Most 10-year-old career aspirations are the stuff of dreams. Often star-studded goals, they run the gamut from astronauts and pop performers to actors and presidents. They’re lofty ideals, to be sure, and ones that rarely come to fruition. Yet it’s always a happy surprise when they do.
When Chester resident Dakota Rudolph was 10, he wanted to own a coffee shop. In college, his love of java developed further when he began roasting his own beans. He started with a popcorn popper, of all things, and quickly grew more than a little obsessed.
Later, when he and his wife, Tiffany, moved to Chester, the first thing he noticed was the marked lack of coffee culture in town. The second thing he noticed was that there was nowhere for teenagers to hang out in their downtime. Rudolph was working as a youth pastor and financial planner at the time, and he realized that many of his mentees needed a dedicated place to spend time with friends that wasn’t home or school.
Around the same time, his roasting obsession outgrew his home setup.
“I was roasting a coffee that had a lot of chaff [the dried skin of a coffee bean],” he recalls. When the chaff dropped into the heating element of his popcorn popper – which he estimates was his 12th in a decade – it nearly set his workbench on fire.
Needless to say, his wife was not pleased. After she convinced him to buy a real-deal roaster, Rudolph made the plunge and bought the prestige model he’d been eying for some time. To pay it off, he began roasting beans for his first-ever online sale on Thanksgiving in 2019. While he expected to sell a few bags, he never imagined he’d wake up to 120 emails and clear stock of his now signature bourbon barrel coffee in 15 minutes.
“By the end of the week we had 200 orders and a roaster that was doing two bags at a time,” he admits. It was an unexpected turn of events, but Rudolph loved every second of it. He was burned out by his job as a financial planner and dreamed of operating his own pop-up coffee trailer. Yet when he and his wife came across a for-rent space in the heart of downtown Chester, they realized that a brick-and-mortar was precisely what they, and the entire community, needed next.
The couple committed to the space in December. After a soft opening in early February, they debuted Valkyrie Coffee Roasters on February 22. More than 700 people came to the grand opening.
“Everyone has been so loving and supportive,” Rudolph enthuses. “My family was here [at the grand opening] to support us and I had to send them home because there was no space for them to stand.”
So what’s the big deal about Valkyrie?
That would be the java, of course. You see, Rudolph doesn’t just serve any old roasts to his steady stream of customers. Instead, he searches across the globe – literally – for the most alluring, nuanced bean profiles he can find. To date, he’s visited nearly all of the farms from which he sources. He’s been working with a Brazilian micro-lot for more than eight years and a Honduran farmer for five. More recently, he visited Kenya and Tanzania to meet with other producers. His most memorable coffee purchase, however, happened back in November when he ordered a bag from Sumatra that was picked up by helicopter on the side of a volcano. Yes, it arrived in Chester in one piece.
Once Rudolph receives his international array of beans, he goes to work to roast them to perfection. He never serves a roast that’s more than a week old and makes a point to consider beans individually to coax maximum flavor out of every batch. With his Ethiopian coffees, for instance, he lets them degas for a week or two so they lose their tomato undertones and develop ones that resemble, as he describes them, blueberry pie.
With Valkyrie’s proximity to Orange County breweries like Long Lot Farm Brewery and Rushing Duck Brewing Co., Rudolph also love to make the most of collaborations. For his opening, he joined forces with Rushing Duck to craft an Imperial stout infused with Brazilian coffee. Throughout the year, he also uses bourbon barrels from the brewery to age one of his most popular coffees. Called Kenyan Bourbon Aged, it’s a nutty and sweet roast available only in small batches that tastes “just like chocolate chip cookies.” Unsurprisingly, it’s often sold out.
As for the experience at Valkyrie, it’s all about ease. Rudolph strives to ensure that everyone who walks through the door at 23 Main Street doesn’t just find the perfect cup of java, but also finds a place to catch up with friends, power through homework, or unwind with the kids. He and his wife have a dedicated corner for kids to color and craft, and they plan to host book readings and game nights in the future. By the time summer rolls around, they hope to spread the word about their kombucha, which they brew in-house.
“It’s only going up from here,” Rudolph says.
Note: During the COVID-19 crisis, Valkyrie is offering coffee and pastries for curbside pickup or to-go. Visit its website for free coloring pages to pass the time at home…with a cuppa in hand, of course.
Valkyrie Coffee Roasters
23 Main St, Chester