Interview with New Orleans Rising Star Artisan Geoffrey Meeker of French Truck Coffee

by Caroline Hatchett
February 2016

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get into roasting? 
Geoffrey Meeker:
We were living in the Virgin Islands. My cousin worked for CafĂ© Annie in Berkeley and spent the summer with us. He picked up a bag of Blue Bottle on the way that was roasted the day before. I tasted it and had an epiphany. Why have I never had coffee so good? If he could figure it out, I could figure it out. I started with books, online resources, and a baby roaster in my kitchen. My culinary training gave me the ability to talk to chefs in chef speak. Everything I had done set me up for success in this part of business. 

CH: How did you get started? How did you raise capital? 
GM:
I gave myself a minimal salary and dumped everything back in every month. Now I’m getting ready to take on an investor, and we'll move roasting out of this facility. 

CH: What's your biggest challenge?
GM:
We get complaints that we don’t roast dark enough. New Orleans is known for charred coffee. We’ve had a long, slow, contentious growth. I just think, "You’ve been cheated [of good coffee] all your life." It’s not as big of a challenge anymore; the demographics are so different. We never would have flown before the storm. The other challenge is that the date matters. It should be on the shelf zero weeks before you get it. We roast and deliver it in the yellow truck the next day. 

CH: Can you describe your style as roaster?
GM:
The vast majority of what we do is medium. For spectacular coffees, we go lighter. For the Guatemalan, I take it further; the chocolate notes don’t come out until I take it up.

CH: Tell me about your roasters?
GM: 
We use Ambex Coffee Roasters, a Turkish brand based in Clearwater. We’re getting ready to sell a couple of them and upgrade to a Loring with roast dynamics. 

CH: From where do you source your beans?
GM:
Our importer is Cafe Imports. I’m going to Colombia for a few weeks with them to meet some of the farmers. We source our chicory from a farmer in Nebraska. Chicory has more of a fruity taste, and its tradition comes from the Acadians. We get the root in, chop it into a half inch dice, dry, and roast it. It’s ground down and blended into the coffee. 

CH: How much coffee a year do you currently produce? 
GM:
2,000 pounds a week

CH: Besdies the shop, where can people find your coffee?
GM: We’re in Whole Foods, Langenstein's, and our website. We also sell to Coquette, Meauxbar, PĂȘche, and Avo. It helped that when I got back to New Orleans, I had worked with these guys.