It’s been a hectic long Tuesday morning for David Anderson, founder of the Roastery of Cave Creek, who for 20 years has been the go-to coffee source for the city’s most prominent chefs and restaurateurs.
Lunch hour for most has passed. When Anderson finally had a chance to grab a bite, he opted for a mid-afternoon homemade peanut butter and jelly burrito — a wrapped version of a PBJ sammie — before an interview.
Anderson’s is the java of choice for small coffee shops, large resorts and lauded eateries like FnB, Matt’s Big Breakfast, Tarbell’s and Pizzeria Bianco. But it doesn’t take long to understand that this humble meal reflects the authenticity of the hard-working Kansas native.
Several aspects of Anderson’s business operation reflect this down-to-earth approach. His roastery has been solely a wholesale operation since 2007. Yet, Anderson accommodates walk-ins who are unaware of this and offers them a hot cup or glass of cold brew to fulfill their expectations.
The cabinet outside the roastery holds up to 100 bags of freshly roasted organic beans. It functions on an honor system: Take a bag and drop $10 in the slot. Lack the cash? Pay next time.
“We give you five years to come back and pay, or we’ll track you down,” Anderson said as he laughed. He started doing this about six years ago for locals who discover they are out of coffee on weekend mornings.
“They do this with produce in the Midwest,” said Anderson, who started the Roastery of Cave Creek in 1997 as the Cave Creek Coffee Company and Wine Bar. “If you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, they will.”
Dave Anderson (right), along with wife Alison Anderson, Keith Bohne, and Jared Trimbur (left) celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Roastery of Cave Creek on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Cave Creek, Ariz. (Photo: Carlos Salcedo/The Republic)
Anderson means it. His business principles and quiet life in Cave Creek after leaving the satellite communications world and Washington, D.C., are among the ways Anderson holds on to his Midwest roots and values amidst big bustling city success.
In 2008, a year after eliminating the retail side of the business and rebranding it as the Roastery of Cave Creek, Anderson was selling his coffee to 15 Valley restaurants. Today, his 75 business clients span Yuma, Sedona, Flagstaff and other cities as well. Pretty much every restaurant in Cave Creek pours his coffee.
By the end of the year, the Roastery would have roasted 250,000 pounds of coffee, Anderson said. He talked excitedly about expecting the delivery of a new Probot coffee roaster from Germany, which will double that capacity when up and running.
For two years, Anderson has collaborated with Arizona’s Whole Foods on a cold brew, which evolved after the grocer had been selling his beans and approached him with the concept.
Anderson is one of the few, if not the only, coffee roasters in the state to have direct trade relationships with farms in Central and South America. For years, he has made regular trips to meet with farmers face-to-face. He also sends his staff to work the farms for a week so they understand the effort that goes into the craft. Anderson has met farmers’ families and even their dogs.
“People see it’s just a cup of coffee. But they take for granted how much human toil and back-breaking work goes into it,” Anderson said.
Dave Anderson celebrates the 20th anniversary of The Roastery of Cave Creek on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Cave Creek, Ariz. (Photo: Carlos Salcedo/The Republic)
Pizzeria Bianco founder Chris Bianco first got to know Anderson as a customer at his restaurant. They hit it off, so it made sense that they developed a professional bond as well.
Bianco saw that Anderson was focused on not just the roasting of the coffee but also the service side of the industry. Being local was a huge factor.
“Roasting activates the essential oils and aromatics. (Anderson is) someone local who can concentrate on the roasting and roast for us in the city, sometimes the same day,” said Bianco, the James Beard Award-winning chef who also owns Pane Bianco and Tratto. “He’s a super talented guy.”
Having a mutual understanding of what is important to each of them was also key.
“He’s a really good person. And good people have a better opportunity to make good things,” Bianco said. “He cares about people, and that relationship is just as important as the good coffee.”
Anderson moved to Arizona in 1997 and chose Cave Creek partly because his parents lived there and also for the small-town feel and picturesque environs. He had grown tired of the suit-and-tie corporate life and was drawn to the slightly hippie town with a diverse mix of residents and constant serenity.
Anderson decided to start a business. He discovered that coffee, after petroleum, was the second largest worldwide-traded commodity.
“It seemed like a good, solid business that wasn’t impacted by the economy and it had been around for a long, long time,” Anderson said.
His reasoning was accurate. In a National Coffee Association survey, 62 percent of respondents said they drank coffee the previous day, with the average coffee drinker consuming just over three cups of coffee each day. As a result, Anderson is part of a U.S. coffee market that’s worth $48 billion.
Not long after he opened the coffee shop, restaurateur customers started asking Anderson if he would sell to them. Word of mouth spread to chefs and fueled the wholesale side that would become the Roastery.
Anderson regularly receives interest from prospective out-of-state collaborators. Because his beans are roasted to order, figuring out how to maintain the freshness and quality he’s known for has kept him from jumping on board. Currently, he’s trying to come up with a way to solve that issue for an out-of-state restaurant chain that has approached him, he said.
The current trend is for small coffee houses to buy from small roasters who roast their own coffee. Anderson acknowledged that his business was ahead of that curve years ago. But, that doesn’t mean he takes success for granted.
“I remember driving around, giving free samples to get people to try my coffee,” Anderson recalled. “I joke with my wife that, now, our marketing strategy is to wait for the phone to ring. Fortunately, it does.”
What: Roastery of Cave Creek
Where: 7003 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek
Interesting stat: About 150 million Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee per day, or more than 140 billion cups a year, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world, according to the National Coffee Association.
Details: 480-488-6060, roc2.coffee.