Rising Star Roaster Jay Caragay of Spro Coffee - Biography

Baltimore, MD

August 2014

Growing up in a household where the morning brew was Taster’s Cup, Jay Caragay wasn’t exactly initiated into the finer points of coffee culture at an early age. Rather, his love affair with the Arabica bean grew from a relationship of pure convenience during his cigar smoking days in the mid-90’s, when the only libation offered at his favorite cigar shop was coffee. Over the course of the next several years Caragay, who was at that time working in film production, nursed his enjoyment of joe as he plotted a change of careers. In 1999 he launched a Hawaiian-style snow cone business Jay’s Shave Ice, with his brother, and in 2002 when it was time to step up from a seasonal endeavor to a year-round storefront, he knew that coffee was the way to keep his clientele coming back during the cold months.

In keeping with the original theme, Caragay flew out to the Aloha State to source beans and learn something of the business. His first contact, Gus Brocksen of Pele Plantations, introduced Caragay to the procedures of coffee harvesting, processing, and roasting, and Caragay was immediately hooked. He immersed himself in the world of coffee, attending trade shows and studying various techniques of processing, roasting, and brewing, along the way finding an invaluable mentor in John Sanders, of Seattle’s Hines Public Market Coffee fame.

In 2006, Caragay opened the first iteration of Spro, a coffee-centric venture, in the Baltimore County Public Library in Towson, MD. By 2010 he was ready for a freestanding shop in the Hampden area, where he offered customers a selection of 8 different coffees sourced from six different roasters, brewed in any of seven different methods. And as if that wasn’t enough customization, in 2011 Caragay opened his own roastery in East Baltimore for even greater control over his product. There he roasts an ever-changing variety of beans from Africa and the Americas to sell by the pound, and to be brewed in the Hampden shop. In 2014, Caragay earned a StarChefs Rising Star Artisan Award for his work at Spro. For his own cup he favors natural process coffees from Ethiopia, with their fruit-laden and berry notes.