World Cups

World Cups

Behind a tiny, round window, green coffee beans rotate like chips of color in a kaleidoscope. Eric Ciolino is roasting his first of three batches for the afternoon, a Kenyan coffee called Maganjo. The spinning beans make a strange, rhythmic sound, reminiscent of sleigh bells. When we peek at them just a few minutes later, they’re shedding their papery skins and turning gold in the heat of a low-emission infrared roaster. A quiet popping sound indicates “first crack,” signaling that the coffee has reached its first palatable level of roasting as water is released from the beans. In a few more minutes, if Ciolino were to extend the time, there would be a second crack, indicating a dark roast.

Ciolino knows just how he wants to roast this particular batch. After 13 and a half minutes, he opens a small chute, and the beans spill into a cooling bin, where paddles stir them to stop the roasting process. He’s stayed beside the roaster the entire time, keeping an eye on things, even pulling out a sample trowel at one point to check on the beans. It’s possible to buy a computerized roaster that will do the hard work for you, he says, but “I didn’t want to learn that way. I really wanted to learn by sight and smell…” From a nearby shelf, he pulls a book full of neat columns of data—his notes as he was learning to roast. Even now, with every new coffee he and partner Christine Ucich buy, he’ll try roasting it several different ways and they’ll “cup” it—that is, taste it while documenting qualities such as body, acidity, aroma, flavor and aftertaste.

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Not everyone who drinks coffee wants to geek out over it, but customers who’ve been stopping at Ciolino and Ucich’s One World Cafe & Espresso Bar, which opened on Route 100 in East Haven on New Year’s Day, instantly know they’re drinking a good cup of coffee, Ucich says. Ciolino, who started out as a wholesale roaster and still roasts beans for several wholesale customers, adds, “People really don’t know what fresh coffee tastes like… They’re just used to what they’ve always had.”

The couple agrees that a great cup of coffee starts with 100% arabica beans, rather than a blend that includes the “harsher” robusta. “If you’re working with inferior beans, … you’re going to taste that in the cup,” Ciolino says. Arabica is grown at higher elevations, and the beans (really the seeds of a cherry on the coffee plant) take longer to mature. “That longer development time makes a more complex flavor,” he explains.

Then there’s the roast. “A lot of people roast dark to mask imperfections in the bean,” Ciolino says. With a lighter roast, “you can really key in on some of the notes”—citrusy, fruity, floral. To prove the point, Ciolino brews me a cup of Maganjo beans he roasted three days ago. At One World, you can get a quick cup to go, but customers willing to wait can get a “handmade” Chemex pour-over or French-pressed coffee in five to eight minutes.

Mine steeps in the French press, and Ciolino is proven right. This is not drive-through coffee. It’s smooth and surprisingly fruity, with a tang of lemon on the back of my tongue. One World’s label describes it as “bright and sharp, slightly citrus, notes of berry and red currant.” The cafe’s offerings span three continents—South America, Africa and Asia—with a special organic, direct trade coffee from Spirit Mountain estate in the Dominican Republic, which Ciolino and Ucich visited in 2014 and source directly.

Coffee arrives in large burlap sacks, which are arrayed on a shelf in the roasting room. “Each bean from each different origin roasts kind of differently,” Ciolino says. Typically, the African coffee does best as a light roast, whereas the Central and South American beans are better medium to dark. The Sumatra, from Indonesia, is normally roasted dark. One World’s house blend, which is always on the menu, combines all three: an Ethiopian light roast, a Brazilian medium roast with a flavor of “baker’s chocolate nuttiness” and a dark Sumatra, “smoky and really heavy-bodied, almost syrupy,” as Ciolino describes them.

Each month the shop offers a seasonal flavor—for May, cardamom rose—and a coffee of the month—currently the Dominican, which was most recently harvested. Local specials sweeten the pot. East Haven teachers were recently eligible for a free cup and raffle entries for free coffee catering for their school on professional development day. Prices range from $2 for a 12-ounce cup of the house’s Worldly Blend ($2.50 for 16 ounces, $13.50 for a one-pound bag) to $4 for a flavored latte. Cold brew Colombian coffee is also on the menu ($3 for 12 ounces, $3.50 for 16). In addition to individual cups, One World also sells bags of beans, offering fair trade and organic products “to the greatest extent possible.”

Knowing the sources of their food and drink is increasingly important to customers, Ciolino and Ucich note. While coffee drinkers can’t see the farms for themselves, One World’s roaster is in full view from the cafe counter, bringing one step of the process closer to the consumer.

One World Cafe & Espresso Bar
967 North High St (Rt 100), East Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 6:30am-noon
(203) 936-9505

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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