written by Deonna Anderson | photos by Srushti Kamat
Tailored Coffee Roasters is a new kid on the block, sitting on 5th Avenue between High and Pearl streets in Eugene. Owner Brian Sung started roasting coffee beans one pound at a time, methodically tasting and refining until he found perfection.
Out of this process came Tailored Coffee Roasters. In February of 2014, Sung and his team launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $3,500 on Kickstarter.com. They reached their goal a month later, and, on May 15, they opened their coffee roasting shop. They met their funding goal through social media and word of mouth—and used the platform primarily as a promotional tool.
They were determined to start the business no matter what the crowdfunding result but wanted to get buy-in from the community and more funds to buy a coffee grinder. “We wanted to get people invested in the company,” said Alex Dakers, 25, who is one of the roasters at Tailored.
The 1,200-square-foot space takes on personality, with photos of Oregon’s forests and waterfalls across one wall and a display of vinyl records from musicians such as Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu and Smokey Robinson on a shelf. Sung said it was important for him to create a culture that he and his employees would enjoy.
Sung, 30, was born in Korea but grew up between Eugene and Vancouver, Washington. In the early 2000s, Sung lived in Kirkland, Washington, where he ran a restaurant and frequently drank coffee from the shop across the street. Their coffee was good and unlike other coffee he had tasted. “I wanted to figure out how they made coffee the way they did,” Sung said.
Brails, his mother’s restaurant, became his testing ground and where he was able to grow his connections, production and knowledge. Both of Sung’s parents are restaurateurs. It is in their restaurants that Sung learned customer service—one of the skills he values in his employees.
A little more than a year after opening, the Tailored team roasts about 350 pounds of beans per week. A startup by most metrics, he and his small team—which includes Dakers, Matt Pierson, 26, and a few more budding baristas—are still learning. “I don’t think there will ever be a point when we’re satisfied,” Sung said. “We’re getting better and better and tweaking as we go.”
On a Wednesday morning in May, Sung roasted beans for local restaurants and coffee shops that use their beans. Sourcing beans from Ethiopia and Guatemala, Sung and his crew begin with high-quality green beans, and take care to express the inherent characteristics of each coffee in every roast.
“We want to highlight the handwork and effort that went into getting these beans— from the farmers to the processing stations,” Sung said.
Roasting is an art, though tinged with science. Sung connected the roaster to his Macbook, which runs software called Cropster Roasting Intelligence. Then the roasting began. The software monitors what is going on inside the roaster and helps the team maintain consistency when roasting. By adjusting roasting time, air temperature and roasting temperature, the roasters are able to change the taste of the final product.
Sung leaned in close to the roaster, about halfway through the process. “I’m listening for the first crack,” he said. Roasting coffee beans make popcorn-like bursting noises and fill the air with a salty sweetness resembling kettle corn. In ten minutes, the roast was finished. The beans flowed into a cooling bin, and a fan brought the temperature of the beans down quickly to prevent overroasting.
Tailored Coffee Roasters’ long-term goal is national distribution. Nationwide, the team has six accounts. “We want as many accounts as we can handle,” Sung said. They don’t yet have the demand to justify the expense of a new roaster but, Sung said, that would be a good problem to have in the future.
Tailored Coffee Roasters
- Opened May 2014
- Raised $3,500 on KickStarter
- Roasts 350 pounds of beans per week
- Has six national accounts