Change is Brewing in Poughkeepsie

What do coffee beans and community change have in common? Thanks to local North River Roasters, it’s now more than you think.

North River Roasters, or NRR, is a Poughkeepsie-based, coffee company roasting small batches of Fair Trade, organic beans and running what they call a “Community Supported Coffee Roasters (CSCR),” a CSA-style distribution system that allows members to receive shares of freshly roasted beans on a weekly or bi-weekly basis over a set subscription. This program is the first of its kind in the area, and one of only a few in existence. It’s a concept that provides the area with high-quality, locally-roasted coffee, but there’s a lot more to NRR than a specialty cup: Their foremost focus is to become a component in Poughkeepsie’s revitalization.

NRR was started in 2015 by Feza Oktay, a Poughkeepsie native, who got interested in the brew when his daughter became a barista. Increasingly intrigued by the culture of coffee and the experience of home-roasting, it wasn’t long before his fascination began to permeate his professional ambitions, too.  

He had spent years working with Hudson River Housing (HRH), an organization aiming to eliminate homelessness in Dutchess County, on their initiative to renew downtown Poughkeepsie, and had been thinking the city could benefit from a small business to catalyze this revitalization. “I knew about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA),” recalled Oktay. “After talking to coffee drinkers and doing some research, I started to think: maybe we can do coffee using this model.”

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Customers were first found through word of mouth, many of whom were also familiar with CSAs. “People were very receptive. [We] started with initial three-month shares, and as those ended, we offered the opportunity for a three-, six-, or nine-month renewal. So we have some people already signed up through the beginning of 2017.”

NRR is constantly asking for customer feedback and regularly changing selections to explore new origin profiles. These flavors work in conjunction with roasting, an aspect of production NRR also approaches on an informed level. They use a “fuel bed” method, a machine-based technique that cooks the beans through contact with hot air, and roast five to six pounds at a time. “It’s another part of our company ethos,” explains Oktay, “along with mindful sourcing, and paying living wages to local folks, [we] really want to have as minimal environmental impact as possible.”

But Oktay is clear that, while they focus on specialty coffees and emphasize an artisanal approach, NRR is chiefly about the community: “Our goal is to become an asset of the community, owned by the community, so that [NRR] can really persist and remain.”

You can join the CSCR by visiting its website.

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