Sometimes you discover new things without even looking for them and that is exactly how I came across Fort Bend Coffee Roasters. A chance stop by the Farmer’s Market at Imperial in Stafford lead me to a pour-over station and bags of freshly roasted coffee. The man crafting each cup of coffee for his customers as well as the head roaster is Bryan Hibbard. Though he and his wife recently had a new baby, Bryan was able to escape for bit to sit down with me over a cup of coffee to chat about his coffee beans.
His love for coffee began at an early age with visits to his grandparent’s house. Growing up his family didn’t drink a lot of coffee beyond Taster’s Choice when company came over. “But my grandparents were big coffee drinkers. So when I went over to their house I got to try coffee much younger than I ever should have,” he recalls. “I don’t even think I liked it, but I liked my grandparents so coffee has always been associated with good memories.” As he grew up his love for coffee grew and he and his wife dreamed of opening up a coffee shop one day. After some research he discovered that might not be for them but coffee roasting did look appealing. His father-in-law had already been experimenting with his own roasts as a hobby and encouraged and helped Bryan to get set-up.
However, as many beginning roasters sometimes do he started off with a popcorn popper. “I was a poor college student so I couldn’t really afford to buy the best coffee. It was more economical to roast my own coffees so I went and bought an air popcorn popper.” With a inexpensive popper you are able to replicate the outcome of a more expensive coffee roaster. Sort of. “I had a pair of chop sticks and I was stirring like crazy to keep the beans moving and it came out terrible. So what I did was take out all the really crispy beans and all the light beans and kept the ones in the middle. That’s what I tasted and it came out good,” he remembers. “I wouldn’t advise that plan,” he adds with a chuckle. Since then of course he has moved to a little bit bigger roaster and has plans to upgrade again very soon. The roaster he is upgrading to has it’s own local coffee shop history. The 12lb roaster started off at Catalina Coffee owner’s Amaya Roasting Company, before he sold to Boomtown Coffee where it currently resides. Now that Boomtown is upgrading their roaster for it’s new location at Honeymoon downtown the roaster will be owned by Bryan. The machine has a history of being in the hands of excellent roasters.
One taste of Fort Bend Coffee, though, proves that it’s not just the machine that makes the coffee. Bryan’s studying, trial and error, and advice from other roasters has been put to good use. The quality of the coffee is good, very good.”I’ve always been into coffee and constantly searching to see how I can get a better coffee,” Bryan says. Coffee roasting is not a recipe that can be purely followed out of a book and takes developed skill and senses to be successful. “A lot of coffees it’s smell but some, like on the dark roast coffee, it’s sound. Sight is a little difficult, because depending on the origin coffee can look a whole lot darker than another origin. And I taste everything, and I’m careful to only change one variable so I know what I did.” He goes on to tell me that each region, farm, and crop coffee beans have to be treated differently and roasted to bring out their natural nuances. “Coffee has some inherent qualities in it that you are trying to bring out and not trying to force the coffee to be something it’s not going to be.” Bryan has absolutely done a good job at bringing out those qualities. From the complex tastes of his Marty’s Blend or the bright Ethiopian Yirgacheffe to the perfectly balanced new Colombian microlot El Diviso they all stand alongside Houston’s other top specialty roasters.
Another key to what makes Fort Bend Coffee so good is the way that Bryan serves it. After the first weekend of selling his beans with a sample pot people were asking to buy cups of coffee to drink as they browsed the market. The next weekend he came back with a pour-over station. As each customer orders he creates their coffee or iced coffee with a v60 filter as he chats with them and answers questions about his coffee and the way he is making it for them. Many have never heard of this method of making a cup of coffee. “I try to be humble with people and not talk over their head and give them an answer that will be useful to them,” he says. “I see (other coffee shops) not as competitors but we are working towards the same thing, trying to pull people away from mainstream coffee and try something exciting.”
Good coffee is absolutely exciting just like his plans coming in the near future with the opening of his own roastery and new additions to his offerings. Bryan is doing what he loves and not just for himself but for the benefit of other coffee drinkers as well. “That’s kind of where my focus has always been for the average person to have better coffee at home.”