By LINDA GIUCA, Special To CTNow
9:22 AM EDT, March 28, 2014
Ashlawn Farm Coffee and its original café enjoy a bucolic setting in Lyme. A big red barn, perched on a slight hill on the farm, houses both the roasting facility and a coffee bar where customers line up for hot and iced coffee drinks and, in good weather, relax on the deck with their cup and savor the scenery.
The interior of the company's new café, which opened last November in Old Saybrook, mimics the rustic farm atmosphere but the outdoor setting is more hustle and bustle. The coffee house's next door neighbor is the Old Saybrook train station. The spacious café provides tables and chairs for those on a coffee break, eating a meal or checking email. At the back of the space is a "No Adults Allowed" corner where kids can play with a mini kitchen or farmhouse toys.
Owner Carol Adams decided to open the Saybrook location when her brother made her an offer that she couldn't refuse. "I've always struggled with what would be best for the business – to grow the wholesale or the retail business," says Adams, who supplies her coffee beans to restaurants and other outlets. "I decided to let fate play its course, and if a good spot presented itself…" When her brother, Dave, bought the building next to the train station, he convinced her that the end store unit, just steps away from the train's ticket office, would be the perfect location.
The café sells fresh-roasted beans and ground coffee as well as brewed hot and cold drinks. The baristas brew both a light roast and dark roast coffee each day. Some creative customers bypass the menu to create their own drinks. "Our motto is 'adaptations and substitutions welcome'," Adams says. Signature drinks include the rich-tasting but only 80-calorie frozen frappe called Captaincino and iced coffee made from a 12-hour cold brew method. Customers also can buy the coffee concentrate in 64-ounce "growlers." The glass jug costs $10 and each fill is $14.
The menu features freshly baked pastries, a sausage and Mystic Melville cheese breakfast sandwich on a handmade biscuit, soups, salads, quiche and sandwiches. Prices range from $4.50 for the breakfast sandwich to $6 for quiche. This summer, Adams plans to plant a vegetable garden at the Lyme farm to harvest fresh veggies for the sandwiches and salads.
Adams, who founded her coffee-roasting business in 2002, began visiting coffee farms four years ago when she decided to forge "a more direct relationship with the farms." Most recently, she traveled with a friend – a coffee bean buyer for a large company – to Costa Rica. During a "cupping" (tasting) of micro lots of beans at the farm, Adams "realized that I had my pick of micro lots."
"One jumped out at me, and I bought 12 150-pound bags of the beans," she says. "I got my pick off the table, off the field. She expects to receive the shipment of beans in about a month and will roast the Rain Forest Alliance-certified beans from Hacienda Miramonte to sell at the cafés.
Adams also has begun to host regular coffee tastings at the café. A small group of coffee fans sit at a long table at the back of the café and taste four kinds of coffees with explanations from the tasting leader. The next tasting will take place April 5 at 11 a.m. and feature Miriam and Hector Morales whose family own El Recreo Estate, a coffee farm in Nicaragua.
>>Ashlawn Farm Coffee, 455 Boston Post Road in the Saybrook Junction complex, Old Saybrook, is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday; and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Information: 860-339-5663.
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