The company producing some of the best chocolate in Arkansas is breaking into the coffee roasting business. Nathaniel Izard, owner of Izard Chocolate, has partnered with Stephen Riemar to start up Redbeard Roasters, a coffee roasting retail business selling primarily online. For Izard, the venture comes as a natural extension of the chocolate storefront he opened in Hillcrest in 2015.
“My goal was for the roaster to roast cacao,” says Izard. “In learning about air flow and temperatures, how the cacao would be roasted. We were testing out the roaster at the facility before they shipped it to my store. And they showed me how the roaster would roast coffee as well as cacao. The physics and how it works are pretty similar.”
While Izard knew of the possibility of roasting coffee, it wasn’t until he hired Riemar that the coffee roasting business started to take shape. Izard and Riemar began buying a couple of pounds of green coffee to experiment on, and it wasn’t long until Izard realized that coffee roasting could be more than just a hobby. It could become a complement to the chocolate business.
“One of the problems we ran into was that our roaster could roast cacao all day long, but our other machines can’t keep up with the roaster’s capacity,” says Izard. “So we have this really expensive machine just sitting and doing nothing. Also, chocolate can be hard to ship in warm weather, which limited us quite a bit. Moving over to coffee, you can ship it all year long.”
Riemar and Izard began intensely studying coffee roasting and soon came up with some recipes they liked. The two decided to sell their roasted coffee beans at Izard Chocolate and online, where customers can have it delivered directly to their front door. Izard says there might be some public cupping events coming up, and he may on occasion roast for a business, but don’t expect Izard Chocolate to start selling cups of coffee.
“The primary goal is to establish the online marketplace,” says Izard. “We’re not opposed to having a few wholesale accounts, but that’s not our main focus right now. Our primary focus is creating an online space where people can buy freshly roasted coffee.”
Right now, Redbeard has coffee available from four different, single-origin locations in Brazil, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Guatemala. Izard says his goal is to eventually have 3–4 coffees that are available year-round and a seasonal rotation of roasted beans. One of the strengths of Redbeard’s business model is its ability to practically roast to order. Redbeard gets its coffee to customers just days after roasting so that the coffee beans’ flavor is at its peak, meaning Izard and Riemar can react to incoming orders instead of roasting in bulk ahead of time. Prices are $12 to $14 per bag plus a small amount for shipping.
Of course, there’s also the matter of the name. One look at Izard and Riemar reveals its inspiration. However, the two have come to terms with the fact that they can’t shave their beards anytime soon, at least until the coffee business catches on.
“We’re hoping this gets really big, and we can put two cartoon guys with red beards on the label,” laughs Riemar. “For right now, though, yeah, it’s got to stay. I’ll shave it down a little, but we have to keep it going.”
You can purchase bags of Redbeard Roasters coffee for delivery online or directly from the Izard Chocolate storefront in Hillcrest.