Walk by Karma Bakeria at 117 Main Avenue North at just the right time, and the aroma of freshly roasted, organic coffee wafting through the air is intoxicating.
Ed and Brenda Lavieri, owners of the family-owned business, are members of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and Roasters Guild. They are dedicated to the craft of roasting small batches of quality coffee beans and promoting the highest standards for their products.
Green coffee beans are roasted in “Lila”, a purple, custom-made Galaxy Wave San Francisco roaster made in Nevada. The finished product is “Karma Beans”, their signature trademarked whole bean coffee brand.
“The nice thing about small batches is that you have more control,” says Brenda.
Before they opened Karma Bakeria, the Lavieris hired a specialty coffee-roasting trainer to teach them the art of roasting. They learned all aspects of the craft, including how to assess green coffee beans for quality and a complete cupping protocol. A cupping technique is used to evaluate coffee aroma, the flavor profile of a coffee, to create coffee blends and can also be used to evaluate a defective coffee.
“It’s like wine tasting,” says Brenda.
Long before the roasting begins, the green coffee beans must be selected from the major markets of Central and South America, Asia and Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Oceania or Africa. Green coffee beans arrive at the restaurant in burlap bags and are then scrutinized to ensure quality of grade and appropriate moisture level of the bean.
Initially, a sample batch of beans is roasted to ensure the coffee meets the highest standards. Then, depending on the type of bean, they are roasted at various temperatures and times to produce the desired flavor.
As the beans roast, they crack, Brenda says. And, while most of the beans at Karma are roasted to the ”first crack”, there is at least one full-bodied coffee that roasts longer.
“Sumatra goes to the second crack,” explains Brenda.
Each bag of freshly roasted coffee is then weighed and heat-sealed to guarantee freshness and quality in every cup.
Being conscientious, the couple opted to buy Fair Trade beans, which come from farmers and workers that are fairly compensated.
Fair trade helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.
“Fair Trade is important – it goes back to the farmer,” Brenda says.
The couple also chose to buy organic, since they are free from so many chemicals used to grow most coffee beans.
“On a local level we’ve identified what people like,” says Brenda.
“Some customers ask for a certain origin of coffee,” she said, noting that they currently ship to customers by phone. In the future, customers will be able to order on their website.
While coffee and espresso are their main focus, they also offer Chai, loose leaf teas, sweet iced tea, hot cocoa, bottled water, energy drinks and kids’ juice.
As a compliment to the customer’s beverage of choice, the Lavieri’s daughter-in-law, Noel Burton, creates scrumptious, made-from-scratch baked goods daily. Items on the menu include breads and rolls, muffins, baked oatmeal cookies, scones, cupcakes, cakes and pies and handcrafted truffles or fudge.
Noel has professional experience in the bakery and floral business and uses organic flours and genuine extracts in the recipes, Brenda explains.
While she fills the display case with goodies, Noel also takes advanced custom orders from customers for cakes, pies, other sweets or large lunch orders.
A light sandwich fare, side salads and chips are among the offerings for lunch.
Karma Bakeria supports local markets and locally grown items.
“We give back locally,” Brenda explains.
Some of the local non-profits they support through a percentage of coffee sales are the Humane Society of Fayetteville-Lincoln County, Junior’s House, Inc. Child Advocacy Center and the Arts Center. Three dollars per pound of coffee is donated to those non-profits. Day-old baked goods are donated to the local working poor, such as single parents. Espresso picks are donated for gardening or other projects.
“Even the scraps are donated to people who feed the birds, etc.,” she explains.
Meat is donated to help rescue dogs and cats.
Karma Bakeria’s regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., but recently they began an “open mic night” on Wednesday evenings from 8 until 11 p.m. for musicians, poets and other artists.
“It’s a nice mix of people,” Brenda says, explaining that there are people from age 10 to their 70s. “There are a lot of talented people here.”
Many weeks they may have 20 musicians show up for the event.
Before they decided to get into business here, the couple looked for land that would take them closer to their children and grandson. They were attracted to Fayetteville and bought property here.
Ed, a native of Connecticut, had retired from the Navy and was stationed in Memphis. Brenda, who has a background in hospitality, is originally from Utica, N.Y. They wanted to open a family owned and operated business in which their son, Josh, his wife, Noel, and even nearly two-year-old, Colt, could participate; hence, Karma Bakeria.