Area Coffee Launches a Roasting Service From a Kingston Wine Bar

Photos by Katherine Leger

This Hudson Valley coffee roaster pays homage to a 1950s airline in Ecuador while serving espresso drinks at Brunette Wine Bar.

Coffee and wine go hand in hand, especially in the Hudson Valley. Several of the region’s all-day cafes pour vino in the evening hours. On the other hand, one Kingston wine bar now features mid-morning and late-night coffee service.

Transplants Ricardo Arias and Katherine Leger officially started Area Coffee in February 2022. The soon-to-be-wed couple fell in love with the region after frequent visits from New York City.

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“We have both worked in the service industry in Kingston, and it’s a really tight knit community,” Leger says. In fact, Leger works at Brunette Wine Bar, the home of Area Coffee’s cafe menu. Similarly, Arias works at Village Coffee and Goods five minutes away. There, he continues to build on his wealth of experience in the industry.

He’s spent the last decade or so managing cafes, working as a barista, and learning about the roasting process.

“I just always wanted to dive deeper into the industry, which led me to roasting. Getting to know where everything comes from, how it’s processed…it’s great to be on that side of the industry,” Arias says. “Area, it’s a little homage to my grandfather. He was in the airline industry in South America—where I’m originally from—in Ecuador…I always looked up to his entrepreneurial spirit.”

 

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The brand’s logo is very similar to the Area airline logo. The business operated from the 1950s to the 1970s, so Area matches its aesthetic to that period, making the parallel between vintage aviation and effective, old-world coffee roasting. 

Arias uses a small, one-pound gas roaster. The Huky 500 roasts beans for about 15 minutes, turning them from green to light brown. Kuanho Li produces every machine by hand in Taiwan. In a similar vein, Arias supplements modern technology (like temperature grading) with traditional roasting techniques. Years of experience honed his senses for the process. Often, he can tell when a batch is done by smell. The Huky 500’s consistency ensures that Arias can test new blends effectively.

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With a little trial and error, I typically roast about three different samples. I smell them, taste them, and find the one I’m happy with. After that, I tweak the recipe as best I can to to get those consistent results,” Arias explains.

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Ricardo Arias and Katherine Leger

Of course, that consistency may vary depending on the style of coffee. According to Arias, it’s easier to predict how a washed coffee will react to heat. On the other hand, natural coffees can be a bit more finicky. That’s part of the reason Area Coffee roasts in small batches. In fact, they only produce about 10 pounds a week. They roast exclusively for their coffee service at Brunette Wine Bar, and every cup of espresso comes from beans roasted two or three days earlier, ensuring fresh, delicious shots.

Similarly to the Huky 500, Area Coffee’s choice of equipment contributes to the high quality for which Arias aims. They use a grind-by-weight Mahlkönig machine. The German company that produces these grinders pioneers cutting-edge technology. Arias says it’s probably the best on the market. “It makes the fluffiest espresso and gives you the best extraction.”

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In addition, Area Coffee turns to an Italian manufacturer for its espresso machine. The brand makes every shot at Brunette on a La Marzocco Linea Mini. This kitchen-sized version of the iconic Linea produces an amazing espresso.

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Most importantly, Arias works with The Coffee Quest to source beans. The owner, Stephen Levene, splits time between Austin, Texas and a base in Medellin, Colombia to import the very best. To start, Area Coffee focuses on a high-grade espresso blend.

“I always love to do an Eastern Hemisphere [bean] with a Western Hemisphere [bean] for my espresso blend, because I think they have two distinct qualities that together make a really enjoyable cup,” Arias says. Typically, he uses a Colombian or Guatemalan import. For the Eastern bean, he often chooses a single-origin Ethiopian. Typically, that ends up being Yirgacheffe, one of the most popular beans in the world. It makes for a mellow and slightly floral medium roast.

 

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“Especially with espresso, it’s great to start off with the nice acidic and fruity notes, and end off with a nice chocolatey profile, plus notes of caramel-covered fruit,” Arias adds. “That makes for an exciting cup, either with milk or alone just as an espresso.”

For instance, a recent Fairchild espresso blend features washed San Martin beans from Guatemala with a washed Agaro Durimina from Ethiopia. Subtle notes of caramel, dried berries, and milk chocolate sing in a cappuccino.

 

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Patrons of Brunette can choose between regular and mocha lattes, flat whites, cappuccinos, cortados, and Americanos. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong with a double espresso order. In addition, Area Coffee’s mid-morning service features house-baked pastries.

“It can be hard to get your name out as a roaster,” Leger says. “It was Jesse and Max, who own Brunette, who suggested that we do a coffee service in their wine bar. Coffee and wine go hand in hand, [so] it made a lot of sense. Now, we’re just seeing how our business can grow organically.”

 

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Above all, the goal for Area Coffee is to sell retail bags and wholesale to cafes. Arias takes pride in his roasts, and there’s no better compliment than someone wanting to enjoy your coffee at home. Plus, the logo keeps the spirit of his grandfather’s ambition alive. In fact, he and Leger worked with Kingston-based graphic designer Jennifer Bowskill to create the artwork.

“[Several local businesses] have been so instrumental in helping us with Area and giving us the platform to roast coffee and to start our business,” Leger says. Similarly, the owners of Kingston Wine Co. connected Arias with a few importers. The Fuller Building welcomed Area Coffee to its holiday market in late 2021, helping introduce the brand to the greater Hudson Valley community.

 

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“Everyone was really welcoming and we had a great reception. So we’re really excited to have a long-term pop-up at Brunette now,” Leger says.

Related: Hudson Roastery Is a Hybrid Coffee and Wine Bar Upstate

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