Coffee connoisseurs John and Pat Curry started roasting coffee as a hobby.
They bought a small roaster for their home, and it didn’t take long for them to perfect the craft. Soon, their friends started requesting their coffee.
Realizing their potential, John decided to start a small coffee roasting business in his spare time, naming it Buona Caffe or “good coffee” in Italian. In late 2010, he and his wife opened a location at 1837 Central Ave.
When he was laid off from his job in mid-2011, the couple decided to operate the business full-time. He handles the roasting, and his wife is responsible for the marketing.
Buona Caffe has been growing so fast that they’ve almost outgrown their space. Their equipment includes a 750-pound roaster, which roasts 40 pounds of green coffee an hour, John said.
“What’s happened in the last six months has been incredible,” he said.
Curry said he’s never been a sales person, but added it’s easy to sell the coffee once they introduce a client to their product.
Buona Caffe specializes in artisan roasted coffee, including retail and wholesale coffee, gift boxes and baskets, coffee catering, coffee to-go boxes for meetings, corporate gifts and more. They also sell their coffee at local farmer’s markets.
Near the entrance is a U.S. map with push pins showing deliveries made nationwide. Locally, their first restaurant client was Polka Dot Pig, and other clients include Boll Weevil Cafe, Crums on Central, La Maison, DiChickO’s, Kitchen 1454, Sundrees Urban Market, New Life Natural Foods, Kroc Center, Catch Phrase Cafe at Columbia County Library, Two Moms Cookies, Big Day Cakes, Southern Scratch and Taste.
“We really just thought we were going to be an Internet company shipping all over the country. That’s how we started out,” Pat said.
The Currys have even developed special coffee blends, such as Bravissimo for Symphony Orchestra Augusta and Red Kettle Coffee for The Salvation Army. A portion of the sales benefits the organizations.
The Currys get their coffee beans from Brazil, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Haiti and Sumatra. Much of their coffee is organic and fair trade.
“Those are some of the core coffees, except for the Haitian. We’ll probably try to keep those, and we’ll rotate other things in and out,” he said.
They have a direct trade relationship with Nicaragua and get coffee from a farm there, Curry said.
“I’ll actually be going to the coffee farm this month,” he said.
The Currys purchased their first full bag of coffee in April 2010.
“That was a big milestone for the company,” Pat said.
Initially, they bought coffee in smaller quantities of 20- or 30-pound bags. Because of demand, they recently purchased seven large bags, weighing 132 to 150 pounds each, John said.
“I don’t ever have a lot of coffee on hand because coffee is best when it’s fresh. We pride ourselves in roasting on demand. I won’t sell coffee after two weeks,” he said.
The Currys also package and seal their coffee bags and prepare their own labels. They have extra coffee brewing equipment, if restaurants need it.
It was important for their business to have a charitable component. For each 12-ounce bag of coffee sold, Buona Caffe donates 50 cents to the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, which provides clean drinking water to those in need using water purification packets.
“We chose water because water is so important to coffee. There are people dying all over the world, especially in the poorer countries, some of which are coffee-growing countries, from water-borne illnesses. The amount is staggering,” John said.