Richard Seidenberg of Weehawken dropped his food science major for art history at Rutgers University when he realized there was “too much science, not enough food.” Now, 15 years later, he’s working with coffee in an 1800s silk mill factory in Union City.
Once part of the “embroidery capital of the world” – an area containing Union City, West New York, Guttenberg, and North Bergen – the old factory is now a commercial building called the Silk Mill Lofts. It houses 60 different businesses and working artists, including Seidenberg and his Probat L12 – a 25-year-old coffee roasting machine.
For the past five years, Seidenberg and his wife Stacey have traveled to other continents to find the best beans and bring them home to be micro-roasted in Hudson County.
“We wanted to focus on Hudson County – it’s the place we live, the place we love.” – Richard Seidenberg
The couple’s company is called Red House Roasters. Seidenberg said that coffee roasting (and all of the fun gadgets that come along with it) is a blend of his love of arts and food.
Sourced globally, roasted locally
The couple’s adventures in java began during their worldwide travels. Seidenberg recalled one trip to Bruges, Belgium, where he was spellbound by a “huge contraption” in the back of a café that roasted coffee on the premises.
Inspired by coffee traditions and cultures throughout the world, they decided to bring the best of what they found on their travels back to their home in Weehawken.
Seidenberg bought his first coffee roaster five years ago, and began roasting the beans in the basement of their “red house.” They started by giving the finished product to friends and family, but their passion turned into a small business.
This year, they moved the roaster out of their basement and into its own location in the Silk Mill Lofts. Seidenberg said they chose the location because of its affordability and proximity to home.
“We wanted to focus on Hudson County,” he said. “It’s the place we live, the place we love.”
Sustainable and “reusable”
Today the Seidenbergs continue to search the globe for beans, which sometimes means hopping on a plane and other times roving the Internet.
Their current offerings (many of which are organic) include varieties from Africa, Indonesia, and Central and South America.
But they pay homage to the folklore of the Garden State with their custom combination of beans from three different continents, called the Jersey Devil Brew Blend.
Seidenberg said they are committed to bringing sustainability to every stage of the production process, from farming to the final cup. They make their best effort to source their beans directly from farmers. Many of their offerings are organic, and even the packaging (a recycled paper bag tied with a hemp string) is eco-friendly.
But Seidenberg said their commitment doesn’t stop with the product itself. Even the machine that roasts the coffee and the location the business is housed in are “reused.”
Where to find it
Red House Roasters sells most of their product online and wholesale, but Hudson County residents can taste the product at GP’s in Guttenberg and Victoria’s Fountain in North Bergen, or pick up a bag at the Grove Street Farmers Market in Jersey City.
The Seidenbergs also sometimes hold coffee tastings, or “cuppings,” which in the past have featured growers who traveled from El Salvador for the events.
Seidenberg said he likes to have everyone in the same room so that everyone can understand all aspects of the process and see the coffee in all of its forms.
And though they hope to have a large retail space one day, in the meantime, anyone is welcome to drop by for cup of “joe” at the factory while Seidenberg is roasting and bagging the goods.
For more information and upcoming “cupping” dates, visit www.rhrcoffee.com.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.