Interview with South Florida Rising Star Artisan Brandon Wells of Wells Coffee Co.

by Caroline Hatchett
April 2016

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start in the industry?
Brandon Wells:
I was always interested in great coffee, and interested in what happens around coffee. And there wasn’t any specialty coffee in Boca. I would order from Peet’s in San Francisco, and I started roasting at home. Doing it was adding value to my life, so I decided to take it to the next level. I had an investor and purchased an $18,000 machine. The guy loaned me money interest free with five years to pay it off. He was someone who believed in what I was trying to do, asked me hard questions, and pushed me develop the business plan. A venture capitalist friend helped me write a 25-page business plan, and we went into a revenue share with The Seed. It’s mutually beneficial, and we have a great relationship. The owner’s passion is the cold press juices. We support her on the coffee side so she can take cold pressed juice side seriously.

CH: Who’s your mentor?
BW:
I mail coffees to Clark Lecompte—he’s a coffee mentor to me. Clark cups and scores them for me. He doesn’t mince words.

CH: What are your thoughts on blending?
BW:
I love blending. We have four blends. The best selling is our No. 9 Espresso Blend (named for the Beatles track on the White Album). It’s not as dark as when I started. Since we started the company, I’ve been fortunate to be on the good side of providence. A guy I buy paper bags from, he said the head of production for Blue Bottle consulted with him via Skype. At Blue Bottle, they talked about single origin coffees 75 percent of the time, but 75 percent of their sales were blends—even though twenty-something, third wave zealous types aren’t going to like that. That informed business decisions for me. I create blends because I enjoy it. How do I make this many coffees taste good together? Lots of cupping, brewing, pulling shots. It’s very rewarding. We have a blend named for my grandmother, BB. It’s mild, sweet, accessible: the ideal morning coffee. We serve it as cold brew here. When I come into the Seed and roast, I fill my cup with BB drip coffee.

CH: What coffee region are you most excited about right now?
BW:
We love the coffees from Valle Del Cauca. Last year we visited Cafe Granja La Esperanza in Colombia. Their commitment to excellence in production, their hospitality, and their coffee quality are absolutely superb.

CH: What’s your favorite coffee you’ve ever roasted?
BW:
Pacamara Honey Process

CH: What’s your five-year plan?
BW:
The city will have more artisan culture here in five years, assuming the economy doesn’t bust. What I currently do, I want to do forever. The people and craft side of things turns my crank, so to speak. My wife and I have a real passion for hospitality. We like setting out to make something delicious and enjoyable but also the extension of giving people a good, warm, inviting experience. Now that we have another roaster, my wife, I can sample more coffee. Like Concorde Coffee in Lakeland, we could sustain an account like that. The Seed is about to have a second location, just more coffee.