MARYVILLE (WATE) - If you've enjoyed a cup of coffee at Aubrey's, Nama, or the Orangery, you were drinking a locally-roasted, locally-produced coffee that's brewing in popularity.
For this week's "Made in Tennessee" report, we went to the Vienna Coffee Company in Maryville where a lot goes into a good cup of coffee.
Owner and grand roaster John Clark showed us green coffee beans, explaining, "Green coffee is the seed of a coffee cherry. Two of those little seeds back to back are in each cherry."
To be a considered a specialty coffee, those cherries must be hand picked.
Clark says Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where you'll find a healthy coffee harvest. "Coffee only grows in the tropics. The good stuff only thrives at high elevations in the tropics," he said.
That means Clark ships in pallets of 150-pound bags of green coffee from places like Brazil, Peru, and Africa to his roastery in Maryville.
Then Clark and his staff transform the green beans into what most of us consider coffee beans.
The dark color is achieved through roasting, something Clark says, "is a lot more art than science so there is a lot of trial and error."
After more than a decade of roasting his own coffee, Clark has his own recipes. He says the temperature and time of roasting results in differences in taste and boldness.
Roaster Melissa Leinart dropped the green coffee into a vat where a fan essentially sucked the beans into a commercial roasting drum.
The drum is similar to a clothes dryer and it's a far cry from how Clark first roasted coffee. "We started roasting in a popcorn popper," he said.
That hobby became his business and now the Maryville company sells coffee in several local stores and many of the area's best restaurants.
"In 2002 is when I decided I was going to try and make a go of it and go full time," Clark said.
This past fall Clark also opened his own cafe, Vienna Coffee House, in Maryville on High Street. "Every coffee shop owner wants to be someone's third place," he said as he waved and greeted customers. "You know home, work and a place to hang out. This is a lot of people's third place."
The old home where the coffee house is located really is a house. It was Clark's cousin's home more than 60 years ago.
It's been transformed complete with its own drip bar, meaning each cup of coffee is brewed to order.
The coffee house also makes lots of homemade treats and what they don't make they buy from other Tennessee businesses.
The coffee house has become a home for Clark and his regular customers. "I love hanging out in my own coffee house meeting and greeting people as they come in. It's still a job. I have to pay bills at the roastery."
But Clark says he kind of feels like he is living a dream, and he has never looked back at the day he left corporate America to brew up another profession.