean Coffee. Encouraged by customers often asking where their cafe was located, Samuel decided to open a café.
“It took a really long time because we wanted to do it ourselves,” Samuel said of the year and a half it took him and his wife to set up their recently opened café.
Samuel said he loves their location on Kingwood Street, in the South Park neighborhood, where he lives. “I felt better knowing we were investing in our community.”
Samuel also invests in his product. His goal is to give customers a “farm-to-cup experience.”
While Quantum Bean Coffee carries some fair trade beans and brews, Samuel prefers direct trade. By working directly with coffee bean farmers, Samuel believes he can get the highest quality bean and do the most good with his business.
“It’s better for everyone,” Samuel said, adding that coffee roasters are trending more toward direct trade. Samuel connects with farmers at Specialty Coffee Association expos. He trades contact information directly with growers, and they let him know when they’re harvesting.
Samuel visited a farm in El Salvador from which he sources beans. He was especially struck seeing the beans picked by hand (Brazil is the only coffee growing location where some harvesting is mechanized). Samuel said there are more than 1,000 coffee beans per pound of coffee, a fact I found amazing.
Seeing kids and adults lugging heavy bags of coffee  up and down steep mountains and knowing that profits are reinvested into farm improvements “makes me want to support them,” Samuel said.
His passion for coffee, from the farm to my cup, makes me want to support Quantum Bean coffee. Of course, it helps that they serve an incredible cup of joe.
Samuel said the customers he most wants to bring closer to those cups of coffee are right here in West Virginia.
“My heart is really at those markets,” he said. He plans to continue serving at markets, even though business at the cafe so far exceeded expectations. He’s hoping to get their coffee featured in other local cafes and restaurants.
To increase convenience for caffeine lovers, Samuel said he’s already contemplating opening more cafes around Morgantown and maybe even in other parts of the state.
“I really want to bring West Virginia up to the experience I had on the West Coast,” he said.
Personally, I think this is a wonderful mission — mostly for my own coffee preferences, but also because filling a void with freshly roasted, directly sourced coffee beans seems healthy for our state.