Denton firefighter turns backyard coffee brewery into only roaster in town

Denton firefighter turns backyard coffee brewery into only roaster in town

February 22
02:28 2013

H. Drew Blackburn

Senior Staff Writer

@hdrewblackburn

Sprawled across a brick wall in black-stenciled and yellow text, is a sign at 101. N. Elm St. that reads “Bookish Coffee Denton, Texas, Locally Roasted and Freshly Ground.”

Full-time firefighter and owner of Bookish Coffee, Clay Rozell, roasts 100 pounds of coffee a week here, with a roaster that can only handle five pounds at a time. He said he may have to purchase another one due to how much his client list has grown, which includes Denton Square Donuts, The Cupboard and most recently, The Cyber Cafe in Willis Library.

Hitting the books

Rozell said he bought Bookish Coffee last year from Brian Daskam, the previous owner who roasted the coffee in his backyard.

“I went over a few times to his house and watched him roast,” Rozell said. “He kind of taught me the craft a little bit.”

In addition to Daskam taking him under his wing, Rozell said he also visited Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters in Dallas to learn more about the art of brewing.

“I’m a firefighter. I spray water on fire. It’s pretty straightforward,” Rozell said. “It’s been a real big learning curve.”

Bookish Coffee only deals with fair trade organic coffee.

“It really all goes back to the farmers, if they’re taken care of and getting a fair price for their commodity,” Rozell said. “It’s just a way to protect the industry and do the right thing.”

He said that he deals with farmers who use an organic farming practice.

“It’s no different than growing corn or something because it’s a crop,” Rozell said.

He purchases coffee beans from international farmers who don’t use pesticides or fertilizers and said that Dentonites emphasize an importance on fair trade organic coffee. They’re also attracted to the locally roasted aspect.

“Our customers like local products. [Bookish Coffee] sells well,” said Sean Firth, a bulk buyer at The Cupboard. Firth said that Bookish Coffee selling well is reason enough to carry the product at the organic grocery store.

Five percent of Bookish Coffee’s proceeds go to Younglife, a nonprofit that is dedicated to supporting youth. Rozell and his three brothers, all born and raised in Denton, also run a nonprofit called i[heart]denton, which provides humanitarian need to Denton residents.

Off to college

Francisco Guzman, a faculty member in the College of Business who teaches a marketing class at UNT, contacted Rozell so his students could do research and a market analysis on the local business last semester.

“His class was incredible. I had 30 talented creative young professionals focused solely on Bookish Coffee,” Rozell said.

The students presented their work in December.

“They had five minutes to sell their brand of Bookish,” Rozell said. “I couldn’t afford the amount of material that they gave me.”

From there, Rozell considered selling his coffee on campus.

“If anyone’s going to drink coffee, it’s going to be 18-25 year-olds in college,” Rozell said. “That’s just going be their food source for a while.”

Rozell decided to bring a bag of coffee to the Cyber Cafe a couple of months ago and was then contacted by Pamela Moore, the administrative coordinator of finance at the Willis Library.

“One thing that’s very impressive about North Texas is their aggressiveness in pursuing local businesses to partner with and help out,” Rozell said.

Cyber Cafe barista and English senior Brendan Paradice said that people who have Bookish Coffee at the cafe come back for it.

“I think people tend to buy locally and support things locally because people feel a stronger connection to it than buying something from New York or L.A.,” Paradice said. “But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a good coffee. It’s a very well-blended, well-roasted coffee.”

Fighting fires

As an occupation, Clay Rozell is a firefighter. He said the days he works at the fire department in Denton are typically routine.

“As far as the daily routine, it never changes,” Rozell said. “But when you get a call it’s different every single time.”

Rozell said that the majority of the calls he receives are medical and that the city of Denton doesn’t get many fire responses.

He likened his co-workers to a second family.

“The job security is there. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Rozell said. “Except for being a part-time coffee roaster.”

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