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What Makes a Great Cup of Coffee?: Featuring Barismo Coffebar & Roastery

The saying goes "you are what you eat" and nowadays there are pretty compelling reasons to read labels: diets, allergies, chemicals, preservatives and just plain wanting to know what's in your food. For former barista Jaime van Schyndel, the desire to make a better cup of coffee started a frustrating search for transparency from local roasters and culminated with founding barismo, a sustainable micro-roaster committed to sourcing the freshest quality coffee.

"The name itself came from a desire to refine being a barista into something more professional than just slinging drinks and pouring latte art," said van Schyndel, barismo's president and founder who began blogging and meeting with fellow baristas and coffee aficionados in 2006 to experiment with different roasters, roasting approaches and brew methods. "We were really searching for something more, a way of understanding coffee and then making sure the value we were searching for could be presented better."


At the time he was getting a lot of pushback from local roasters after requesting they provide fresh roasts, clearly labeled roast dates and info on what exactly was in their blends. "Sadly, many coffee shops serve up blends that they don't the ingredients for. It's still an uphill battle to get some basic level of transparency to empower the barista and consumer as to what the value is in what they are purchasing," said van Schnydel.

So in 2008, van Schnydel and members of the original roasting group that formed two years before invested in barismo. Other members ended up working for the company or becoming loyal customers. Today only van Schnydel and his wife are still active in the business, which now includes the original barismo coffeebar & roaster in Arlington, Mass., dwelltime coffeebar & bakeshop in Cambridge, barismo mobile, and barismo somerville, the new roasting facility in Somerville. (The blog that they started in 2006 is still run by van Schnydel and his staff.)

What makes a good cup of coffee?

If I had to boil it down, I'd say that clean, sweet, and complex coffee is good coffee.

In its simplest form: fresh roast, fresh ground, fresh brewed and fresh crop. Coffee quality starts at the farm with plant health, picking and processing; then moves to milling, sorting, storage and transport. Any of those things goes wrong and good coffee can lose a lot of the interesting aspects well before it is even roasted.

If the coffee makes it to a roaster in good shape, it still has to be roaster without error, brewed with filtered water, at a good temp, with a good method, and all of those things need to lineup for an experience that is worth the extra price per cup.

--Jaime van Schnydel, barismo president and founder barismo

The goal is to produce coffees with sweetness and balance, not acidic or grassy. "It's something we excel at in presenting Kenyan or Ethiopian coffee. Our main focus with coffees though is in Central America and Guatemala in particular," said van Schnydel. He has been working with farms in Guatemala for seven years, producing some of barismo's most popular coffees, with loyal followings. When their El Bosque coffee is out of season, they get constant phone calls asking when it will be back.

In addition to making the highest-quality, freshest coffee, barismo works hard to support its community of customers, suppliers and other industry professionals. For their producers, barismo pays well above fair trade prices and brings them different varietals, advice and support with every onsite visit. In 2010 the company hosted the Northeast Regional Barista Championship. "We have organized a lot of barista jams (get togethers in the community) over the years and have put a lot of time and effort into building the coffee community," said van Schnydel.


Barismo has also organized a series of events to raise money for El Xalum, a farm they're working with in Guatemala that has had a number of setbacks during the last four years, including a hurricane, volcano eruption and severe coffee fungus disease. Another cause the company helped raise money for with donations from the sales of their holiday espresso blend is the New England Center for Homeless Veterans.

Van Schnydel opened dwelltime, the first cafe in the Cambridge area to serve cold-brewed coffee off of a beer-style tap. It's also one of only two coffee bars in Cambridge that serves everything brewed to order. Barismo's roasting operations moved from the original Arlington location to Somerville in 2014. The Arlington location will be turned into a cafe, continuing to the brew-to-order, minimalist style focused on the coffee set-up. In the meantime, barismo coffee is also being served out of coffee carts and mobile set-ups at different locations that are announced on Twitter.

barismo coffeebar & roastery
171 Massachusetts Avenue
Arlington, MA 02474
(339) 368-7300

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