Meet Shawn Rogers, master roaster for Cups, An Espresso Cafe. Now, ask him anything you want to know about coffee. He’s not scrambling for an answer. Something tells us this guy roasts in his sleep. From the growing process to the final cup, Rogers has it down, but says he’s still learning. The 14 year coffee industry vet spoke to us from Cups corporate office and roastery in Ridgeland this week and says coffee is all about quality. And, of course, passion for the industry. The company’s flagship store, eighteen years in the making with Dennis and Janice Cameron at the helm, sits amongst Fondren’s passionate locals, those Rogers says care about their community and being plugged in. And it doesn’t hurt that the information age has brought a new awareness to the little fruit seed (no, coffee is not actually a bean.) We asked the 31 year old about the process, the industry, and why Cups has been so successful across the area, and especially in 39216…

Where does it start? From field to ‘cups’, in a nutshell, what’s the process?
Farmers and growers harvest the seed from the cherry tree, grown in a narrow belt, 3,000 feet or higher and in tropical climates. Only one pound of coffee can generally come from one tree – per year. Those growers work together to sell at auction and brokers purchase in large quantity. Coffee is shipped to ports like New Orleans, San Francisco or New Jersey as raw green ‘beans.’ From there, it is shipped here, and we dry tumble at high heat (450°). Depending on the flavor profile desired, we use time to accomplish a particular roast. This is how you get your sweeter flavors as beans caramelize and sweet carbohydrates come out. This all happens in our roastery in Ridgeland four times a week. From there, it’s bagged and shipped to our stores. You’re drinking coffee with a roast no longer than three days ago.

What’s the story behind roasts?
It’s personal preference really. In the south, we generally like things sweet: sweet tea, desserts, and sweeter coffee. What passes for dark roast on the west coast – we call burnt here. We love our carbs! A medium roast is much lighter, less bitter, and is higher in caffeine. The darker roasts, like a french roast, will generally have more bite and a more acidic taste. Roasting brings out the flavor. I want you to to taste the Columbian bean or the Sumatran bean if that’s the coffee you drink.

What makes Cups a standout in an overcrowded market?
Our attention to detail. And our experience. I’m one the original members of the Roaster’s Guild, a subsidiary of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. I’ve taken every certification possible, and go back yearly to upgrade my knowledge. I talk with veteran roasters and am willing to learn. This allows me to create a superior product. I don’t know it all, and when I think I do, something’s wrong. But I do pride myself on being educated. I love it. It’s becoming like the wine market really. Thank the information age for that. Customers expect us to be on our toes and provide them with the best flavors possible. And I want you to taste our flavors. Plus, we have to be willing to change with the market. We can’t do the same thing year in and year out. I cant wait to see where coffee is 20 years from now.

What sets Cups Fondren apart?
It’s a thriving location because of the thriving neighborhood. With schools like Millsaps, UMC, and Belhaven, and a large medical community, we get regulars who have long hours and need a taste of the original ‘energy drink.’ Plus, people in Fondren support their neighborhood. It’s a way of life. It’s amazing to watch. Cups Fondren is still one of our strongest stores.

Cups Fondren is open Monday – Friday 6:00 AM – 11:00 PM, Saturday 6:30 AM – 11:00 PM, and Sunday 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM.