NORWICH — “These are our two roasters from our other shop, but with their new positions we’re able to streamline our efficiencies. Our process is so much better over here,” said Matt DuTrumble. “We were in 500 square feet before and now we’re over 2000 square feet.”
DuTrumble, who owns Craftsman Cliff Roasters, moved his enterprise in December to 211 Main St., just around the corner from his former shop at 34 Broadway where CT interviewed him in 2020 on a tour of the city.
“Can you imagine all this stuff within that smaller space? “We were very organized. We were able to really find our efficiencies [in the old space]. But now we’re really ready to expand the product line,” said DuTrumble, surveying the new sprawling space filled with neat rows of stacked boxes containing bags of his specialty roasts, as well as drums and sacks of coffee and cacao beans clustered near the roasters.
He said that added space provides a catalyst for his staff’s development of new coffee and cacao roasts and combinations of the two.
“We’re able to really showcase the full spectrum of what we’re doing because we uniquely roast coffee and cacao here,” he said. “We make chocolate and coffee and by intermingling those two ingredients we can make a lot of products — if you can imagine, like, chocolate covered espresso beans, and we’re gonna be diving a lot more into our hot chocolate.”
Just then a customer walked in.
“How you doing? Are you looking for beans?” DuTrumble asked.
“Yeah, I ordered some online,” said the coffee drinker, who found his bag of beans labeled and ready to go on the pick-up shelf.
DuTrumble said he’d had to reinvent the business during the pandemic, evolving into manufacturing and distribution.
He pointed out the retail area near the front door, stocked with bags of coffee beans with names like The Contender, Vinnie Boombotz, Hondusaurus, and Joe Crazy, and chocolate bars made in house.
“There’s pickups, people will come in, and we also fill online orders daily. We have tons of shipping already,” he said. More shelves nearby were filled with boxes of wholesale orders he said were ready to go out to grocery stories, markets and cafes.
The new space is a little harder to find than the old one, which had a retail presence on Broadway. 211 Main St. is a single street-front door, leading down a hall, opening to the new space in the back of the building – which creates a “very cool” experience for customers, DuTrumble said.
“You come down this awesome hallway. I love that we have now parking on the left, we have parking in the back. So actually, we are more accessible. It’s more of that speakeasy vibe and as part of that experience, people know who we are and they’ll kind of go for that journey to find us here.”
In the hallway DuTrumble plans to create a display about the history of Norwich that relates to chocolate and coffee, as well “where we come from and how we tie in with the history here.”
“Circling back to the chocolate that we make here, it was something made here in the 1700s by Christopher Leffingwell – where we have the Leffingwell endowment – it was a military ration. There’s correspondence between Washington and him as an entrepreneur to help with the endeavors of creating a sanitary ration, knowing what was to come,” DuTrumble said.
DuTrumble said the chocolate made in Norwich helped supply Boston and New York at that time and that since part of the rebellion was against tea, coffee was also being roasted in Norwich at that time.
“People stopped drinking tea, and they moved to actually chocolate first, and then moved over to coffee. So all the planning for the Revolutionary War was with a cup of the cacao or coffee,” he said.
A native of Norwich, he studied culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University, and worked a 20-year stint in California. In 2018, he returned to Norwich and opened his coffee business. He now has seven employees and hires students through the city’s youth internship program.
DuTrumble pointed to a makeshift counter, still under construction, where there will be coffee tastings – a place for public engagement.
“We do not sell coffee here, but you’re able to taste anything that you want to,” he said. “We might have special roasts that we just created and we want to get feedback.”
Professional barista training on commercial equipment will soon be offered – since many of his accounts have latched on to the company’s espresso roast and are now installing espresso machines in their cafes – plus methods of homebrewing coffee.
“People are getting really excited about having the full barista experience at their cafes so we’re going to be able to train baristas here,” he said. “And we’re going to be able to give our people who take the coffee home the opportunity to learn about different methods of brewing – pour over, French press, different ways of doing that, and how to use their drip brewer the best way.”
Lining the far wall were machines for making the company’s “unique chocolate candy bars,” DuTrumble said, and items like chocolate-covered espresso beans.
“Now we’re able to set up super-clean, streamlined chocolate making – all stainless steel,” he said. “We’ll be making candy bars, but they’re going to be elevated candy bars that really represent New England… it’s our style – kind of rustic, wholesome style of chocolate, without any modifiers and emulsifiers.”
DuTrumble said he uses two ingredients in his chocolate – organic cane sugar and cacao. If it’s milk chocolate, he adds milk powder.
“You’re not gonna see a long list of ingredients, we keep it authentic and real because that’s how it was made pre-industrial revolution,” he said.
He’s also collaborating with Watercure Farm, a distillery in Pomfret, using barrels of rum and bourbon to create special coffee beans that will be roasted.
“[The beans] are getting perfumed with all that with all that bourbon and rum. And then we’ll roast it… plus, we get all those smooth, oaky, and vanilla flavors into the coffee. So we’re finally able to really start doing some of these fun things that we’ve been planning,” he said.