The rich aroma. The deliciously dark taste. The caffeine jolt that deep-sixes sleep and burns off the paralysis of early morning brain-fog.
America's love affair with coffee is as complex as the flavor, body and other characteristics that distinguish each freshly brewed cup. In South Carolina, sweet tea might reign supreme as our beverage of choice, but it's the coffee pot - not the tea pitcher - that's most often reached for when the sun comes up.
Once coffee roasting hit artisan status nationally, the trend seeped southward and piqued the interest of discerning Southern java drinkers. From small coffee shops to dedicated roasting operations, South Carolina holds its own when it comes to great coffee. Here are five roasters whose beans are earning rave reviews. Their products are often found in restaurants, coffee shops, specialty markets and grocery stores across the state. Check the website of each for current retail availability.
Established: Began micro-roasting at Soda City Market in 2010.
Process: Roasts beans in small batches; view the process at the newly opened shop in Cottontown.
Focus: Supplies coffee to area restaurants and stores as well as retail sales to the public at the Soda City Market and the Cottontown shop.
Sourcing: Procures beans grown in Indonesia, Ethiopia, Peru, Papua New Guinea and Brazil.
Try: Signature Blend, Guji, Cajamarca
Established: Wholesale operation opened in 2003; listed by Food & Wine as a Top 7 Boutique Roaster.
Process: Select beans roasted in an iron drum roaster.
Focus: Offers wholesale and retail sales via online ordering or direct pickup from the roaster.
Sourcing: Uses premium Arabica beans procured directly from growers in the Cerrado region of Brazil.
Try: Carolina Classic, Cerrado Gold, Southern Pecan
King Bean Coffee Roasters - Charleston
Established: Wholesale operation began roasting in a garage in 1994; now has a dedicated roastery; retail shop to open in 2017.
Process: Coffee roasted daily in a 60-kilo Italian-crafted Petrocini roaster, then packed by hand.
Focus: Creating customized blends for Lowcountry chefs while offering local pickup, retail and bulk sales to the public. Strong emphasis on energy-saving practices at every level of operation. Coffees available in grocery stores across the state.
Sourcing: Only uses Rainforest Alliance and Organic and fair trade certified beans, many purchased from small operations.
Try: Southern Pecan, Twenty Strong, Sullivan's Blend
Turtle Creek Coffee Roasters - Columbia
Established: Boutique artisan roastery operating since 1999
Process: Small batches of select green beans are loaded by hand and micro-roasted lightly in Ambex roasters - no burned beans.
Focus: Supplies coffee wholesale and retail through mail order and local delivery.
Sourcing: Procures specialty Grade 1 beans (or higher) from estates using sustainable, environmentally conscious growing practices.
Try: Bourbon collection (beans from red and yellow Bourbon Arabica trees); Costa Rican Tarrazu; Northern Italian-style Espresso
West End Coffee Roasters - Greenville
Established: Wholesale roastery opened in 1992; now has adjoining coffee shop and stall at Greenville's Saturday Market.
Process: Beans are hand-roasted in small batches.
Focus: Supplies fresh roasts for eateries and markets in the Greenville area serving gourmet coffee.
Sourcing: Roasts and blends from beans grown in Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and other countries across the globe, fair trade organic growers only.
Try: Jamaican Me Crazy, Falls Park, Biltmore Blend